Probiotics

November 13, 2012 BY: LISA

What are probiotics?
According to the currently adopted definition by FAO/WHO, probiotics are: “Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”.
Probiotics are commonly consumed as part of fermented foods with specially added active live cultures (bacteria), such as in yogurt, soy yogurt, or as dietary supplements. (Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probiotic)
People may take probiotic preparations to give their bodies a boost of good bacteria.

The growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system is supported by eating plenty of fibre-rich foods including= prebiotics = support the growth of good bacteria in the bowel.
• fruit and vegetables
• dried beans and lentils
• wholegrain breads and cereals

The majority of probiotic bacteria used in food production are lactic acid bacteria such as species of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. Foods containing beneficial bacteria have been available for a long time overseas. However, probiotics are a new concept to Australians.

Probiotics are found in a number of different sources including fermented milk drinks (such as Yakult), yoghurts, capsules and powders. They are available at supermarkets and health food stores throughout the country. http://www.yakult.com.au/health04.htm

Probiotics are effective for a range of health related applications, however specific strains for a specific health target is required. Not all probiotics elicit all health effects. Update Probiotics- probi defendum™

Where do the probiotics go?
Probiotic products contain live bacteria, some of which survive digestion and can have a helpful effect on the friendly bacteria living in the digestive system. In most people the correct balance of friendly bacteria is maintained in the digestive system by eating a variety of healthy foods.

Within your gastrointestinal tract, there is intestinal microflora or microbiota. This complex ecosystem contains over 400 bacterial species. Small amounts can be found in your stomach and small intestines, but the majority is found in your colon. The intestinal microflora aid in digestion, synthesize vitamins and nutrients, metabolize some medications, support the development and functioning of the gut, and enhance the immune system.

It’s a balance between good and bad: We know that our digestive tract needs a healthy balance between the good and bad bacteria, so what gets in the way of this? Poor food choices, emotional stress, lack of sleep, antibiotic overuse, other drugs, and environmental influences can all shift the balance in favour of the bad bacteria.
The idea is not to kill off all of the bad bacteria. Our body does have a need for the bad ones and the good ones. The problem is when the balance is shifted to have more bad than good. An imbalance has been associated with diarrhoea, urinary tract infections, muscle pain, and fatigue. http://www.medicinenet.com/probiotics/page2.htm

What do the bacteria do?
The bacteria making up our intestinal flora play a vital role in the digestive system and without them, our digestive system would not function correctly. Factors such as diet, stress, ageing and antibiotics may upset its balance.

One of the roles of the bacteria is to ferment the carbohydrates and proteins that enter the bowel. Often these fermented products help our bodies, for example the fermentation of soluble fibre produces short chain fatty acids that can lower blood cholesterol and have other beneficial effects on the bowel including the growth of more beneficial bacteria= prebiotic.

How do probiotics benefit the immune system?

3 levels of action:
1.The bacteria in the large bowel have direct contact with the ecosystem and are able to interfere with the growth and survival of pathogens which may cause harm/disease.
2.The bacteria interact with the wall (lumen) and mucous of the bowel and add to the protective barrier it forms
3.Significant communication occurs between the host immune system and the microorganisms within it- however the mechanism is poorly understood. Update Probiotics- probi defendum™

There is limited knowledge about the bacteria that live in the large bowel yet we do know there are approximately 10 times as many bacteria in the large bowel as cells in our body and we all have our own distinct gut microbiota. In clinical studies, improved gastrointestinal health may not show obvious changes in the gut microbiota (bacteria)- specific small changes may go undetected. Dr Michael Conlon – CSIRO food and nutritional sciences quoted in Diet and Bowel health- expert round table report (Burger Rye bread)

Conclusion:
It takes specific probiotics to confer a specific health effect- research is still being undertaken to determine these specific strains and their health effects.
However what does seem clear is that if your bacteria are out of balance due to antibiotic or other drug use, stress, gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS, chronic diarrhoea then a probiotic may benefit to restore the balance of good and bad bacteria.

• Probi Defendum™ suggests it can decrease the severity and duration of common cold symptoms
• Probiotics can be helpful with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) associated with diarrhoea
• May be useful after anti-biotic use (particularly long term use.)
Lisa Renn
Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD)

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