1a-hfn-probio-supreme-enProbiotics: Restoring healthy flora

Intestinal microflora: The good, the bad and the battle within

Within the human gastrointestinal tract is a unique, unseen world filled with tiny bacteria – lots of tiny bacteria. There are as many as 100 trillion bacteria inside each of us from a potential 1000 different species. And the bacteria are indeed tiny: 1000x smaller than 1 mm. While they are unseen to us, these bacteria do add up; each of us has between 1-2 kg of intestinal bacteria in our intestinal tract! Each individual human has their own unique and specific composition of microflora, depending on age, health status, environment and diet.

Amongst the trillions of bacteria, there are “good” bacteria and there are “bad” bacteria. In a normal, healthy human intestinal tract about 80% are good and 20% bad. These good and bad bacteria are constantly waging an intestinal war – fighting for resources and trying to multiply and increase their geography.

human intestinal tract
The human intestinal tract: Lactobacilli are most common in the small intestine, bifidobacteria are most common in the large intestine (colon).

Probiotics – The “good” bacteria

Probiotics or “good” bacteria are defined as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”1 The most commonly used probiotics for human health benefits are lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Lactobacilli are most commonly found in the small intestine, while bifidobacteria are most common to the large intestine or colon. Both families of probiotic bacteria are non-pathogenic, non-toxic and safe. The use of fermented foods such as yogurt, cheese, pickled vegetables, miso or tempeh containing good bacteria is traditional in many human cultures. While the bacterial strains in these foods have long been considered healthful, it wasn’t until more recently that research confirmed this theory. (see “Probiotics – How do they benefit human health” section that follows).

Pathogens – The “bad” bacteria

Anything that can cause disease is a pathogen. Pathogens can include microorganisms such as bacteria, virus or fungi. “Bad” bacteria are pathogens. These pathogens can cause health issues to human hosts in numerous ways. They can use up nutrients such as iron, depleting the host. They can attach to host cells and multiply, feeding on the cell as nutrition, then producing waste that can rupture the cell. The pathogens then are released to attack more cells. Pathogenic bacteria can also produce poisonous toxins. Often these toxins are released as the pathogen dies, accounting for the reason infection-related symptoms sometimes worsen initially when starting antibiotics.

Clostridium difficile is an example of a pathogenic bacterial strain. This bacterium can enter the intestinal tract when probiotic bacteria have been upset due to antibiotic treatment, allowing the C. difficile an opportunity to multiply uninhibited. C. difficile can cause difficile-related diarrhea, flu-like symptoms and inflammation of the large intestine resulting in abdominal pain. It can be transmitted through soil or fecal matter. C. difficile is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotic treatment and found in hospital environments. Probiotics such as L. plantarum and L. acidophilus are considered to have strong antimicrobial effects against C. difficile.

Another common pathogen that affects over 10 million people annually is “traveler’s diarrhea.” 2 Traveler’s diarrhea can leave international travelers with unformed stool, abdominal cramps, nausea and bloating. The main bacteria involved in this diarrhea is enterotoxigenic E. coli. Probiotic strains such as L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus and B. bifidum are considered to have good antimicrobial effects against traveler’s diarrhea.

Probiotics – How do they benefit human health?

While the health benefits of an intestinal tract rich in good bacteria are numerous, they are linked to three main benefits. Probiotics help to:

  • Normalize gastrointestinal tract bacteria
  • Enhance immunomodulation effects
  • Improve metabolic performance

Normalize gastrointestinal tract bacteria – Probiotics helps to reduce the pathogenic burden in the intestinal tract and bring the overall bacterial composition of this region back into normal balance. Probiotics do this in several ways. One, probiotics can adhere to receptor sites in the intestine blocking pathogens from doing so. Two, probiotics can create a poor environment for the pathogens to proliferate.3 By competing for valuable nutrients, probiotics help to starve off pathogens. Also, some probiotics such as L. plantarum produce antimicrobial substances like hydrogen peroxide in the gut to kill pathogens. Further, some probiotic strains can produce vitamins which further assist the growth of probiotic strains in the gut.4

Relief of constipation and diarrhea are typical benefits of normalizing the gastrointestinal tract.

