I recently came across an interesting article regarding immunity. In the September edition of Current Issues of Intestinal Microbiology, the authors note that the gastrointestinal tract of grown mammals is colonized by a diverse community of micro-organisms1.
They note that most protection against potential pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses, occurs around the lining of the intestines where there is special lymphoid tissue. However, friendly bacteria growing in the intestines also help fight against virus and bacteria invasion. The article discusses the fact that young animals need time to develop a complex bacterial community and, until that occurs, they are vulnerable to potential attack.
The initial protection against invading pathogens is provided by milk and colostrum, which contains antibodies and other beneficial bioactive components. However, at the time of weaning and the introduction of solid food, the young animal must rapidly develop the necessary friendly bacteria.
There are two components necessary to develop adequate friendly bacteria in the gut, those being prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics are defined as non-digestible food that can help stimulate growth of certain forms of beneficial bacteria in the colon. Prebiotics are usually made up of simple sugars known as oligosaccharides. Aside from helping stimulate growth of certain bacteria, prebiotics can help with mineral absorption and have other benefits as well. Probiotics are defined as friendly, living micro-organisms (usually bacteria) that, upon ingestion, will grow within the intestines to help with immunity and reduce inflammatory responses within the gastrointestinal system. Probiotics are capable of destroying harmful pathogens that cause food poisoning such as E. coli. Probiotics are sometimes called colonic foods.
In an article just published in the September edition of Current Opinion Clinical Nutrition Metabolic Care, researchers from Brazil discussed the role of probiotics in gastrointestinal surgery2. They note that studies have shown that probiotics play a role in decreasing post-operative complications in patients undergoing major gastrointestinal operations.
In a review article published September in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, the authors discussed the benefits of prebiotics in the gastrointestinal tract3. They indicate that prebiotics will improve health in ways similar to probiotics. They note, in particular, three prebiotics, including oligofructose, which can clearly alter the balance of large bowel micro-flora by increasing bifidobacteria (Bifidobacterium) and lactobacillus (Lactobacilli). The authors further note that randomized controlled trials of their effects in a clinical context are few, although animal studies have shown anti-inflammatory effects in inflammatory colon concerns.
I came across an interesting study that was published in the August edition of the International Journal of Anti-Microbial Agents4. The study, performed in Japan, showed that changes in vaginal bacteria can predispose women to frequently occurring bacterial bladder infections. Lactobacilli, used as probiotics, have played an important role in preventing the overgrowth of dangerous bacteria in the vagina. In this prospective clinical pilot study, women with recurrent bladder infections used lactobacillus vaginal suppositories. The women reported a significant reduction in the number of recurrent infections without any adverse complications.
The medical literature is full of published studies indicating that prebiotics and probiotics provide numerous health benefits to humans including promoting healthy digestion, nutrient absorption and reducing the number of harmful organisms, including candida yeast and E. coli. Also, people consuming probiotic-containing foods, such as yogurt, have a dramatic reduction in the risk of colon cancer.
Look for a supplement that contains a blend of 35 billion or more colonies of multiple friendly bacteria along with 200 mg of FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides). These have been shown in multiple studies to improve absorption of magnesium and other nutrients which may contribute to bone, immune and digestive health. It’s also been proven to increase the number of friendly bacteria in the GI tract by several hundred percent.
It should be noted that some unstable probiotic products require refrigeration, but due to a patented stabilization process, a good supplement product remains stable even at room temperature for a long period. Another problem with probiotics is that the bacteria can be destroyed by stomach acid before they reach the colon.
- Eva Bauer, Barbara A. Williams, Hauke Smidt, Martin W.A. Verstegen, and Rainer Mosenthin. Influence of the Gastrointestinal Microbiota on Development of the Immune System in Young Animals. Curr. Issues Intest. Microbiol. 7: 35-52.
- Correia MI, Nicoli JR. The role of probiotics in gastrointestinal surgery. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. Sep;9 (5):618-21.
- S. Macfarlane, G. T. Macfarlane, J. H. Cummings. Review article: prebiotics in the gastrointestinal tract.Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. Spet., Vol. 24, p. 701.
- Shinya Uehara, Koichi Monden, Koji Nomoto, Yuko Seno, Reiko Kariyama and Hiromi Kumon. A pilot study evaluating the safety and effectiveness of Lactobacillus vaginal suppositories in patients with recurrent urinary tract infection.Int. J. of Antimicrobial Agents. Aug., Vol. 28 Supplement, p. 30-34. Volume 28, Supplement 1, Pages 1-112