Bacteria can be good

A good digestion needs a well-balanced and wholesome diet, rather than probiotic good bacteria supplements, clarifies Dr Adarsh E.

Initiating a new era of digestive health research, the term ‘Probiotic’ was first coined by researchers Lilly and Stilwell in 1965 to describe substances secreted by one organism that stimulated the growth of another.

The word is a compound of two Greek words (“pro” to signify promotion of and “biotic”, meaning “life”), meaning something that affirms life and health. That's true even by modern standards: They are defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization as “Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”.

Constantly concerned about keeping their new born babies healthy and happy, new age parents try to be more and more informed about what to feed and what not to feed them. Right from researching the internet to taking tips from relatives, apprehensive parents become all the more confused than clear on what to actually do in their effort to ensure best possible health of their little one.

Amongst a plethora of questions asked to pediatricians, the latest to get added to the list are how gut health can form the foundation of the overall health of their new born, and should friendly bacteria or ‘Probiotics’ be introduced to their babies.

So how are these bacteria introduced to the infant in the first place? During a normal delivery, on the way through the birth canal, babies get dosed with good bacteria from their mother. Subsequently, exclusively breast fed babies continue to receive an adequate amount of these good bacteria from mother’s milk. Once they reside in the digestive tract, they help maintain a natural balance of microorganisms in the body.

On an average, a human digestive tract has around 400 different types of good or friendly bacteria. This balance is crucial as it determines the overall health and well-being of the baby, both in their formative years as well as during adulthood.These good bacteria behave as soldiers who fortify our “first line of defense”, in this case the intestinal wall and prevent the enemy -disease-causing harmful bacteria - from entering the body.”

This immune-system support by probiotics has been widely studied in the context of specific health conditions, such as the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, rotavirus diarrhoea and certain allergies.

When a baby falls prey to any of these ailments, they are given antibiotics (“anti” to signify against and “biotic”, meaning “life”) as treatment, leading to killing both,good and bad bacteria. This disturbs the natural microbial balance and so it becomes all the more important to maintain ample amounts of good bacteria in the body.

Considering so many benefits, medical experts worldwide are now recommending probiotics to increase the amount of beneficial bacteria in a baby’s intestinal tracts to aid digestion, boost the body’s natural defences, and fight off harmful disease causing bacteria. However, it is not really necessary to take pro-biotic supplements unless it is specially prescribed by the doctor for certain special cases.

Some foods that contain natural good bacteria are cheese, yoghurt, sour cabbage, miso soup, pickles, and tempeh. Yoghurt and pickles have been almost an everyday affair in most Indian households since ages.

Therefore there is no doubt that Indian cuisine is packed with good bacteria. Just follow a traditional balanced diet and surely, your digestion will stay intact, and so will your little one’s.  

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