Improved Gut Health with Probiotics

One direct way to increase the population of good gut bacteria is to consume foods and products containing probiotics. Some common sources of probiotics are as follows :

1. Cultured milk and fermented milk products containing probiotic cultures.

In cognisance of the accumulating evidence that probiotics are able to help in improving intestinal or gut function, the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) has gazetted a new food regulation that has officially recognised and defined probiotics. This regulation has permitted the addition of probiotics to food, including cultured milk, fermented milk products, yoghurt, cultured cream or sour cream. The regulation outlines specific requirements for a food product to be termed as a probiotic-containing food, including the types of bacteria that can be used.

The key information to look for on a product label when choosing cultured milk containing probiotics are :

  • Label contains the words “Live probiotic cultures”
  • The genus, species and strain of probiotic used in the product
  • Quantity of probiotic cultures must be clearly stated
  • The number of probiotic cultures must not be less than 106 cfu/ml or cfu/g (CFU, or colony forming unit, refers to number of microorganisms present )
  • Direction for storage before and after the package is opened
Important to note : Cultured milk and fermented milk products that do not meet the criteria set by the food regulations of MOH are not permitted to indicate on label that it contains “Probiotic” or “Probiotic Cultures”.

2. Traditional fermented food.

These foods are traditionally home-prepared and can be a potential source of beneficial bacteria.

Example :

  • Kimchi (Korean traditional food made of fermented salted vegetables mixed with seasonings)
  • Homemade yoghurt (tairu)
  • Sauerkraut (German dish made of fermented cabbage)
  • Tapai pulut

3. Probiotic supplements :

You can also find probiotic supplements in the market which can be in powdered or pill form. Follow the instructions on proper dosage, frequency and storage to maximise the effectiveness of the probiotics. Remember to check for the probiotic genus and species and the CFU count. It is best that you refer to the pharmacist or healthcare professional before buying.

Dietary Fibres & Prebiotics – What you should know

  • In order to achieve good gut health, it is important to consume a healthy diet, which is balanced and includes a variety of foods from all food groups and is high in dietary fibre.
  • Dietary fibres are non-digestible carbohydrates that pass relatively unchanged through our stomach and intestine. Because of this indigestible property, dietary fibres add bulk to the diet. They regulate bowel movement and thus play vital roles in keeping the digestive system healthy. Some dietary fibres are also able to modulate blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
  • Foods that are good sources of fibre include as legumes, whole grains and whole grain products, vegetables and fruits.
  • In addition, some specific dietary fibres can serve as prebiotics, i.e. food for the ‘good’ bacteria, thereby encouraging the growth of favourable gut bacteria. Prebiotics, therefore, also play important role in promoting gut health.
  • Foods that are rich in prebiotics include garlic, onion, asparagus, and bananas. Other food ingredients that can serve as prebiotics that are approved by MOH include: fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), inulin (a type of FOS), and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS).

Prebiotics when combined with probiotics are known as synbiotics.