I just returned from the 3rd Yale Workshop on “Advances in Probiotic Use” and am pleased to report there is a large amount of active research in the area of the intestinal bacteria. Namely, research is examining how bacteria impact human health and disease.
Among various findings, researchers presented new information about how probiotic bacteria can modulate the intestinal immune system. They have discovered how probiotic bacteria interact with the intestinal lining cells to improve the inflammatory conditions that occur due to infection colitis and ulcerative colitis.
In addition, there were a number of discussions about how the healthy intestinal bacteria can break down or ferment indigestible dietary starches. The breakdown products (short chain fatty acids) enhance the intestinal function, improve intestinal motility and lessen the risk of colon cancer. This is called a symbiotic relationship – mutually beneficial for the human host and the bacteria.
The conclusions from the various presentations are that probiotics can:
- Lessen irritable bowel syndrome symptoms
- Shorten the duration of infectious diarrhea in children
- Aid in the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea
- Aid in the management of ulcerative colitis
- Aid in the prevention of childhood allergies like eczema
Transplantation Therapy to Improve Bacteria Balance
An infection with a bacterium called Clostridia difficile can cause life-threatening colitis. The infection occurs when the healthy intestinal bacteria are reduced as a result of taking an antibiotic for something like a sinus infection.
There are special antibiotics that can destroy the Clostridia difficile infection. Unfortunately, there is a tendency for the infection to recur multiple times in the same person despite taking appropriate antibiotics to kill the Clostridia difficile organisms.
In an attempt to treat Clostridia difficile, a new innovative form of therapy was also discussed. The therapy involves the transplantation of stool from healthy individuals into patients as a means to re-establish a healthy intestinal bacterial balance.
There have been a few published case reports dating back to 1958 of transplanting healthy stool into patients who had recurrent Clostridia infections, and the results were very promising. Larger trials of infusing suspensions of healthy stool into ill patients have been recently done. The results have shown a cure rate of more than 90% within two days!!
This presentation was very thought provoking. To have this type of cure rate certainly indicates the importance of the healthy intestinal bacteria. The procedure is aesthetically unpleasing, but the alternative is to give the healthy bacteria in capsule form – accomplished when probiotics are prescribed.
Take Home Message
All of the presentations at the Yale Workshop provide further evidence of the importance of a healthy balance of intestinal bacteria. In addition, the studies confirm that probiotic bacteria have many beneficial benefits in helping to improve and maintain normal intestinal immune and digestive functions.
Please consider taking a high quality probiotic like EndoMune if you are going to take antibiotics or if you are struggling with ongoing GI symptoms despite medical evaluation.