Modulation of the intestinal microbiome
The human gastrointestinal tract hosts a large population of microorganisms, the colon being by far the host of the highest bacterial density. The colon presents a favorable environment for the multiplication of bacteria, due to the slow transit time, the available nutrients, as well as the adequate pH.
Even if the body, through natural mechanisms, maintains a state of balance between potentially beneficial flora and pathogenic flora, sometimes the situation gets out of control, installing the state of intestinal dysbiosis („bad” bacteria multiply excessively and become dominant). In order to restore the bacterial balance, it is necessary to support the development of species with favorable potential. In this case, the literature mentions 2 solutions: prebiotics and probiotics. What they represent but also what is the difference between the two we will find out in the following.
Prebiotics, like probiotics, are important elements when it comes to health.
Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that get intact in the colon and have a beneficial impact on the host, by selectively stimulating the activity and growing a limited number of bacteria in the colon, thus improving the health of the host. Even if not digested, prebiotics ferment in the colon and turn into short-chain fatty acids, the most important being butyrate, which is the preferred substrate for beneficial flora, we practically support the growth of „good” bacteria, providing them with the food they need to grow.
Because the process of multiplication is a physiological mechanism, it takes time to restore the state of equilibrium, and studies show that in order to find a suitable bifidogenic effect (multiplication of the beneficial flora from 17% to 82%) it is necessary to month of daily administration of 5 g inulin.
Inulin, one of the best known and most studied prebiotics, is a group of fructose-containing oligosaccharides. They belong to the class of carbohydrates known as fructans. They are found in high concentration especially in chicory roots (Cichorium intybus) and are composed mainly of fructose units with a terminal glucose molecule, being a non-reducing polyglucide.
The bifidogenic effect of prebiotics acts in the following directions:
– selectively stimulates the development of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli in the large intestine;
– The resulting fermentation products are short-chain fatty acids that lower the pH of the stool and thus favor stools of softer consistency and increased frequency (prevention and treatment of constipation)
– The acidic pH contributes to the inhibition of the development of pathogens, promotes the development of favorable bacteria and contributes to the integrity of epithelial cells.
Prebiotics are found in many vegetables, fruits and grains. The foods with the highest content of prebiotics are: garlic, onion, dandelion, asparagus, leeks, artichokes, bananas, horseradish and wheat bran. As the amount of prebiotics contained in these foods is low, for a proper bifidogenic effect (of multiplying the beneficial flora) it is necessary to supplement the diet with prebiotics, obtained from a standardized extract that ensures a controlled therapeutic potential.
Probiotics are defined as „living microorganisms, which when administered in optimal doses, confer a health benefit to the host organism.”
Probiotics mean „for life” and are living, non-pathogenic microorganisms, friendly (good) bacteria that are naturally part of the intestinal flora. They are isolated from the flora of a healthy individual, multiplied in the laboratory in controlled environments and are available in various forms of presentation and in optimal doses to obtain the expected effects.
Probiotics are organisms that help maintain the balance of the intestinal flora, the proper functioning of the body’s defense system and positively influence health.
Probiotics and prebiotics are the key to a healthy gut flora.
Although they have similar names, they perform different functions in the human body, so it is important to recommend a doctor and use a product appropriate to the patient’s pathology.