Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.
Our body normally has what we would call good or helpful bacteria and bad or harmful bacteria. Maintaining the correct balance between these bacteria is necessary for optimal health. Age, genetics, and diet may influence the composition of the bacteria in the body (microbiota). An imbalance is called dysbiosis, and this has possible links to diseases of the intestinal tract, including Ulcerative Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Celiac Disease, and Chrohn’s disease, as well as more systemic diseases such as obesity and type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Probiotic foods, beverages, and supplement products contain bacteria and/or yeasts. Up until the 1960s, the only gut microflora that they were able to identify were clostridia, lactobacilli, enterococci, and Ecoli. Since then, innovative techniques have discovered many more bacteria. There are several different kinds of probiotics, and their health benefits are determined by the job that they do in the gut. They must be identified by their genus, species, and strain level. Here is a list of probiotics and their possible health benefits.
1. Lactobacillus There are more than 50 species of lactobacilli. They are naturally found in the digestive, urinary, and genital systems. Foods that are fermented, like yogurt, and dietary supplements also contain these bacteria. Lactobacillus has been used for treating and preventing a wide variety of diseases and conditions. Some of the lactobacilli found in foods and supplements are Lactobacillis acidophilus, L.acidophilus. Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Lactobacillus plantarium, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus johnsonii, and Lactobacillus gasseri. Studies have shown some benefits linked to Lactobacillus and treating and/or preventing yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infection, irritable bowel syndrome, antibiotic-related diarrhea, traveler’s diarrhea, diarrhea resulting from Clostridium difficile, treating lactose intolerance, skin disorders (fever blisters, eczema, acne, and canker sores), and prevention of respiratory infections.
2. Bifidobacteria There are approximately 30 species of bifidobacteria. They make up most of the healthy bacteria in the colon. They appear in the intestinal tract within days of birth, especially in breastfed infants and are thought to be the best marker of intestinal health. Some of the bifidobacteria used as probiotics are Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium lactis, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium thermophilum, and Bifidobacterium pseudolongum. Studies have shown that bifidobacteria can help with improving blood lipids and glucose tolerance. Bifidobacteria have been shown to effectively alleviate IBS and significantly improve IBS symptoms like pain/discomfort, distension/bloating, urgency, and digestive disorders.
3. Saccharomyces boulardii This is also known as S. boulardii and is the only yeast probiotic. Some studies have shown that it is effective in preventing and treating diarrhea associated with the use of antibiotics and traveler’s diarrhea. It has also been reported to prevent the reoccurrence of C. difficile to treat acne, and to reduce side effects of treatment for H. pylori.
4. Streptococcus thermophilus This produces large quantities of the enzyme lactase, making it effective, according to some reports, in the prevention of lactose intolerance.
5. Enterococcus faecium This is normally found in the intestinal tract of humans and animals.
6. Leuconostoc This has been used extensively in food processing throughout human history, and ingestion of foods containing live bacteria, dead bacteria, and metabolites of these microorganisms has taken place for a long time
The prebiotic comes before and helps the probiotic, and then the two can combine to have a synergistic effect, known as synbiotics. A prebiotic is actually a nondigestible carbohydrate that acts as food for the probiotics and bacteria in your gut to provide health benefits to the body. The health benefits have been suggested to include acting as a remedy for gastrointestinal(GI) complications such as enteritis, constipation, and irritable bowel disease; prevention and treatment of various cancers; decreasing allergic inflammation; treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and fighting immune deficiency diseases. There has also been research showing that the dietary intake of particular food products with a prebiotic effect has been shown, especially in adolescents, but also tentatively in postmenopausal women, to increase calcium absorption as well as bone calcium absortion and bone mineral density. The benefits for obesity and type 2 diabetes are growing as recent data, both from experimental models and from human studies, have shown particular food products with prebiotics have influences on energy homeostasis, satiety regulation, and body weight gain.
Most of the prebiotics identified are oligosaccharides. They are resistant to the human digestive enzymes that work on all other carbohydrates. This means that they pass through the upper GI system without being digested. They then get fermented in the lower colon and produce short-chain fatty acids that will then nourish the beneficial microbiota that live there. Oligosaccharides can be synthesized or obtained from natural sources. These sources include asparagus, artichoke, bamboo shoots, banana, barley, chicory, leeks, garlic, honey, lentils, milk, mustards, onion, rye, soybean, sugar beet, sugarcane juice, tomato, wheat, and yacón. The health benefits from these oligosaccharides is a topic of ongoing research.
GI MICROBIONE DIAGNOSIS
At Genlife Regenerative Medicine, we can evaluate your GI Microbiome (gastro-intestinal system) and determine the best regimen of prebiotics and probiotics for your problems.
As life expectancy continues to increase, it is important that we understand how best to maintain good health. Never has this been more relevant than in respect of our resident microbiota (the good bacteria in our GI tracts). Understanding the complex relationship among what we choose to eat, our activity levels and the types of microbacteria is essential.
