Monday, 25 February 2008

More on Probiotics and a bit on Prebiotics

I have more information on probiotics and prebiotics- here it is!

The first scientist to observe the positive role of played by some bacteria was a Russian, Eli Metchinkoff, at the beginning of the 20th century.
Metchinoff had a theory that the longevity of the Bulgarians was due to their huge yogourt intakes. He explained that the good bacteria (which he named after the Bulgarians: Lactobacillus bulgaricus) replaces the bad bacteria in the intestine. Yogourt was elevated to a rank of wonder despite the fact that Metchinkoff had no real evidence for his theory of for his notion that Bulgarians lived a long time.

Metchinkoff was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1908 for work unrelated to yogourt but that propelled yogourt to a health staple in the Balkans and Russia. In fact, when the former Soviet Union launched its space flight program, it established a microbiology lab to study the astronauts' gut bacteria. Researchers experimented with giving the astronauts yogourt before their mission and collecting bacteria from their saliva and intestines when they returned to Earth. They then cultured these bacteria that had withstood space travel to make a "healthier" yogourt!
A commercial variety of yogourt made with bacteria cultured from astronauts is still being sold as a health food... Yum!!

I don't think I included the definition of a probiotic. It's "a
live microbial feed supplement which beneficially affects the host animal by improving its intestinal microbial balance".

Yogourt, if made with the right baceria, falls into this category. Traditionally, yogourt has been made with Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus but it was found that these bacteria are acid sensitive and don't make it past the stomach.
Acidophilus, Bifido baceria, Bio-K+ and Lactobacillus GG seem to survive the stomach acid and make it into the gut where they have been shown, as I talked about previously, to replace bad bacteria in the gut like Clostridium difficile that's often responsible for diarrhea.
Probiotics can also help with Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, boost the immune system and reduce the risk of allergies if give to children at an early age.

What's a prebiotic? A substance that stimulates growth of specific bacteria in the colon. Non-digestible carbohydrates are prebiotics, ie. fibre, because they're not digested and therefore pass through to the intestines unchanged and collect in the colon.There, they foster the growth of good bacteria and limit the multiplication of harmful ones.

Examples of prebiotics (indigestible carbs) you'll see on ingredient labels are: lactulose, inulin and fructooligosaccharides.
Prebiotics are at the forefront of nutrition research because of potential benefits include the prevention of abnormal cell proliferation (that leads to cancer), improved mineral absorption (ie. calcium) and reduced blood cholesterol.

In Japan, they have many foods on the market fortified with inulin and fructooligosaccharides and the trend is coming our way. The studies show that we need a minimum of 4 grams prebiotics a day to get the benefits.

Source: That's the way the cookie crumbles by Dr. Joe Schwarcz


Naznin said...

Hi Sybil,
I understand that it is impt. to take probiotic anytime you have to take antibiotics to balance the ph of your intestinal flora.
However, do you think it is a good idea to take probiotics regularly as a prophylactic measure?eg biok

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

Thanks for your questions Naznin.

Recent scientific work on probiotics have suggested that they can play a role in antibiotic-related diarrhea, immunity, digestive and respiratory functions.

It's important to note though that all the research done is very limited and only preliminary results are available. Therefore, it's not necessarily "important to take a probiotic when taking antibiotics". It should be said that the preliminary research is promising...

I wouldn't tell people go out and buy yogourts with probiotics like Bio K+ but I wouldn't discourage it either. Remember that all yogourts have probiotics- so why pay the extra money?
That said, it seems that it's just certain types of probiotics(like Bio K+, Bifido Bacteria, Acidophilus)that seem to survive the stomach's acid compared to the ones found naturally in yogourt.

It's a personal choice but don't feel that you need probiotic yogourts to be healthy if you're already healthy and eating a variety of foods daily.

Hope that answered your question!

Naznin said...

Thank you for your response, sybil.
Thrush that is caused by candida Albicans is often an antibiotic related problem in some people. In that case is it not prudent to take probiotics like Bio k or acidophilus?

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

Candida Albicans is a form of yeast and is among the normal gut flora making up our mouth and GI tract. Overgrowth results in candidiasis, which is aka thrush. Thrush is easily cured if the person is not immunocompromised. You obviously have to take medication (usually anti-fungal meds vs. anibioitcs) if prescribed... but probiotics can definitely help replace the bad bugs with good ones... again though, the research is limited.
Some preliminary research has shown that probiotics can help prevent/ reduce risk of vaginal yeast infections.
Bottom line: It can help, but shouldn't replace conventional treatments.