Probiotics can be especially effective after antibiotic therapy. Antibiotics tend to wipe out both the good and bad bacteria, leaving an opportunity for pathogens to establish themselves. Replenishing probiotics in the intestinal tract can help to prevent side-effects from pathogens.

Enhance immunomodulation effects – Probiotic activities help provide immunomodulating effects through several actions. They increase the number of protective cells (T cells and NK cells) and their activity.5,6 Probiotics can also help increase the gut barrier function, in effect sealing the gut walls, preventing pathogens from escaping to enter the bloodstream to attack other organs in the body – an effect known as leaky gut syndrome.7 Probiotics also help to dampen inflammation by increased production of cytokines (cell signaling proteins) which can give relief to those with inflammatory conditions such as colitis and irritable bowel disorders (IBD).8-11 There is also evidence that probiotics can help reduce allergy symptoms and hypersensitivity by decreasing IgE (immunoglobulin E) levels.12

Improves metabolic benefits – Probiotics help the body to better absorb nutrients in the large intestine. Both vitamin and mineral absorption can be done more efficiently with a strong probiotic presence and further, some probiotics actually produce B complex vitamins and vitamin K in the gut. The probiotic strain L. reuteri, for example, has been noted for its ability to produce folic acid and B12 in the intestine.13,14  

There is evidence that probiotics can play a role in reducing LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in the blood. Probiotics do this by removing taurine and glycine from the conjugation of bile salts, allowing them to be excreted in feces instead of being recycled in the liver which can potentially increase LDL cholesterol.15,16 Both lactobacilli and bifidobacteria strains have demonstrated the ability to deconjugate or hydrolyze bile salts.

Probiotics such as lactobacillus are also known as lactic acid bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria can help to reduce lactose intolerance by increasing the production of enzymes that hydrolyze lactose.17,18

Secret probiotic superstar: L. plantarum

L. plantarium

There are numerous “good” bacterial strains that have been found to be beneficial for human health found in traditional foods that are now being used in modern probiotic supplementation. Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum are two of the most commonly supplemented and well known species. One species that doesn’t always get its fair share of attention is Lactobacillus plantarum or L. plantarum.

  1. plantarum is sourced from plants for supplementation, but is naturally found in human saliva and the gastrointestinal environment. It is found in many fermented foods, such as yogurt, cheese, sourdough kimchi, and pickles.
  2. plantarum is typically low in those following a Western-based diet. Only 25% of the population has colonized L. plantarum in their digestive system. Only those on a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetable would have L. plantarum as a predominant strain.19
  3. plantarum is a very hearty and adaptable strain that is able to survive both stomach acid and a wide range of intestinal conditions. It is a strain that establishes itself effectively in all areas of the intestinal tract (colon, small intestine) and vaginal region, due to its impressive adhesive properties. It is also one of the stronger antimicrobial strains having strong activity against such pathogens as C. difficile and good activity against such pathogens as E. coli (see chart).
  4. plantarum is getting more attention recently because of the accumulation of clinical studies that are confirming its benefits:
  • Several double-blind studies have concluded that plantarum has a beneficial effect on the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, a condition with abdominal pains, constipation and diarrhea.20,21,22
  • plantarum exhibits strong antioxidant properties.23
  • Studies have confirmed plantarum’s ability to modulate proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory immune responses in the body.24,25
  • plantarum produces antimicrobial substances that give it strong effects against pathogenic bacteria such as Clostridium difficile and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
  • plantarum is effective for reducing gastrointestinal symptoms during antibiotic treatment.26
  • There is evidence that plantarum strains have LDL cholesterol lowering effects through the hydrolyzing of bile salts in individuals with Hypercholesterolemia.27,28
  • plantarum has been proven to improve intestinal barrier function.29 By signalling for tight junction formation in the intestine, L. plantarum helps to prevent pathogens from leaking into the bloodstream, compromising immune functions (“leaky gut” syndrome).
  • plantarum is able to strongly establish itself in the intestine via supplementation. One study showed that it stayed in the intestine for an additional 11 days after supplementing for a 10 day period.30
  • Recent animal studies published in 2014 demonstrated that plantarum can increase the production of IgA (immunoglobulin A), allowing for better protection against respiratory influenza infection.31

If your probiotic supplement features a strong dose of L. plantarum, you can be assured of getting an adaptable, effective formula.

