Probiotic- The peace keeping bacteria within the human gut


The root of the word Probiotic comes from the Greek word pro, meaning “promoting” and biotic, meaning “life“. United Nations (FAO) defines Probiotics as “live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host, especially for the digestive system, more specifically the Intestine when US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified Probioticas the live bio-therapeutics1that supplements the normal gastrointestinal flora, given especially after depletion of the gastro intestinal flora of the intestine.

Intestine the homeland of the Probiotic Bacteria

When we take food, from the mouth to the stomach it undergoes a series of break down, with the help of the different enzymes, to its particles and then passes to the intestine, the largest part of our gastro intestinal tract where the digested and/or semi digested watery food stuffs stays for a while to allow the absorption of the nutrients through the intestinal wall before passing out to the faeces. But the intestinal wall, alone, is not sufficient enough to absorb all those nutrients. The fact is- some bacteria help us in this regard.

Bacteria- Monsters or friend?

What we usually think of bacteria is something invisible tiny monsters that cause diseases therefore we could only think of killing those. This was the normal practice till the last decade of the last century when they invaded into the gut. So why would anyone want to consume anything that contains billions of live bacteria in it?

Their Popularity increasing

Since the middle of the last century, the scenario regarding bacteria has been changing, as it had been proved that immediate after birth the neonate gut contains some bacteria which help that inexperienced baby gut to absorb nutrients from the breast milk. The scientists are yet to know exactly when, how and where these bugs get into those brand new guts from. Besides, the breast milk contains substances known as the prebiotics that promote the growth of those bacteria. They supply nutrients to those living bacteria and enhance their ability to survive, to populate in huge numbers and thrive in the child’s gut- “ by shaping the content of an infant’s gastrointestinal tract, breast milk also helps ‘educate’ the developing immune system,” says David Mills, Ph.D., University of California.

These species cluster remains same till taking the breast milk. But with the child weans and starts on solid foods, these bacterial species changes in numbers. With changes in food items body offers immigration to more bacterial species to reside onto the intestinal inside wall under conditions to help in the absorption of various nutrients from various types of food. Thus with the age the residing species increases and in an adult gut the number of the species remains pretty much constant throughout his or her lifetime. Besides helping in absorption some bacteria perform the production and absorption of vitamin B12 and vitamin K which the body can’t produces at all. These activities lead them to be termed as the God’s blessings for our health as well as the good bacteria or the positive bacteria or with any positive ID.

In an adult gut there are more than 1000 species of bacteria, 10 to 100 times more than the own human cells2 which weights more than 2 kg. But all those immigrants are not good. Some are from the bad origin and always trying to sabotage the scheduled absorption process over there. Fortunately they are less in quantity. The ratio among the patriots and the rebels is 80:20 which is known as the intestinal flora or micro-flora3. As long as the flora maintained that is the digestive tract remains healthy, it filters out and eliminates things that can damage it, such as harmful bacteria, toxins, chemicals, and other waste products On the flip side, it takes in the things that our body needs (nutrients from food and water) and absorbs and helps deliver them to the cells where they are needed.

The intestinal flora can be disrupted by either antibiotic use or by increased negative bacteria by any means. When it happens, the total absorption process drastically falls to an end that leads to the watery contents of the digested food stuffs passes to the faeces producing a condition called diarrhoea. It brings a disaster in terms of immunity making the body weaker and more vulnerable to any other diseases and may invite other negative bacteria to cause other infections like urinary tract infections, muscle pain, and fatigue etc. In the last century when we suffered any bacterial infection we were used to taking antibiotics to kill or subdue those rebels. But antibiotic can’t identify what is good or what is bad. It kills both which consequently produces diarrhoea known as the antibiotic induced diarrhoea.

Two men on an early morning run.

Doctors were used to prescribing multivitamins to minimize that weakness the subsequent result of diarrhoea. The only target is to regain the balance or the micro flora. The point is how could it be done?

We only need – The Patriots

Since the beginning of this century the docs from all around the globe are thinking of prescribing Probiotic bacteria to reform the flora quickly thus regaining the immunity much faster than the antibiotic + multivitamin treatment. The target is simple- just increasing the positive bacteria in the intestine, reproducing and colonizing over there, occupying more area and then pushing the rebels to outside, ultimately regaining the flora thus improving the immunity.

 Types of Probiotic*1

Many types of bacteria are classified as Probiotic. They all have different benefits, but most come from two groups.

Lactobacillus This may be the most common Probiotic. It’s the one that is found in yogurt and other fermented foods. Different strains can help with diarrhoea and may help with people who can’t digest lactose, the sugar in milk.

Bifidobacterium Some dairy products contain this strain. There is growing evidence that Probiotic can help treat IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Two review articles, published in Nutrition in Clinical Practice, examined the therapeutic approaches to irritable bowel syndrome and found that Probiotic, specifically Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 (Bifantis®), are very effective at managing IBS5


  1. VaillancourtJ. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Ending the war metaphor: the changing agenda for unravelling the host-microbe relationship. Regulating pre- and Probiotics: a U.S. FDA perspective. Washington: DC: National Academies Press; 2006. p. 22937.
  2. Zoetendal EG, Vaughan EE, de Vos WM. A microbial world within us. MolMicrobiol. 2006;59:1639-50.         [ Links]
  6. Basu S, Paul DK, Ganguly S, Chatterjee M, Chandra PK. Efficacy of high-dose Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG in controlling acute watery diarrhoea in Indian children: a randomized controlled trial. J ClinGastroenterol. 2009;43:208-13.         [ Links]
  7. Szajewska H, Mrukowicz JZ. Probiotics in the treatment and prevention of acute infectious diarrhoea in infants and children: a systematic review of published randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. J PediatrGastroenterolNutr. 2001;33Suppl 2:S17-25.         [ Links]
  8. Van Niel CW, Feudtner C, Garrison MM, Christakis DA. Lactobacillus therapy for acute infectious diarrhoea in children: a meta-analysis. Paediatrics. 2002;109:678-84.         [ Links]
  9. Huang JS, Bousvaros A, Lee JW, Diaz A, Davidson EJ. Efficacy of Probiotic use in acute diarrhoea in children: a meta-analysis. Dig Dis Sci. 2002;47:2625-34.         [ Links]
  11. Whorwell PJ, AltringerL,MorelJ,et al. Efficacy of an encapsulated Probiotic Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 in women with irritable bowel syndrome. Am J Gastroenterol 2006;101:1581-90.
  12. GionchettiP,RizzelloF,HelwigU,et al. Prophylaxis of pouchitis onset with Probiotic therapy: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Gastroenterology 2003;124:1202-9.


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