Professor Basil O. Ibe
May 21, 2014
Probiotics and Probiotics in Nutrition
Probiotics are microorganisms that some have claimed provide health benefits when consumed. The term probiotic is currently used to name ingested microorganisms associated with beneficial effects to humans and animals. Introduction of the concept is generally attributed to Nobel Prize recipient Eli Metchnikoff, who in 1907 suggested that "the dependence of the intestinal microbes on the food makes it possible to adopt measures to modify the flora in our bodies and to replace the harmful microbes by useful microbes". A significant expansion of the potential market for probiotics has led to higher requirements for scientific substantiation of putative beneficial effects conferred by the microorganisms. The most common probiotic bacteria come from two groups, Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium, although it is important to remember that many other types of bacteria are also classified as probiotics. Each group of bacteria has different species and each species has different strains. This is important to remember because different strains have different benefits for different parts of your body. For example, Lactobacillus casei Shirota has been shown to support the immune system and to help food move through the gut, but Lactobacillus bulgaricus may help relieve symptoms of lactose intolerance, a condition in which people cannot digest the lactose found in most milk and dairy products. In general, not all probiotics are the same, and they don’t all work the same way.
The health benefits of probiotics relate to the way these microorganisms interact with the GI tract. The GI tract and flora play a significant role in overall health. The intestine acts as a gatekeeper, allowing nutrients to be absorbed for use by the body while keeping out toxins and pathogenic bacteria and viruses. The gut flora breaks down vitamins and indigestible substances to produce fatty...