The gut microbiome: Most of us are aware that the bacteria in our gut play an important role in digestion. When the stomach and small intestine are unable to digest certain foods we eat, gut microbes jump in to offer a helping hand, ensuring we get the nutrients we need. In addition, gut bacteria are known to aid the production of certain vitamins – such as vitamins B and K and play a major role in immune function. The bacteria in our gut is unique to each of us individually and it influences our health and risk of disease. Gut microbiota affects an individual’s risk of obesity and other metabolic conditions. Our genetic makeup shapes what type of bacteria reside in our gut, which can affect our weight. The unborn child is first colonized in the womb. The development of gut microbiota begins before birth. Bacteria, including Enterococcus and Staphylococcus, have been found in the early feces of baby mice – known as the meconium – indicating the bacteria was transferred to the fetus from the mother’s gut during pregnancy.
The digestive tract of a newborn is rapidly colonized with micro-organisms from the mother and the surrounding environment. An infant’s gut microbiota can be influenced by breastfeeding: the gut of breastfed babies primarily consists of Bifidobacteria – considered a “friendly” bacteria that benefits the gut – while formula fed babies are likely to have less of this bacteria.
From birth until old age, our gut bacteria is constantly evolving.
A broader diversity of bacteria in the gut is better for human health. A recent study reported by MNT, for example, found that infants with less diverse gut bacteria at the age of 3 months were more likely to be sensitized to specific foods – including egg, milk and peanut – by the age of 1 year, indicating that lack of gut bacteria diversity in early life may be a driver for food allergies.
Researchers from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, and King’s College London in the UK – found that a certain strain of bacteria – Christensenellaceae minuta – was more common in people with a low body weight and that the presence of this particular strain is highly influenced by genes.
What is more, introducing this bacteria to the guts of mice caused the animals to gain less weight, indicating the bacteria may reduce or prevent obesity.
The findings show that specific groups of microbes living in our gut could be protective against obesity – and that their abundance is influenced by our genes. The human microbiome represents an exciting new target for dietary changes and treatments aimed at combating obesity.
In 2012, another study published in the Journal of Proteome Research suggested that a lack of bacteria in the large intestine may drive obesity by slowing down the activity of brown fat, which protects against weight gain when stimulated by burning calories and white fat.
Another study provides further evidence that gut bacteria may influence weight gain. A case report published in the journal Open Forum Infectious Diseases revealed how a women who underwent fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) using an overweight donor rapidly became obese herself following the procedure.
In recent years, scientists have increasingly investigated the link between gut bacteria and cancer.
In a 2013 study published in The Journal of Cancer Research, US researchers claimed to discover a specific bacteria in the intestines – Lactobacillus johnsonii – that may play a role in the development of lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells.
It is well known that a common gut bacteria called Helicobacter pylori ma7y cause stomach cancer and duodenal ulcers by deactivating a part of the immune system involved in regulating inflammation.
And in 2014, MNT reported on research from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, in which investigators associated a specific combination of gut bacteria with the development of colorectal cancer. For this study, the team gave antibiotics to mice that possessed gene mutations known to cause colorectal polyps, which can develop into cancer. The antibiotics were administered to interfere with the gut bacteria of the mice. The researchers found that these mice did not develop polyps, suggesting that gut microbes may be involved in their development.
But as well as being linked to cancer development, research has found that gut bacteria may be important for improving the effectiveness of cancer treatment.
In 2013, a study by researchers from the National Cancer Institute found that immunotherapy and chemotherapy were less effective in mice lacking gut bacteria, with such treatments working significantly better in mice with a normal gut microbiome. Similar results were found in another 2013 study by French researchers. An antitumor drug – cyclophosphamide – was found to be much less effective in mice with limited gut bacteria, compared with mice with normal gut bacteria.
Not many of us are likely to think about how gut bacteria affect the mental state, but they actually play a very important role.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), gut bacteria produce an array of neurochemicals that the brain uses for the regulation of physiological and mental processes, including memory, learning and mood. In fact, 95% of the body’s supply of serotonin is produced by gut bacteria, according to the APA.
Since gut bacteria produce many of the neurochemicals responsible for regulating mental processes, it is no surprise that researchers have linked gut bacteria to mental health.
With this in mind, it is not unsurprising that gut bacteria has been associated with a number of mental health problems, including anxiety disorders and depression.
In 2014, for example, a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that prebiotics – carbohydrates that boost healthy bacteria in the gut – may be effective for reducing stress and anxiety.
Autism is estimated to affect 1 in 68 children in the US. While studies have associated environmental factors – such as pollution – and genetics as potential causes of the disorder, researchers are increasingly looking at the role of gut bacteria in its development. In 2013, a study by researchers from Arizona State University found that children with autism possessed lower levels of three types of gut bacteria- Prevotella, Coprococcus and Veillonellaceae – compared with children free of the condition.
So we know that gut microbes alter the metabolites associated with communication between the gut and the brain, which interferes with brain function.