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Why Consuming Probiotics?

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the human gastro-intestinal tract
The human gastro-intestinal tract

Our body contains an overwhelming quantity of microorganisms that are colonizing our mouth, our skin and, more importantly, our gastro-intestinal tract, particularly the bowel. Numerous species of bacteria inhabit the small intestine (composed of the duodenum, the jejunum and the ileum) and the colon (large bowel) and thus constitute what is known as the gut microbiota. The equilibrium of this complex ecosystem is very important for the maintenance of an overall good health. Indeed, if this ecosystem’s balance is impaired, pathogenic bacteria (bad bacteria capable of causing health issues) that are omnipresent in our everyday life get more opportunities to grow at the expense of good bacteria and cause health problems. On the opposite, a healthy and balanced microbiota is able to prevent pathogenic bacteria to settle in and develop. It is now known that a healthy microbiota is one of the keys to maintaining good health.

Probiotics have a major role to play in maintaining the gut microbiota’s equilibrium. These good microorganisms, after being ingested, pass through the gastro-intestinal tract and end-up reaching the small intestine and the colon (or large intestine or large bowel), which they are able to colonize alongside naturally colonizing bacteria. This exactly allows maintaining or even restoring the gut microbiota’s balance, which is easily disrupted by several stresses like diet changes, antibiotic treatments, new environments (trips), etc. In other words, consuming probiotics on a regular basis ensures that the gut microbiota’s equilibrium is maintained or restored and thereby allows for a better protection against pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, etc. that can cause different health problems if they are given the chance to develop.

Thus, probiotics can inhibit the development of bad bacteria in the gastro-intestinal tract.
But how can they do so? Several mechanisms of action are involved in the fight of probiotics against pathogens, three of them being notably significant:

  • Barrier effect
    Probiotics stimulate mucus production by epithelial cells and improve intestinal mucosa integrity, thus making it more impervious and capable of resisting to pathogens invasions. Furthermore, the enhancement of the epithelium’s integrity decreases the bacteria translocation from bowel’s lumen to bloodstream circulation, which is a known factor of systemic inflammation. In other words, probiotics help the intestinal mucosa to play its barrier role, thus preventing bad bacteria from developing in the human body and alleviating issues linked to chronic inflammation.
  • Production of Natural Antimicrobial Substances
    In addition to passively fight against pathogens by depriving them of space and nutrients, probiotics also combat these bad bacteria by producing different natural antimicrobial substances that directly target them. Among these substances are diverse organic acids (lactic acid, acetic acid, propionic acid, etc.) that affect pathogenic bacteria by directly disrupting the bacterial cell or simply because of the pH drop they cause, to which many pathogens are very sensitive. Some probiotics also have the capacity to produce another type of natural antimicrobial substance: bacteriocins. These are presented in detail below. SiliCycle’s exclusive probiotic strains produce bacteriocins that have been scientifically proven to inhibit many human pathogens.
  • Competition
    Probiotics firstly can fight against pathogenic bacteria by their very ability to colonize the gastrointestinal tract. By adhering to the intestinal mucosa or epithelium (constituted of epithelial cells), probiotics directly restrain available space for pathogens to settle down and start to grow: pathogenic bacteria are thus being blocked from accessing the intestinal mucosa and colonizing it. Moreover, by consuming nutrients they need for their growth, probiotics prevent pathogenic bacteria’s multiplication. In short, without an access to the epithelium and available nutrients, it is very hard for pathogenic bacteria to develop in the gut and disrupt the natural microbiota’s equilibrium!
Probiotics Against Pathogenic Bacteria
The three main mechanisms of action of probiotics against pathogenic bacterial in the gastro-intestinal tract

Besides fostering gut microbiota’s equilibrium and directly fighting against pathogenic bacteria growth, probiotics also have beneficial effects on human health by promoting the proper functioning of the immune system. This is no surprise since 80 % of the immune system is located in the gastro-intestinal tract. Intestinal health therefore has a predominant role to play in maintaining the overall health of the entire human organism.

Consequently, a large number of studies have demonstrated that probiotics help prevent and relieve many specific health issues:

  • Decrease in the incidence and severity of diarrhea and gastroenteritis Gastroenteritis causing symptoms of acute diarrhea are often due to viral infections (especially by Norovirus and Rotavirus). Many clinical studies have shown that probiotics can effectively prevent and treat these viral diarrheas, especially in children (1,10). Probiotics also are very effective for preventing and relieving diarrhea associated with antibiotic treatments(4,12). Antibiotics intake significantly alter gut microbiota’s balance and may allow some pathogens like Clostridium difficile to proliferate and produce toxins, thus giving rise to an infection that can cause diarrhea and several other issues (cramps, fever, etc.). In this regard, many clinical studies have shown that probiotics can help protect people from C. difficile(11).
    Moreover, probiotics consumption can also provide protection against traveler’s diarrhea(17). Stays in new or remote environments (especially in tropical and developing regions) can cause significant stress on the digestive system due to exposure to foreign microorganisms, poor hygiene measures and unsanitary water or food consumption. This explains why more than half of all travelers to tropical or underdeveloped countries suffer from this traveler’s gastroenteritis, the main symptoms of which are diarrhea, cramps, nausea and sometimes fever. Some microorganisms are strongly associated with the traveler's diarrhea, including E. coli, Salmonella and Shigella, the latter bacteria being typically present in tropical countries. While adopting certain specific precautionary measures remains the best way to prevent these gastroenteritis (avoiding drinking tap water, not eating raw or undercooked food, limiting fresh fruit / vegetables and seafood consumption, etc.), the use of probiotics before, during and after the travel allows the intestinal microbiota to resist these opportunistic microorganisms more effectively and to facilitate the maintenance of its balance in these more stressful conditions, thus limiting the risks of having a trip ruined by this traveler’s diarrhea.
  • Antimicrobial activity directed toward pathogens Numerous studies support the inhibitory effect of probiotics against several bacteria that are capable of causing foodborne illnesses like E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella spp., Staphylococcus aureus, Helicobacter pylori, etc. Hence, probiotics consumption can potentially reduce the risks of food poisoning caused by these pathogens18.
  • Chronic inflammatory bowel diseases Chronic inflammatory bowel diseases include several health disorders of which Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome are probably the most common. Many scientific studies, including clinical ones, suggest that probiotics can significantly reduce -symptoms of these diseases, prevent relapses and help maintaining remission periods(2,3,9,19).

Several studies have also established links between probiotics and positive effects related to many other health issues like colorectal cancer, urogenital infections, hypercholesterolemia, dental caries, allergic reactions, etc.


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  • Celiberto LS, Bedani R, Rossi EA, Cavallini DCU (2017) Probiotics: The scientific evidence in the context of inflammatory bowel disease. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 57:1759–1768.
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Note: SiliCycle is not responsible for the regulatory requirements to distribute products in any region of the world. SiliCycle can provide the documentation that will help you in your regulatory process. None of the products listed in this brochure have been submitted nor evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada nor any other regulatory agency.