Probiotics have a number of health benefits for humans and animals, such as reducing lactose intolerance symptoms and enhancing the bioavailability of nutrients. Probiotics help regulate intestinal microflora and improve immune function. Probiotics also decrease the prevalence of allergies in susceptible individuals, inhibit the inflammatory responses in the gut, and have antagonistic effects against intestinal and food-borne pathogens.

Bacteria typically colonize the intestinal tract first and then reinforce the host defense systems by inducing generalized mucosal immune responses. Reports indicate that lactic acid bacteria (LAB) as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium and their fermented products are effective at enhancing innate and adaptive immunity, prevent gastric mucosal lesion development, alleviate allergies, and put up defense against intestinal pathogen infection.

Health benefits of probiotic supplements, demonstrated and proposed, include the following:

  1. Increased nutritional value (better digestibility, increased absorption of vitamins and minerals);
  2. Promotion of intestinal lactose digestion;
  3. Positive influence on intestinal and urogenital flora (antibiotics and radiation induced colitis, yeast infections and vaginitis in women);
  4. Regulation of gut motility (constipation, irritable bowel syndrome);
  5. Decreased incidence and duration of diarrhea (antibiotic associated, Clostridium difficile, travelers, and rotaviral);
  6. Maintenance of mucosal integrity;
  7. Improvement of immune system;
  8. Anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic and anti-allergic activities;
  9. Feeling of well-being;
  10. Anti-Candida properties;
  11. Assist in the regulation of inflammatory digestive conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis and Interstitial Cystitis
  12. Relieving urinary tract infections;
  13. Positive influence on autistic children;
  14. Provides antagonistic environment for pathogens;
  15. Blocking adhesion sites from pathogens; and
  16. Inactivating enterotoxins.

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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The diagram below is a good representation of various functions and health benefits of probiotics(18).

Probiotics play an important role in human nutrition and health, and in balancing the intestinal microflora naturally. Health benefits attributed to the consumption of probiotics include: maintenance of the normal gut flora, alleviation of lactose (milk-sugar) intolerance, improvement of digestive processes and absorption of nutrients, and stimulation of body’s immune system. Probiotics are now widely used in many countries by consumers and in clinical practice and their health benefits are being investigated extensively, especially in the last few decades. The need to find replacement therapeutic approaches to overcome side effects associated with the current pharmacological treatments, and the need for new antimicrobials due to the overuse of antibiotics has propelled forward research on probiotics against a multitude of disorders of varying severity given their favorable safety profiles.

Additional developments in the field of probiotics require cooperation between microbiologists, gastroenterologists, immunologists, nutritionists and food technologists reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of the functional food research.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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