Babies are born axenic (sterile), and the colonisation
of the digestive tract by population of microorganisms specific to each person
is done in the first few days of life. The most significant changes in the intestinal
flora take place from birth until weaning and again in the later stages of life.
In between, the microbial population of the dominant
flora remains relatively stable and prevent potentially pathogenic bacteria
from adhering to the intestinal wall. This has been termed 'the barrier effect'.
However, the balance of bacteria in the digestive tract remains fragile and
susceptible to lifestyle changes.
Factors such as stress, change in diet and
drug intake (antibiotics), can disturb this balance. Any imbalance can result
in various disorders including bloating, intestinal pains, nutritional deficiencies
and constipation. Also, a disruption of the barrier effect will lead to a colonisation
of the digestive system by pathogenic bacteria which may result in intestinal
These disorders can be very severe, such as in the case
of pseudomembraneous colitis (a serious type of diarrhoea) induced by the pathogenic
bacteria Clostridium difficile due to the elimination of the barrier effect
following a course of antibiotics. One of the most important characteristics
for a probiotic bacterium is the ability to inhibit the growth of pathogens.
Ingesting high levels of animal fats, sugars and alcohol can inhibit the friendly
bacteria, while complex carbohydrates from vegetables, beans and grains are
of benefit to them.
Highly processed foods and fast foods can increase acid
levels in the intestines and this highly acidic environment will damage the
microflora. Re-colonising the intestines with friendly bacteria, can help prevent
illnesses by depriving the pathogenic bacteria of the opportunity to overgrow
During investigation of adhesive properties of lactic
acid bacteria it was found out that 11 strains adhered to buccal intestinal
and vaginal epithelium of human.L. plantarum manifested high adhesive activity
to buccal epithelium and lower one--to the rest of epithelium types.
Monosaccharide composition of glycocalix of 6 strains
of lactic acid bacteria was studied to understand the adhesion mechanism. It
was shown that surface structures of this microorganism interact with plant
lectins, specific to certain monosaccharides. (1)
A liquid culture containing a bacteriocin (a compound
preduced by probiotics which helps prevent the growth and evelopment of pathogenic
bacteria), produced by Lactobacillus plantarum, was shown to inhibit the growth
of, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Enterococcus faecalis, Klebsiella pneumoniae and
Escherichia coli. All of these bacteria have the potential to cause harm to
the intestines. (2)
The present study determined the pattern of cytokine
secretion (interleukin [IL]-1beta, tumor necrosis factor [TNF]-alpha, interferon
[IFN]-gamma and IL-10). Lactobacillus plantarum demonstrates beneficial immunomodulatory
activity by increasing IL-10 synthesis and secretion in macrophages and T-cells
derived from the inflamed colon. This may provide a mechanism through which
probiotic bacteria ameliorate inappropriate inflammation and induce tolerance.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may be diagnosed on the
presence of symptoms, according to Rome II criteria and some studies have shown
that abnormal colonic fermentation may be an important factor in the development
of symptoms in some patients with IBS. In conclusion, short-term therapy with
Lactobacillus Plantarum may be considered as a promising approach to the therapy
for IBS. (3)
Because treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients
can be frustrating to the clinician and patient as well, the physician should
strive to gain the patient's confidence with a concise, appropriate work-up
and by offering reassurance and education that IBS is a functional disorder
without significant long-term health risks. First-line treatment should be aimed
at treating the most bothersome symptom. Probiotic therapy using Lactobacillus
plantarum has demonstrated superiority to placebo in improving pain, regulating
bowel habits, and decreasing flatulence. (5)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a widespread
functional disorder of the digestive tract. Its aetiology is unknown and therapeutic
options are limited. Recent reports suggest that probiotics may have a role
in regulating the motility of the digestive tract. The results of this study
showed that Lactobacillus plantarum 299V seems to have a beneficial effect in
patients with IBS, and therefore supplements containing this bacterium may be
useful for the treatment of this condition. (6)
The influence of the gastrointestinal (GI) microflora
in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has not been clearly elucidated.
This study was undertaken to see if patients with IBS have an imbalance in their
normal colonic flora, as some bacterial taxa are more prone to gas production
than others. The results of the study indicate that the administration of Lb.
plantarum with known probiotic properties decreased pain and flatulence in patients
with IBS. The fiber content of the test solution was minimal and it is unlikely
that the fiber content could have had any effect. This type of probiotic therapy
warrants further studies in IBS patients. (7)
Probiotic lactobacilli, including L.plantarum, have been
used in probiotic and dietary supplements for decades with a compelling record
for safe consumption. (8+9)
Contra-Indications and Interactions
Levels of Lactobacillus plantarum decrease during administration
of antibiotics.Therefore supplementation should be considered during antibiotic
use, but antibiotics and probiotics should be taken at least two hours apart.
1. Mikrobiol Z. 2004 Jul-Aug;66(4):62-8.
2. J Gen Appl Microbiol. 2004 Jun;50(3):149-57.
3. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2004 Jul;38(6 Suppl):S104-6.
4. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2004 Feb;19(2):166-73
5. Curr Treat Options Gastroenterol. 2002 Aug;5(4):267-278.
6. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2001 Oct;13(10):1143-7.
7. Am J Gastroenterol. 2000 May;95(5):1231-8.
8. Martinaue P. Safety of probiotic products. Scand J
Nutr 2001; 45:22-24
9. Reid G. Lactobacillus safety as probiotic agents.
Clin Infect Dis 2002; 35: 349-350
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