What are probiotics? Questions and Answers.


There are many questions people have about probiotics so we have made our mission to answer as many as possible. Please send your questions to us so that we can include them here and improve our readers' experience. There is so much happening in the ever-changing world of probiotics. 

We recall that a number of our friends used to get grossed out when we used to tell them that we take bacteria in lozenges to improve our health. The first thing that conjured up in their minds was all bacteria are bad and that they will kill you. 

We are happy to say that over the last few years, there has been an increasing awareness of probiotics (good bacteria). If anyone says to you that they hate bacteria and want to get rid of them, then ask them how many bacteria live on them and in them. It is an interesting question to pose. Then ask them why are they still alive? May the next section will help you answer this question. 

You Have 10 Times More Bacteria Than Human Cells.  

Did you know that your Body has 10 times more bacteria than your cells?
In a healthy person, there 10 times more bacteria than your human cells. These bacteria, which number around 100 trillion, are living (and dying) right now on the surface of my skin, on my tongue and deep in the coils of my intestines, where the largest contingent of them will be found, a pound or two of microbes together forming a vast, largely uncharted interior wilderness that scientists are just beginning to map.

Now before you feel grossed out, think about this: your survival is dependent on these bacteria. Most of the bacteria are good and we need them to protect us against diseases and attacks from harmful organisms.

According to the Authors of a published paper "Impacts of Gut Bacteria on Human Health and Diseases": "Gut bacteria are an important component of the microbiota ecosystem in the human gut, which is colonized by 10^14 microbes, ten times more than the human cells. Gut bacteria play an important role in human health, such as supplying essential nutrients, synthesizing vitamin K, aiding in the digestion of cellulose, and promoting angiogenesis and enteric nerve function. However, they can also be potentially harmful due to the change of their composition when the gut ecosystem undergoes abnormal changes in the light of the use of antibiotics, illness, stress, ageing, bad dietary habits, and lifestyle." 

What are probiotics?

The World Health Organisation defines probiotics as "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host." Probiotics are good for you, especially your digestive system. When we think of bacteria, we usually think of they cause diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called "good" or "helpful" bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.

Where do probiotics live?

Probiotics by far in numbers live in the colon, but billions also live in the mouth, oral cavity, nasal cavity, the Probiotics live everywhere, esophagus, around the gums, in the pockets of our pleural cavity (surrounding our lungs). They dwell within our stomach, our intestines, within the vagina, around the rectum. within joints, under the armpits, under the toenails, between the toes, urinary tract, inside our urinary tract and many other places!

The Appendix- Is it a redundant organ?

This may seem like a very strange subject to discuss when we are talking about probiotics. People still believe that the Appendix is a redundant organ. There is a very strong connection between probiotics and the Appendix as you are about to discover.

Myth Busted: That Appendix is a Redundant Organ
There was a myth that the organ appendix is now a redundant organ as humans evolved. To some people of faith like Christians, this would be unthinkable. Now the researchers are saying that the appendix acts as a safe house for good bacteria, which can be used to effectively reboot the gut following a bout of dysentery or cholera. Based on current evidence, proposals have been made to suggest the appendix serves as a “reservoir” for beneficial gut flora. When illness reduces good bacteria from our intestine, the appendix may store some of that good bacteria for back up. [1] It’s also been shown that individuals without an appendix may be four times more likely to suffer from recurrent Clostridium difficile colitis, an irritation of the large intestine by spore-forming bacteria. [2] This condition is often present when the body is running low on gut flora, potentially explaining the connection between the appendix and its role in maintaining probiotic levels. While the research is still a little bare, the conclusion is clear–the appendix is important for health. 


What shapes our Microbiome- Our Genetics or our Lifestyle?

Environment plays a much greater role than host genetics in determining the composition of the human gut microbiome, according to a study published in February 2018 in Nature

Summary of the study: Some microbiome researchers had suggested that this variation begins with differences in our genes, but a large-scale study challenges this idea and provides evidence that the connection between microbiome and health may be even more important than we thought. 

We now see that genomics plays a minor role in shaping the microbiome. The fact that the environment has a much bigger role in driving the microbiome than genetics pinpoints the fact that the environment is playing a much more fundamental role in influencing disease onset and disease progression than genetics is.

The relative influence that host genetics or environment has over the composition of the microbiome, and the effect of the microbiome on the disease, have been debated in the scientific community. To investigate this question, Eran Segal, a computer scientist and computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science and his colleagues collected blood and stool samples from 1,046 Israeli adults of Ashkenazi, North African, Yemenite, Sephardi, and Middle Eastern descent, as well as some from other origins.

