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Eat your Yogurt!

Every day, we make contact with an abominable amount of bacteria where, from a young age, we are taught to be cautious of it as they can harm you. However, not all bacteria are harmful and are rather helpful. One of the many useful bacteria we come across often is lactobacillus, which is found and used to make yogurt.

 

Lactobacillus is a genus of bacteria, including various species such as Lactobacillus acetotolerans, Lactobacillus johnsonii, and Lactobacillus panisapium. They are known for thriving in lactose-rich environments, where they ferment the lactose to produce lactic acid as a byproduct. These bacteria are naturally found in various environments, including soil, (decaying) plants, and animals.

 

Lactobacillus is also found in body sites such as the digestive system and female genital system. It is known as a probiotic, as it keeps the body healthy by protecting it against pathogens and, in turn, the body provides the bacteria with nutrients. As probiotics, lactobacillus offer a range of benefits to the human host for example: preventing and managing diarrhoea, vaginal infections, and skin issues. In addition, they help with a range of benefits including, enhancing the absorption of nutrients and producing antimicrobial substances that inhibit the growth of other harmful bacteria. The balance of the gut microbiome is easily disrupted by factors like antibiotics, stress, and an imbalanced diet. However, lactobacillus can help restore this balance by replenishing beneficial bacteria and preventing the overgrowth of harmful microbes.

 

Many kinds of food contain lactobacillus, as they are used as starter cultures for controlled fermentation. These include sauerkraut, kefir, sourdough bread, kimchi, and beer but it is most popularly known for being a crucial ingredient in yogurt. In the production of yogurt, pasteurised milk is heated and a bacteria culture (usually consisting of Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus) is added. The milk mixture is then left to sit where the bacteria ferment and convert the lactose into lactic acid. This lactic acid thickens the milk by denaturing the milk proteins as well as develops the tart and sour flavour of yogurt. This also leaves yogurt with the health benefits of lactobacillus, making it a good source of probiotics.

 

Lots of research is being done on lactobacillus, to unravel the full potential of this bacteria. For example, there is ongoing research on the use of lactobacillus on irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases for their potential effects. In addition, there have been work on lactobacillus in modulating the immune system. Furthermore, although lactobacillus has already proven its potential to aid our gut health, recent research has focused on the link between gut health and mental health. Some studies show their connection, hence lactobacillus could possibly be used for our mental well-being too.




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