The condition and function of the gastrointestinal tract are essential to our well being. This largely depends on the maintenance of a proper balance of the intestinal ecosystem. The human intestinal microflora contributes largely in maintaining a normal balance of the intestinal ecosystem.
Role of the Gut Microbiota in human health
The human intestinal microflora is highly important to the host for several reasons. Firstly, microflora benefits the host by increasing resistance to colonization by potentially pathogenic microorganisms (PPMs) ingested through food and water, as well as by protecting against the overgrowth of potentially pathogenic organisms that call the gut their home. Another crucial function that gut microbiota play is through its high metabolic activity, they help in the process of digestion in the intestine. They also help in the synthesis of beneficial and sometimes essential substances for the host like B vitamins and vitamin K among a host of others. Indeed, it is now known that the normal gut flora plays an important role in maintaining good health by stimulating the immune system, aiding the digestion and assimilation of food and protecting the host from invading bacteria and viruses.
Eubiosis and Dysbiosis
A state of balance within the microbial population in the Gastro-Intestinal tract is termed “Eubiosis” while an imbalance is termed “Dysbiosis”. Dysbiosis can occur due to several reasons, one being the administration of antimicrobial agents. The normal microflora is also disturbed in infectious conditions of the gastrointestinal tract and also when there is inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
Role of Probiotic Microbiome:
A probiotic by general definition is a “Live microbial feed supplement, which beneficially affects the host by improving the host’s intestinal microbial balance”. They are thought to counteract disturbances and thereby reduce the risk of colonization by potentially pathogenic microorganisms.
Studies on strains of microorganisms used in probiotic dietary supplements have demonstrated that several strains produce antimicrobial substances such as organic acid, bacteriocins, and peptides that kill or ward off pathogens.
In vitro and animal studies have further shown inhibitory effects of probiotic bacteria to be mediated by their interference with the adhesion of gastrointestinal pathogens or with toxins produced by the pathogenic microorganisms. Adjuvant-like effects on intestinal and systemic immunity have also been demonstrated for some strains.
In order to keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy, a proper balance of beneficial vs. harmful bacteria needs to be maintained. In this context, supplementation with probiotics helps to support the above-mentioned balance (Eubiosis).
In addition to restoring the disturbed microflora, Probiotics offers the following benefits with regard to gastrointestinal health:
· Improves the immune response
· Inhibits PPMs activity by creating a physical barrier
· Regulates bowel movements
· Improves the nutritional status in the body by producing vitamins like Vit. B and Vit. K
Hence to have a favorable intestinal flora to optimize GI health, probiotic supplements have become the preferred choice world over.