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Belly Health: Characteristics and Benefits of Probiotics
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James Offline

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Belly Health: Characteristics and Benefits of Probiotics

Belly Health: Characteristics and Benefits of Probiotics

by Silvano Arnoldo

The gut microflora or microbiota comprises about 10E 14 (100 trillion) microorganisms, corresponding to more than 10 times the number of the body’s own cells. It is a very complex microbial ecosystem composed of more than 1,000 species.

The intestinal tract is the body's most important immune function—related organ: approximately 70 percent of the body’s immune cells are located in the intestinal mucosa/lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Activities such as regulating immune function, enhancing the intestinal barrier to prevent unwanted microbes from entering the blood stream, and digestion are important functions of microbiota. Current research on probiotics and microbiota aims at understanding host-microbe interactions within the gut lumen, microbe-microbe interactions within the microbiota and the combined health effects of these interactions.

One of the founding principles underlying the concept of administering probiotics is the notion that disturbances in gut microecology, also referred to as dysbiosis, is associated with intestinal conditions such as constipation and diarrhea, to more serious complications such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The probiotic concept asserts that adding the appropriate strains to this complex ecosystem can result in health benefits through interactions within the GI tract and the microbiota.

Defining Probiotics

A broadly accepted definition of probiotics has been put forward by the World Health Organization (WHO), stating probiotics are “live microorganisms which, when administrated in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host" (FAO/WHO 2001).

The minimum criteria to be met for probiotic products are the probiotic must be:

Specified by species and strain—research on specific probiotic strains cannot be applied to any product marketed as a probiotic.
Delivered in adequate dose through the end of shelf life (with minimal variability from one batch to another).
Shown to be efficacious in controlled human studies.

The probiotic potential of different bacterial strains, even within the same species, differs. Different species and also different strains of the same species have their own unique characteristics and consequently exert their own specific effects on microbiota and the GI tract.

The scientific basis of Lactobacillus plantarum 299v (Lp 299v)

The strain L. plantarum 299v is an example of what is termed clinically documented strain (CDS). Lp 299v was first isolated from human intestine, and satisfies many of the selection criteria requirements of a CDS. It is backed by many scientific and clinical studies during a span of more than 15 years.

Here is a summary of its key characteristics:

It has been shown to have good resistance to gastric acid and bile salts.
It has exceptional adherence and colonization characteristics. This adherence ability prevents the adhesion and translocation (penetration and entrance through the gut’s protecting layers) of pathogens.
It stimulates the secretion of mucin, which hinders the growth of disease-promoting bacteria.
In one study, 299v helped with antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
It reduces mucosal inflammation. When 299v adheres to the mucosal membrane of the gut, the numbers of gram-negative bacteria (which always contain endotoxins and even a small number cause an extreme inflammatory reaction) reduces substantially.
It produces various short chain fatty acids(SCFAs) that lower gut pH, creating an unfavorable environment for the growth of pathogens, including molds, yeasts and bacteria.
Multiple studies have shown Lp299v reduces the colonization of enteropathogenic E.coli (EPEC), which is often associated with occasional diarrhea and bowel discomfort.
It has antimicrobial activity against various other pathogens.
It helps increase the Lactobacilli population.

Lp 299v and IBS: Human Clinical Studies

IBS is a common disease that currently affects 10 percent to 20 percent of the adult population in developed countries. The cause remains obscure, but the main triggers are thought to be overuse of antibiotics, intestinal infections and stress. The composition of microflora significantly contributes to GI health, and an increasing number of studies have reported an association between alternation of microbiota and IBS development. Dysbiosis of the microbiota is thought to alter GI function (immunological/inflammatory mechanisms). Symptoms often include abdominal pain, flatulence, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.

Niedzelin K et al. have assessed the efficacy of Lp299v versus placebo treatment in a randomized, controlled, double blind study. Forty IBS patients received either Lp299v (20 billion cfu/d) or placebo treatment for four weeks, and improvements in their symptoms were evaluated at the end of the study. All patients in the treatment group reported complete disappearance of abdominal pain after the study period while 80 percent of the placebo group reported persisting pain. Occurrence of irregularity was also resolved in 60 percent of the Lp299v treatment group versus 18 percent of the placebo group.

Nobaeck et al. also conducted a controlled, double blind study using Lp299v. Fifty-two IBS patients were treated with either Lp299v (20 billion cfu/d) or placebo for four weeks. Subjects were monitored for up to 12 months after the initial treatment. In the Lp299v group, rapid and significant improvements in IBS symptoms were observed. For example, 44 percent of treated patients reported a reduction in flatulence by more than 50 percent, whereas only 18 percent of the control patients reported an improvement. Similarly, abdominal pain disappeared in more than 33 percent of the Lp299v patients after the first two weeks of treatment, while the effect was much less in the control group.

In a third study, Maladkar et al., 214 patients were enrolled in a four-week, randomized placebo-controlled trial. The patients received either Lp299v 10 billion cfu/d or placebo. The variables (abdominal pain, feeling of incomplete emptying, abdominal bloating and frequency of stools) were significantly reduced in the Lp299v group compared to the placebo group. A total of 78 percent of the subjects in the Lp299v judged the global efficacy of the product was excellent or good, while only 8 percent in the placebo group reported this.

In summary, the results of these clinical trials have shown L. plantarum 299v contributes to various improvements in IBS patients. These improvements include, but are not limited to, the following:

Reduction of flatulence and bloating
Reduction of abdominal pain
Normalization of frequency and volume of stools
Improvement of general GI health
07-04-2012 04:37 AM
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