Gut Flora and the Hu­man Body

Consumer Voice - - Food & Stuff/ Probiotics -

The hu­man gut has its own gut flora (gut mi­cro­biota) – a com­plex com­mu­nity of mi­croor­gan­isms that live in the di­ges­tive tracts of hu­mans. Gut flora is ben­e­fi­cial for health in many ways. Some gut mi­crobes ben­e­fit the host by fer­ment­ing di­etary fi­bre into short-chain fatty acids, which are then ab­sorbed eas­ily by the gut. They also play a role in syn­the­sis­ing vi­ta­min B and vi­ta­min K. Gut flora also acts as an im­mune or­gan by metabolis­ing any for­eign par­ti­cle present in the gut. The com­po­si­tion of hu­man gut flora changes over time and with changes in the diet. It has also been found that peo­ple who suf­fer from cer­tain dis­eases (such as in­flam­ma­tory bowel dis­ease, ir­ri­ta­ble bowel dis­ease and al­lergy) have a mi­cro flora that is dif­fer­ent to that of healthy peo­ple, al­though it can­not be con­cluded that the al­tered mi­cro flora is a cause or a con­se­quence of the dis­ease. The im­pair­ment of the gut flora has been cor­re­lated with many in­flam­ma­tory and au­toim­mune con­di­tions. Here are some sci­en­tif­i­cally es­tab­lished facts: Sup­ple­men­tal and di­ar­rhoea pro­bi­otics When an­tibi­otics are con­sumed, they re­sult in an im­bal­ance in the gut flora by killing them. This may lead to an al­ter­ation in the di­ges­tion and ab­sorp­tion process, in turn lead­ing to os­motic di­ar­rhoea. Sup­ple­men­tal pro­bi­otics have shown to pro­duce a pro­tec­tive ef­fect in this sit­u­a­tion. Pro­bi­otics are sug­gested as a pos­si­ble treat­ment for var­i­ous forms of gas­troen­teri­tis and in cases of acute di­ar­rhoea. Con­sump­tion of curd and avoid­ance of milk is thus rec­om­mended dur­ing di­ar­rhoea. In­ges­tion of cer­tain ac­tive strains may help lac­tose-in­tol­er­ant in­di­vid­u­als tol­er­ate more lac­tose than they would other­wise. Pro­bi­otics are in­ef­fec­tive in pre­vent­ing al­ler­gies in chil­dren. A few stud­ies sug­gest that con­sump­tion of sup­ple­men­tal pro­bi­otics may help to con­trol high blood pres­sure. Stud­ies sug­gest that the con­sump­tion of pro­bi­otics re­duces serum choles­terol lev­els, prob­a­bly by break­ing down bile-em­bed­ded choles­terol in the gut, thus in­hibit­ing its re­ab­sorp­tion. Pro­bi­otics may in­flu­ence pathogens, caus­ing in­fec­tions by means of com­pet­i­tive in­hi­bi­tion – that is, by com­pet­ing for growth. Some stud­ies sug­gest that pro­bi­otics may de­crease the in­ci­dence of res­pi­ra­tory-tract in­fec­tion, ro­tavirus in­fec­tions and den­tal caries in chil­dren and trav­ellers’ di­ar­rhoea in adults.

Side Ef­fects of Sup­ple­men­tal Pro­bi­otics

Al­though con­sump­tion of sup­ple­men­tal pro­bi­otics is con­sid­ered to be safe, there are con­cerns about their safety in some cases. The ma­nip­u­la­tion of the gut mi­cro­biota is com­plex. Sci­en­tists doubt that in­ges­tion of mi­crobes may cause bac­te­ria–host in­ter­ac­tions. It has been found that in­di­vid­u­als with short-bowel syn­drome, cen­tral ve­nous catheters and car­diac-valve dis­ease as well as pre­ma­ture in­fants may be at higher risk for ad­verse events. Pas­sage of vi­able bac­te­ria from the gas­troin­testi­nal tract to the in­ter­nal or­gans can oc­cur in in­di­vid­u­als with in­flam­ma­tory bowel dis­ease. It has also been sug­gested that pro­bi­otics cause obe­sity in hu­mans, al­though it hasn’t been proved sci­en­tif­i­cally. Many sci­en­tific com­mu­ni­ties dis­cour­age the use of pro­bi­otic di­etary sup­ple­ments and rec­om­mend im­proved health through gut-flora mod­u­la­tion by main­tain­ing long-term di­etary changes such as con­sump­tion of ad­e­quate calo­rie and a fi­bre-rich diet.

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