Prebiotics – Helping to establish probiotic colonization

Fructooligosaccharides, known as FOS, are a type of sugar found naturally in plants such as chicory, bananas, onions, or Jerusalem artichoke. FOS is a non-digestible fibre that goes through the digestive system intact, until it enters the large intestine. There it acts as a prebiotic or food for bacteria, primarily for lactobacilli and bifidobacteria strains, to increase their growth, activity and proliferation.32 A prebiotic can help supplemented probiotic strains to establish themselves in the intestinal tract.

ProBio Supreme:

  • Potent: 55 billion total live microorganisms (at time of expiry)
  • Targeted: Enteric-coated vegetable capsules, allowing the bacteria to pass safely through the stomach into the intestinal area where the probiotic strains are needed.
  • Broad-based: 14 probiotic strains from the lactobacilli and bifidobacteria families to benefit every intestinal environment.
  • Tested and proven: All strains tested for bacterial adhesion and strain compatibility.
  • Natural: All strains natural to the human microbiome.
  • Colonization support: Contains fructooligosaccharides as bacterial food to assist colonization.
  1. Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization Expert Consultation. Evaluation of health and nutritional properties of powder milk and live lactic acid bacteria. Córdoba, Argentina: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Health Organization; 2001.
  2. Travelers’ Diarrhea”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. November 21, 2006.
  3. Forestier, C., et al., Probiotic activities of Lactobacillus casei rhamnosus: in vitro adherence to intestinal cells and antimicrobial properties. Research in Microbiology, 2001. 152(2): p. 167-173.
  4. Leblanc J.G, Laino J.E. at al. B-Group vitamin production by lactic acid bacteria – current knowledge and potential applications. J Appl Microbiol. 2011 Dec; 111 (6) : 1297-1309.
  5. Tanabe S. The effect of probiotics and gut microbiota on th17 cells. Int Rev Immunol. 2013 Oct-Dec; 32(5-6): 551-525
  6. Dongarra et al. Mucosal Immunology and Probiotics. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2013 Feb;13(1):19-26.
  7. Anderson, R. et al. Lactobacillus plantarum MB452 enhances the function of the intestinal barrier by increasing the expression levels of genes involved in tight junction formation. BMC Microbiology, 2010. 10:316.
  8. Servin A. Antagonistic activities of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria against microbial pathogens. FEMS Microbiol. Review 2004, 28: 405-440.
  9. Petersen ER. et al Consumption of probiotics increases the effect of regulatory T cells in transfer colitis. Inflamm Bowel Dis .2012 Jan; 18(1): 131-142.
  10. Tanabe S. The effect of probiotics and gut microbiota on th17 cells. Int Rev Immunol. 2013 Oct-Dec; 32(5-6): 551-525.
  11. Paza Diaz et al. Modulation of immunity and inflammatory gene expression in the gut, in inflammatory diseases of the gut and in the liver by probiotics.World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Nov; 20(42):15632-15649.
  12. Wu CT., Chen PJ., Lee YT., Ko JL., Lue KH. Effects of immunomodulatory supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus on airway nflammation in a mouse asthma model.J Microbiol Immunol Infect. 2014 Nov 11; Epub ahead of print.
  13. Santos, Filipe, Wegkamp, Arno, de Vos, William M., et al. 2008. “High-Level Folate Production in Fermented Foods by the B12 Producer Lactobacillus reuteri JCM1112.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 74: 10.
