The Benefits of Probiotics


What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms, which taken in adequate amounts, provide health benefits.1 The term “probiotic” means pro-life and was coined as an antonym to the word antibiotic. For centuries, people have been eating foods that were fermented using live cultures of bacteria. Historically, health benefits have been attributed to these foods. Today we have probiotic supplements to do the job. Within the last few decades probiotics have gained the attention of the scientific and medical communities.

How Probiotics Work

Research supports the role of our intestinal microflora in disease protection and prevention.2 Probiotics affect intestinal bacteria by increasing the numbers of beneficial bacteria and decreasing potentially harmful microorganisms. They help to restore the natural balance of good bacteria in the intestinal tract.3 In general, the strongest evidence for probiotics is related to their use in improving gut health and stimulating immune function.4

Picturing the human body as a host for bacteria and other microorganisms is helpful in understanding probiotics. Most probiotics are bacteria similar to the beneficial bacteria found naturally in the human gut.5 The body, especially the lower gastrointestinal tract, contains a diverse and dynamic community of microflora.

In a healthy adult’s body, cells of microorganisms are estimated to outnumber human cells by a factor of ten to one. Although we tend to think of bacteria as harmful germs, many actually help the body to function properly. They alter the intestinal environment by reducing harmful organisms, producing antimicrobial compounds, and stimulating the body’s immune system.6

If you are in good health and are consuming a healthful plant-based diet you don’t necessarily need to take probiotics. Your gut microflora are fed and nourished by the foods you consume. Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and beans naturally balances intestinal flora. The factors that appear to decrease an individual’s immunity or ability to resist the effects of pathogenic microbes in.16

Not All Probiotics Are Equal

Probiotics vary by genus, species and even different strains within the same species. It cannot be assumed that research published on a particular species or even strain of probiotic applies to other species or strains. Different strains of the same species of probiotics have different characteristics or benefits.

Probiotic supplements should contain species, strains and the number of viable organisms per dose (expressed as colony forming units or CFUs) that have been tested and proven to be effective.17 Product packaging should ensure an effective level of live bacteria through the “best by” or expiration date. Since probiotic supplements pass through the digestive system and are considered to be transient in nature, their benefits are dependent on regular consumption.

What Are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics differ from probiotics. They are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth and/or activity of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.18 They are found naturally in a variety of plant-based foods, including onions, garlic, asparagus, leeks, artichokes, oats, and bananas.19 They provide food for the good bacteria. Prebiotics are beneficial, perhaps even necessary, to promote the growth and survival of probiotics in the GI tract. Probiotic supplements frequently contain prebiotics in the form of fructo-oligosaccarides (FOS), inulin and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS).20

The use of probiotics shows promise for a number of health concerns, primarily those relating to the gastrointestinal tract. They have an excellent safety record and represent an option for prevention and treatment of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and relief of symptoms due to irritable bowel syndrome.

Probiotics may also be helpful for those with allergies and autoimmune diseases. Much research is currently underway in this area and progress will be continue to be made in identifying the specific species and strains of probiotics that are the most effective in each situation.

