Use and benefits of probiotics for humans

In the late 19th century, microbiologists identified microflora in the gastrointestinal (GI) tracts of healthy individuals that differed from those found in diseased individuals. These beneficial microflora found in the GI tract were termed probiotics. Some of the beneficial effect of probiotics consumption include: (i) improving intestinal tract health; (ii) enhancing the immune system, synthesizing and enhancing the bioavailability of nutrients; (iii) reducing symptoms of lactose intolerance, decreasing the prevalence of allergy in susceptible individuals; and (iv) reducing risk of certain cancers.

The most important benefits of probiotics are reported in the following table (from Parvez et al, 2006).

The oral administration of probiotic therapies may be beneficial in a multitude of disorders both inside and outside the GI tract. The direct effects of probiotics in the GI tract are well documented and include upregulation of immunoglobulins such as IgA, downregulation of inflammatory cytokines, and enhancement of gut barrier function. New research evidence supports indirect, systemic effects of probiotics for a widely divergent set of disorders, including atopic disease, immune compromise and vaginal infections. The health professional is in an ideal position to guide the consumer towards appropriate prophylactic and therapeutic uses of probiotics that deliver the desired beneficial health effects.

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