A Probiotic Pilgrimage: Visiting Yakult Japan

December 1st, 2017

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Parents World Singapore was invited to visit Yakult Japan in May 2017. On the first day, we visited Yakult Central Institute, where we learned about Yakult’s humble beginnings. Japan was not a wealthy nation then, and many children lost their lives to infectious disorders such as food poisoning, dysentery, cholera, and typhoid.

Born in 1899 in Nagano, Japan, Dr. Minoru Shirota was a doctor, leading researcher of Microbiology, and pioneer of probiotics at Kyoto University. He became the first in the world to succeed in cultivating a fortified strain of lactic acid bacteria beneficial to human health in 1930. This bacterium was named “Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota” after Dr. Shirota. In 1935, “Yakult” was introduced to the market, and has since been distributed to 38 countries and regions around the world.

On the second day, we visited Seinan Elementary School in the morning. Food was cooked and distributed to all classes. A dietician shared with us about the nutritional values for the meals planned in the school, which are accompanied by a bottle of Yakult every lunch. This was followed by a lecture by Kazuyoshi Takeda, Associate Professor of Juntendo University, who shared about how our immune system can be stimulated by L. casei strain Shirota.

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Immunity is classified as either natural or acquired, and can be modulated by exercise and lifestyle choices. The NK cell is a natural killer cell, and can kill cancer cells in less than four hours. Age, smoking, and drastic lifestyle changes associated with mental stress can cause a reduction in NK cell activity. We can augment NK cell activity to prevent diseases by improving our lifestyle, dietary habits, and exercise. Good dietary habits, like taking supplements of live bacteria also help to foster a healthy life.

Next, Takashi Kurakawa, Associate Senior Researcher of Yakult Central Institute, shed light on the history of the methodological progress for microbiota research, along with the thousands of species of bacteria that reside in the human gut. The Yakult Fuji-Susono Plant was our next port of call, where the clear day enabled us to catch a view of Mount Fuji. Here, we understood how Yakult was produced and manufactured within the spotless factory. After lunch, we visited Shikoku Kakoki Fuji-Koyama Food Plant, which produces Bansoreicha – a guava leaf drink with many health benefits like the suppression of sugar absorption after meal.

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On our final day, we tagged along to do Yakult delivery at homes and offices in Ginza. It was a great experience watching how the delivery lady stayed cheerful despite the rain, going floor by floor and waiting patiently outside for office workers to patronise. They would come and pay her with coins or a purchase card, on which she would record and make a note.

Our trip to Yakult Japan was definitely an eye-opener and an interesting experience. We gained so much knowledge and understanding on the benefit of probiotics for our health.

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The Many Benefits Of L. Casei Strain Shirota

Rich in probiotics, Yakult is a fermented milk drink which provides multiple benefits by delivering the Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota (LcS) to the intestines alive. Here are some reasons why both adults, as well as infants who are already starting to ingest solid food, should consider consuming the well-known probiotic drink daily.

Helps To Maintain Immunity In The Body

The intake of LcS regulates immunity in the body, maintains and restores natural killer (NK) activity. NK cells work on the front line of the immune system, protecting the body from pathogens, viruses, and cancer. NK activity refers to the intensity of the performance of NK cells, and is recognised today as one of the barometers of immunity.

Helps To Reduce The Risk Of Cancer And Infectious Diseases

LcS is also known to reduce the risk of cancer by ridding the body of harmful mutagens. Reductions in the risk of bladder, colon and breast cancer, among others, have also been proven. Furthermore, LcS is known to be effective in reducing the incidence and mitigating the symptoms of infectious diseases such as infectious gastroenteritis caused by acute infantile diarrhoea and norovirus infection.

Intestinal Benefits

Both good and harmful bacteria live symbiotically with humans. Taking the beneficial LcS bacteria ensures that the intestinal flora is well-balanced, which is why it is recommended that Yakult is consumed daily. LcS produces lactic acid, while Bifidobacterium breve strain Yakult (BbrY) produces lactic and acetic acids. These acids keep the intestines healthy by stimulating intestinal activity and improve stool condition by enhancing bowel movement.

Probiotics keeps disease-triggering bacteria from multiplying and dominating other bacteria populations in the intestines. According to an Italian study, different types of bacteria have been found in the stool of constipated children compared to those of healthy children, suggesting that consuming probiotics may help alleviate their symptoms.

Even though there is no confirmed scientific evidence to suggest that kids with chronic constipation can be treated with probiotics, it has been proven effective as a safe and natural treatment for chronic constipation in babies. When the activities of harmful bacteria are curtailed, harmful substances decrease, and intestinal putrefaction can be avoided. Putrefaction is the process of decay in which foul odours and toxic substances are generated, and intestinal putrefaction can affect other organs in the body. Ideally, there should be little to no putrefaction occurring within the body.

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