The Relationship Between Probiotics And Our Microbiome

The Relationship Between Probiotics And Our Microbiome

Gut microbiota and their effects on human health

The microbiome in the human body is the genetic composition made up of all the microbes i.e. bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses that live on the inside of the body. This ecological community of both symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms that share our body’s makeup, is linked to the body’s response to disease and a plethora of conditions found in the body. Both inside and outside the human body the multitude of microorganisms, of which bacteria makes up the majority, as well as cells called archea and viruses, fungi and microbes all work together to make up the human microbiota. The body’s microbiome consists of all the genes contained in your microbiota, collectively called microbes. Not all microbes are bad and only some become dangerous when they develop into pathogens. These microbes in the gut do the work, including programming the immune system, providing nutrients for our cells, and preventing colonisation by harmful bacteria and viruses.

The body’s microbiome is shaped by the microbes, as well as environmental factors including our long term diet, stress and even the medications and drugs we put into our body over time. This means that the microbiome can change throughout our life. It is having the right community of bacteria that are working together and together producing the right chemicals for your body, that result in a healthy microbiome. The key to a diverse microbiome is eating and drinking the correct foods and having a balanced diet.

The microbiome’s response to probiotics

Each person has a unique microbiome, which plays an important role in the health aspects and disease capability of an individual. This unique microbiome contains microbes that do the work in the gut, and contains a rich and diverse microbial ecosystem whose activities can influence the health of the individual. There is growing interest in how the microbiome of a person can be adjusted to improve health. Such modulations refer to Probiotics that are defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit to the host”. Since probiotics contain a colony of live bacteria and yeast, that when consumed daily, provide the body with these live microorganisms, (that essentially improve the health of an individual) by supplying the gut with probiotic enzymes to help it function properly. With the microbiome linked to so many conditions, the introduction of live probiotics is a promising and potential treatment for these pathogens. Our microbiome does this by absorbing vital nutrients and enzymes active in probiotics.

Probiotics offer a natural remedy for conditions that have resulted in a compromised or weak immune system. It does this by the number of CFUs (Colony Forming Units) that are the exact count of living and active microorganisms in one serving of a probiotic supplement. Such probiotic supplements must offer a health benefit to the consumer according the WHO. One of the main interests in probiotics is for the medical and clinical benefits in the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal infections and diseases. Typical diseases also include autoimmune diseases and inflammatory bowel disease, which can be fatal. How probiotics work to help the microbiota to stay at normal homeostasis rather than deviate from it (causing increased risk of these diseases), is by modulating the immune responses in our body. Consumption of probiotics is therefore essential to improving the immune receptors responsible for regulating the gut. Research provided by the New Zealand Medical Journal indicates that consumption of probiotics resulted in the reduced incidence of cold and influenza-like symptoms. It also significantly shortened the duration and severity of viral respiratory tract infections in adults. The specific strains responsible for this is Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracasei, which are present in live cultures such as probiotics. The lower incidences of these common infections, such as colds make probiotics a necessary supplement in an individual’s diet in order to maintain a healthy and diverse microbiome. It therefore makes sense to support a healthy immune system by supplementing probiotics into our daily consumption. There are a variety of probiotic food and beverages, and the health benefits from these probiotics are species- and strain -specific. It is a good idea to read the nutritional panel and labelling on products for specific CFUs included in probiotic products.

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