PROBIOTICS FUNCTIONS AND BENEFITS
The intestinal tract is a complex set of organs essential for life. Being much more complex than it seems, it has a length of approximately 9 meters and its surface equals a tennis court. In addition to harboring more bacteria than cells has the own body, it contains 200 million neurons (more than the spinal cord) and is responsible for almost 90% of the immune system.
A key element of our intestinal tract is the microbiota present in it. The human body is estimated to have about 37 trillion cells but is also capable of harboring 100 trillion bacterial cells. The bacteria of the microbiota fulfill two main functions:
• Digestive functions: They are responsible for the processing of vitamins and minerals essential for the human body as well as carbohydrates and other polysaccharides vital for our diet.
• Immune functions: The own bacteria of the intestine acts as a barrier of the mucosa thanks to the effect of resistance in the colonization against pathogens, modulating and stimulating the innate immunity.
The imbalance of the intestinal flora can be modified by external factors as our daily life is the source of numerous external influences that can alter our intestinal microflora. The consumption of alcohol, an unbalanced diet, stress, travel, or even aging is responsible for the deregulation of the body's own microbiota.
This imbalance can lead to digestive imbalances causing diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain or even immune problems that lead to colds and flu in the most common cases but which have also been associated with very different diseases such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Atopic dermatitis or even Diabetes.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered at an adequate concentration, confer beneficial properties for the recipient. Among the characteristics that a Probiotic must fulfill we can highlight the following:
• Be able to replicate industrially
• Not be pathogenic to the human body
• Survive the gastrointestinal tract
• Be able to adhere to the gastrointestinal epithelium
• Be able to produce antimicrobial substances
• Modulate the immune response and host metabolism
During the last years, the number of publications related to probiotics has experienced a remarkable growth and not only of applications related to immune and digestive areas, but also of new functionalities within the host organism.
On the other hand, the knowledge of the general public regarding probiotics grows exponentially day by day giving the opportunity to consumers to be more informed of the functions of probiotics as well as what are the advantages of each of them.
POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF PROBIOTICS:
• Intestinal microbiota and balance of the intestinal flora
It is believed that a higher proportion of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli represents a "healthier" microbial composition compared to other bacteria present within the gut microbiota. In this way a habitual consumption of these microorganisms can cause a decrease in the concentration of unfavorable microorganisms such as staphylococci.
• Intestinal Health
Lactose Absorption: Scientific evidence shows that the bacteria present in yogurt can compensate for the lack of lactase production in the human intestine responsible for digesting lactose. This improvement in digestibility is related to the reduction of symptoms related to lactose intolerance in intolerant people.
Improvement of digestive transit: The effects of faeces regulation are considered beneficial for the intestinal health as it reduces the risk of constipation. Studies on certain strains of probiotic bacteria have shown an impact on bowel function, as evidenced by the normalization of digestive transit time and the reduction of symptoms related to constipation.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): IBS is a digestive condition that is characterized by a series of symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating and altered bowel habits that can often alternate between constipation and diarrhea. It has been demonstrated that supplementation with probiotics reduces symptoms associated with IBS such as abdominal pain, and altered bowel habits.
Diarrhea: It has been shown that certain probiotic strains are more effective in improving the symptoms of diarrhea caused by viruses. In addition, we can also say that there are probiotic strains capable of reducing the risk of diarrheal infections in children, adults and elderly population.
Diarrhea associated with antibiotics: There is abundant bibliographic evidence that indicates that the consumption of probiotics reduces the risk of suffering from diarrheas associated with the consumption of antibiotics and can even reach a reduction of up to half the incidence in adults and seniors.
Weight control: The latest data published in scientific journals highlight the importance of certain probiotic strains for weight control. Data shows that an increase in weight is associated with a lower concentration of mucins synthesized by probiotic bacteria. Studies reveal that a higher concentration of Bacteria of the genus bifidobacterium has been linked to an increased production of this mucin and therefore an improvement in weight control.
Traveler diarrhea: there is evidence that certain probiotic strains can reduce the risk of traveler's diarrhea.
• Immune Health
Prevention of influenza and common cold: Several studies have been conducted in different age groups to investigate the potential of probiotics to combat the upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) and its duration and symptoms. Clinical evidence indicates that probiotics can help in the prevention of respiratory diseases such as the flu and the common cold.
Prevention of diseases of the urinary tract: Thanks to the mechanism of action of different probiotic strains, scientific studies indicate that the consumption of certain probiotic strains of the genus Lactobacillus helps recover the flora of the normal urinary tract, making it difficult for the appearance and development of pathogenic strains responsible for the UTI.
Vaccination: The evidence suggested by clinical publications indicates that the response to vaccines against influenza, cholera or childhood diseases can be improved with certain probiotic strains. Therefore, these strains can help increase the level of serum immunoglobulins present in vaccinated subjects.
Allergies: Clinical evidence published in different scientific journals focuses on the impact of probiotics in the development of allergic symptoms in infants with high risk of developing atopic dermatitis. In published studies, the evidence indicates that the mother who has been a probiotic consumer, before the birth of the baby and once the baby is born, has a lower probability of developing atopic dermatitis compared to infants who have not been supplemented. This study has been extended to 6 years with similar results.
All these evidences encourage the launch of more and more products containing probiotics, allowing consumers to choose the most suitable option for them. If you are looking to incorporate probiotics in your new or existing developments, we would be happy to help you with our Howaru (highly documented strains) and Florafit (customized probiotics) range by Dupont. Only available for the Spanish market.