 
References
  1. Sanders M. Probiotics: Definition, Sources, Selection and Uses. Clin Infect Dis 2008. 46Suppl2:S58-S61.
  2. Rolfe RD. Symposium: probiotic bacteria: Implications for human health. The Role of Probiotic Cultures in the Control of Gastrointestinal Health. J Nutr 2000. 130:396S-402S
  3. Khani S. Hosseini H. Taheri M. Probiotics as an Alternative Strategy for Prevention and Treatment of Human Diseases: A Review. Inflammation & Allergy-Drug Targets, 2012; 11:79-89.
  4. WGO Guideline. World Gastroenterology Organization Global Guidelines: Probiotcs and Prebiotics-A Global Perspective. J Clin Gastroenterol 2012; 46: 468-481. Ritchie M. Romanuk T. A Meta-Analysis of Probiotic Efficacy for Garstrointestinal Diseases. Plos one.7, 2012.
  5. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Oral Probiotics: An Introduction. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm.
  6. WGO Guideline. World Gastroenterology Organisation Global Guidelines: Probiotcs and Prebiotics-A Global Perspective. J Clin Gastroenterol 2012; 46: 468-481.
  7. Goldin BR. Gorbach SL. Clinical Indications for Probiotics: an overview. Clin Infec Dis 2008. 46Suppl2:S96-100 Hempel S. Newberry S. Maher A. Probiotics for the Prevention and Treatment of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea- A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA 2012;307(18):1959-1969.
  8. Hempel S. Newberry S. Maher A. et al. Probiotics for the Prevention and Treatment of Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea. JAMA. 2012;307(18):1959-1969
  9. Goldenberg JZ. Ma SSY, Saxton JD. The use of probiotics to prevent C. difficile diarrhea associated with antibiotic use. Cochrane Summaries. May 31, 2013.
  10. McFarland LV. Meta-analysis of probiotics for the prevention of antibiotic associated diarrhea and the treatment of Clostridium difficile disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2006; 101(4):812-822. Surawicz CM. Elmer GW. Speelman P et al. Prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea by Saccharomyces boulardii: a prospective study. Gastroenterology 1989; 96(4):981-8. Goldenberg JZ. Ma SS. Saxton JD et al. Probiotics for the prevention of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea in adults and children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 May 31.
  11. Szajewska H. Skorka A. Ruszczyndki D et al. Meta-analysis: Lactabacillus FF for treating acute diarrhea in children.
  12. American Gastroenterology Association. Probiotics. What are they and what they can do for you. Available at http//wwwgastro.org/wmspage.cfm?parm1=5617 (accessed March 11, 2011). Allen SJ, Okoko B. Martinez E. et al. Probiotics for treating infectious diarrhea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2004;(2):CD003048. `
  13. Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST). 2007. Probiotics Their Potential to Impact Human Health. Issue Paper 36 CAST, Ames, Iowa. Guglielmetti S et al. Randomised clinical trial: Bifidobacterium bifidum MIMBb75 significantly alleviated irritable bowel syndrome and improves quality of life-a double blind, placebo-controlled study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011;34(1):1123-32.Kim HJ. Vazquez Roque MI, Camilleri M. A randomized controlled trial of a probiotic combination VSL#3 and placebo in irritable bowel syndrome with bloating. Neuroqastroenterol Motil. 2005;17(5):687-96. Hungin APS. Mulligan C, Pot B. Systematic Review: probiotics in the management of lower gastrointestinal symptoms in clinical practice-an evidence based international guide. 2013. 38(8):864-886.
  14. Miele E. Pascarella F. Giannetti E et al. Effect of a probiotic preparation (VSL#3) on induction and maintenance of remission in children with ulcerative colitis. Am J Gastroenterol 2009;104:437-43. Sheil B. Shanahan F. O’Mahony. Probiotic Effects on Inflammatory Bowel Disease. J. Nutr. 2007. 137(3)8195-8245. Sood A. Midha V. Maklania GK et al. The probiotic preparation VSL#3 induces remission in patients with mild to moderately active ulcerative colitis. Flin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2009; 7:1202—9. Steel H. Macfarlene GT. Blackett KL. Clinical Trail: the microbiological and immunological effects of synbiotic consumption-a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study in active Crohn’s disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2010 32(7) 872-83
  15. Vaghef-Mehrabany E, Alipour B. Homayouni-Rad A. Probiotic supplementation improves inflammatory status in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Nutrition 2014. 30(4):430-5. Mandel D. Eichas K. Holmes J. Bacillus coagulans: a viable adjunct therapy for relieving symptomsof rheumatoid arthritis according to a randomized, controlled trial. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010. 10-1. Borchers AT. Selmi C. Meyers FJ et al. Probiotics and Immunity. J Gastroenterol. 2009; 44(1) 26-46 Hedin C. Whelan K. Lindsay J. Evidence for the use of probiotics and prebiotics in inflammatory bowel disease: a review of clinical trials. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2007. 66:307-315.
  16. Kukkonen K. Savilahti E. Haahtela T. et al. Probiotics and prebiotic galacto-oligosaccharides in the prevention of allergic diseases: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trail. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007. 119(1):192-8. Elazab N. Mendy A. Gasana J. Probiotic administration in early life, atopy and asthma: a meta-analysis of clinical trials. Pediatics. 2013; 132(3):e666-76.
  17. Sanders M. How do we know when something called “Probiotic” is really a Probiotic? A guideline for Consumers and Health Care Professionals. Functional Food Reviews. 2009; 1:3-12.
  18. MacFarlane S. Macfarlane GT. Cummings JH. Review Article: prebiotics in the gastrointestinal tract. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2006. 1;242(5):701-14 19. Blaut M. Relationship of prebiotics and food to intestinal microflora. Eur J Nutr. 2002; 41(1)11-6 20 Slavin Joanne. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits Nutrients 2013; 5(4) 1417-1435.
  19. Blaut M. Relationship of prebiotics and food to intestinal microflora. Eur J Nutr. 2002; 41(1)11-6
  20. Slavin Joanne. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits Nutrients 2013; 5(4) 1417-1435.