What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria that are found in fermented foods and supplements. Probiotic supplements contain sufficient amounts of strains to exert a positive impact on the health of the organism by strengthening the content and viability of the existing intestinal bacteria. The official definition comes from both Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and was adopted by Italian Ministry of Health in 2001: “Probiotics are live and vital microorganisms which, once administrated in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”
These microorganisms must arrive alive in the intestine and in sufficient amounts to be able to provide a beneficial effect; this is why it is important to know the amount of live probiotics contained in the probiotic supplements and foods. It is also essential to store probiotics in the manner indicated to ensure that they remain live and to allow them to multiply and colonise the intestine, favouring the balance of the intestinal bacteria.
Some probiotic products also contain prebiotics, which are water-soluble fibres (ie, inulin, and fruit oligosaccharides), which are used as food by the intestinal bacteria.
Probiotics are useful for people of all ages to restore intestinal balance compromised by various factors and can also be used in paediatric or neonatal age.