  14. Le Blanc, JG et al. B-group vitamin production by lactic acid bacteria–current knowledge and potential applications. Appl Microbiol. 2011 Dec;111(6):1297-309. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2011.05157.x. Epub 2011 Oct 10.
  15. Rhee YK, et al. Hypocholesterolemic activity of Bifidobacteria isolated from healthy Korean. Arch Pharm Res.Oct 2002; 25(5):681-684
  16. Dong Z. et al., A bile salt hydrolase gene of Lactobacillus plantarum BBE7 with high cholesterol-removing activity. Eur Food Res Technol. 2012 Jul ; 235(3): 419-427
  17. Lin MY et al, Management of Lactose Maldigestion by Consuming Milk Containing Lactobacilli; Dig Dis Sci Jan 1998;43(1):133-7
  18. Montes et al; Effect of Milks Inoculated with Lactobacillus acidophilus or a Yogurt Starter Culture in Lactose-Maldigesting Children; “Journal of Dairy Science”August 1995.
  19. Jockers, Dr. David. Learn about the Importance of Good Bacteria, Part II: Lactobacillus plantarum. Natural News. www.naturalnews.com. January 1, 2010.
  20. Niedzielin, Krzysztof, A controlled, double-blind, randomized study on the efficacy of Lactobacillus plantarum 299V in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology 2001, 13:1143-1147.
  21. Nobaek, Soren, M.D., et al. Alteration of Intestinal Microflora is Associated With Reduction in Abdominal Bloating and Pain in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2000. Vol. 95. No. 5.
  22. Sawant,, Prabha D. et al. T2030 Evaluation of Lactobacillus Plantarum 299v Efficacy in IBS: Results of a Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial in 200 Patients. Gastroenterology. May 2010Volume 138, Issue 5, Supplement 1, Page S-617.
  23. Li S, Zhao Y, Zhang L, Zhang X, Huang L, Li D, Niu C, Yang Z, Wang Q. Antioxidant activity Lactobacillus plantarum strains isolated from traditional Chinese fermented foods. Food Chem. 2012;135:1914-1919. Doi. 10.1016/j.foodchem.2012.06.048.
  24. Cammarota M. et al. In vitro evaluation of Lactobacillus plantarum DSMZ 12028 as a probiotic: emphasis on innate immunity. Int J Food Microbiol. 2009 Oct 31; 135(2):90-8. Epub 2009 Aug 26.
  25. Grangette, Corinne et al. Enhanced anti-inflammatory capacity of a Lactobacillus plantarum mutant synthesizing modified teichoic acids. PNAS. July 19, 2005. Vol. 102. No. 29. 10321-10326.
  26. Lonnermark, E. et al. Intake of Lactobacillus plantarum reduced certain gastrointestinal symptoms during treatment with antibiotics. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2009 Sep 1.
  27. Nguyen, TD, et al. Characterization of Lactobacillus plantarum PH04, a potential probiotic bacterium with cholesterol-lowering effects. Int J Food Microbiol. 2007 Feb 15; 113(3):358-61. Epub. 2006 Nov 29.
  28. Fuentes, MC et al. Cholesterol-lowering efficacy of Lactobacillus plantarum CECT 7527, 7528 and 7529 in hypercholesterolaemic adults. Br J Nutr. 2013 May 28;109(10):1866-72.
  29. Anderson, R. et al. Lactobacillus plantarum MB452 enhances the function of the intestinal barrier by increasing the expression levels of genes involved in tight junction formation. BMC Microbiology, 2010. 10:316.
  30. Johannson ML, et al. Administration of different Lactobacillus strains in fermented oatmeal soup: in vivo colonization of human intestinal mucosa and effect on the indigenous flora. Appl Environ Microiol 1993;59:15?20.
  31. Kikuchi Y1, Kunitoh-Asari A1, Hayakawa K1, Imai S2, Kasuya K3 et. al. Oral administration of Lactobacillus plantarum strain AYA enhances IgA secretion and provides survival protection against influenza virus infection in mice. PLoS One. 2014 Jan 22;9(1):e86416. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086416. eCollection 2014.
  32. “Fructo-oligosaccharides”. webmd.com