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Quest Vitamins LTD,
8 Venture Way,
Aston Science Park,
B7 4AP.

Tel: 0121 359 0056
Fax: 0121 359 0313
Registered in England No. 2530437

Issue 78

Gut Flora and its role in maintaining normal Intestinal Function

Causes of IBS

Lp299v and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Which factors contribute to good digestive health?

Gut Flora and its role in maintaining normal Intestinal Function
The gut flora plays an important role in maintaining normal intestinal function, however not all bacteria are beneficial. The health of the digestive system is dependent on maintaining a delicate balance between the desirable and undesirable bacteria found in the gut. When this balance is disrupted, disease and inflammation can occur.

Beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics, include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus plantarum 299v and Bifobacterium longum. Probiotics reduce the presence of undesirable bacteria by competing for adhesion sites and nutrients, producing anti-microbial substances and lowering the pH of the digestive tract through the production of short chain fatty acids.

The consumption of friendly bacteria has also been shown to help digestive complaints such as irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhoea, and they can also produce essential vitamins such as vitamin K, which is vital for the healthy clotting of blood, and some B vitamins which are important for energy production.

A Babys digestive tract is sterile at birth, 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.

In this respect, it is essential that a babys gut is populated by friendly bacteria from an early age to prevent the onset of neurological and digestive conditions. When a baby is born the intestines are sterile and the first contact the baby has with bacteria is via the mother when it passes along the birth canal. Therefore, if the mothers bacterial flora is compromised, then any bad bacteria or toxins will be passed to the baby. It is then important that the balance of bacteria is altered favourably either by supplements or, more importantly, by the baby being breast fed for at least six months. If this were to be achieved, then harmful mico-organisms which cause conditions such as autism and diarrhoea, will not be able to thrive in the gut.

L.plantarum is a member of the Lactobacillus family of microorganisms and has been found to populate a healthy human gastrointestinal tract. Scientific studies show that this particular strain of probiotic has adhesion properties which allow it to temporarily colonise the large intestine.

Lactobacillus plantarum 299v (Lp299v) is a highly specific strain from the plantarum group of friendly bacteria. This strain differs from other plantarum species because it has been extensively researched regarding its use for those with digestive conditions and, in particular, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Studies have shown that Lp299v could decrease the frequency and severity of up to 90% of symptoms experienced by IBS sufferers. However, this particular strain has also been associated with a therapeutic role for conditions such as diarrhoea and heart disease and has also been shown to help boost the immune system at the gut level.
IBS is a common disorder; it occurs mostly in early to middle age and is suffered by twice as many women as men. IBS is characterised by intermittent abdominal pain and irregular bowel habit (constipation, diarrhoea or both). Other symptoms include spasmodic cramp-like pain in the abdomen, swelling (distension) of the abdomen, feeling of incomplete evacuation of the bowels and excessive wind. Movement of the bowel or passing wind may temporarily relieve the pain.

Causes of IBS
Causes of IBS may be attributed to a deficiency in dietary fibre, psychological issues or unrealised food intolerances. However, in many cases stress seems to be a major contributing factor. In some cases, IBS may be confused with lactose intolerance, in which a deficiency in the enzyme lactase causes fermentation of lactose in the intestine, leading to abdominal cramps, bloating and flatulence. IBS is a multi-faceted problem and more than one treatment may be needed.
The addition of soluble fibre to the diet from fruit, vegetables, oats, rice, linseed, or psyllium supplements may well be beneficial as this type of fibre absorbs water from the bowel and helps bulk the stools. It is recommended that the average adult consume at least 18g of fibre a day. Low stool weight (under 150g/day) and slow transit time (more than 4-5 days) are thought to be associated with an increased risk of bowel disease.

Lp299v and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Many research studies have highlighted the use of a highly specific strain of Lactobacilli called Lactobacillus plantarum 299v (Lp299v). This particular species has been shown to reduce the severity, frequency and duration of IBS symptoms and is more effective than other L.plantarum strains. One study found that 95% of patients receiving Lp299v for just 4 weeks showed significant improvements in all IBS related symptoms including bloating, diarrhea and constipation.

The most natural way of ingesting large concentrations of good bacteria is with our foods. However, the activities involved in the processing and preparation of food can be detrimental to the beneficial bacteria found in fresh goods and foods that are rich sources of beneficial bacteria, such as Camembert cheese, sauerkraut and yoghurt are not usually present in the diet in great quantities.

Additionally, the quantity of bacteria required for any preventative or therapeutic effect is beyond the amount that could conceivably be provided by the diet. For example, a person would have to consume a litre of yoghurt to obtain between 1 and 10 billion bacteria whereas probiotic supplements can provide as much as 2 billion bacteria in a single capsule.

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 and flourish.

It may be prudent for sufferers of digestive disorders to avoid irritants such as spicy foods or undercooked, suspect foods that may contain large amounts of bacteria. Also to avoid stressful, anxious situations that may cause acid reflux.

Whenever there are severe pains or prolonged problems being experienced, always refer to a medical practitioner.

Which factors contribute to good digestive health?
" Chewing each mouthful of food thoroughly allowing the enzymes in our saliva to mix with the food.
" Drinking plenty of water each day (the recommended amount is 1.5 litres a day) to help "flush out" the system.
" Eating a varied diet, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
" Relaxing while we consume our food promotes efficient digestion.
If we can manage all these then our digestive system should not cause us to have wind, indigestion, heartburn or constipation.

Lp299v is a specific strain of probiotic that has been found to help sufferers of IBS, however, it is vital that a broad range of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species of friendly bacteria be consumed on a daily basis to help prevent the onset, or reduce the symptoms of digestive diseases and complaints.

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