“We had the luxury of doing this study in Israel, which for distinguishing genetics from environment is actually an ideal place,” says Segal. The relatively recent immigration of genetically diverse populations of Jewish people to Israel, where they share a common environment, created the perfect conditions for comparing the degree to which environment and genetics shape the microbiome, he explains. “In Israel, this experiment was naturally done for us,” he says.

They compared the host genetic profiles and the diversity between microbiome samples, or ß-diversity, and found that ancestry was not significantly associated with microbiome composition.

“The hosts’ genetics determine a very small fraction of the variability that we see across the microbiomes of people,” says Segal. “We’re not saying that genetics has no effect on the microbiome, but that effect seems to be very small.”

Segal and his colleagues also analyzed an existing dataset from a 2016 study of microbiome composition from 1,126 pairs of twins to determine whether the human gut microbiome can be inherited. From this, they determined that between 1.9% and 8.1% of the human microbiome is heritable.

“It’s really consistent with what we found,” says Emily Davenport, a microbiologist at Cornell University who was not involved in this study. Davenport was a coauthor of the 2016 twins collection, which found between 5.3 percent and 8.8 percent of gut taxa was inherited. “Certain bacteria are heritable, but it’s a very small portion of the microbiome, and even if we do identify them as heritable, it’s very moderate,” she says.

To examine the degree of environmental influence on the microbiome, Segal’s group also looked at the microbial compositions of related individuals who had never lived together, and those of unrelated couples who had shared a household. They found that the microbiomes of relatives who hadn’t lived together were not similar, while those of unrelated couples who lived together were.

Lastly, Segal’s group examined what fraction of host phenotypes can be inferred from microbiome composition. They found that using human genetic data together with microbiome profiles significantly improved how accurately they could predict human phenotypes, compared to using genetic data only. For instance, after accounting for environmental and genetic factors, the microbiome contributed to 36 percent of the variation between people’s HDL cholesterol levels and 25 percent of the variation in their body mass indices (BMI).  

Gilbert says the finding demonstrates that the combination of genetics, environmental exposures, and the microbiome is a much stronger predictive toolkit than using any one of the three factors alone. “It’s a call to arms to add the microbiome to those predictive elements,” he says. “Ignore the microbiome and your predictability goes down dramatically.”

“Having an understanding of which bacteria are and aren’t [heritable] is going to be super important if you’re thinking about using the microbiome as a therapeutic and targeting it to treat disease,” says Davenport. “If you’re trying to target a [taxon] that is determined by host genetics, it may be harder to change its abundance.”

Sources: The Scientist

                D. Rothschild et al., “Environment dominates over host genetics in shaping human gut microbiota,” Nature, doi:10.1038/nature25973, 2018.


Choosing a probiotic Product

Mary E Sanders (Phd) says that not all probiotics are the same. Different strains of even the same species may function differently, and different commercial probiotics have been studied for different effects. Furthermore, each person has unique colonizing microbes, host genetics, and diet and medication usage; therefore, each person has the potential to respond to probiotics differently. Those interested should choose a probiotic made by a reputable company and tested for the desired outcomes. Pragmatism may rule the day; if after 2 to 3 weeks a probiotic does not seem to be working, it should be exchanged for another one.

For daily maintenance of good gut health, we recommend Probiotixx because you do need a health a good healthy gut for good health. Do you know that bulk of your immune system is not where your lymph nodes are… rather, your immune system is mostly in your gut and it all comes down to something called “GALT.” Researchers have determined that a significant proportion of immune cells reside within the gastrointestinal system. Gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) is a major part of mucosal-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) and constitutes almost 70% of the entire immune system. Additionally, almost 80% of plasma cells are located in GALT.

“The crucial position of the gastrointestinal system is testified by the huge amount of immune cells that reside within it. Indeed, gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) is the prominent part of mucosal-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) and represents almost 70% of the entire immune system; moreover, about 80% of plasma cells [mainly immunoglobulin A (IgA)-bearing cells] reside in GALT.”

So, why is this so important?

It’s because plasma cells are actually white blood cells that pump out large volumes of antibodies. And once these plasma cells are released into your bloodstream and lymph, they seek out antigens (foreign invaders)... and… destroy them.

Obviously, your entire immune system is important, but your digestive system plays a disproportionate role in your ability to fend off foreign invaders and stay healthy.

Many people don’t realize that 70% to 80% of your body’s immune cells are located in your digestive system. And since you need a strong immune system for optimal health, you need to keep your gut in the best shape. This is the reason why we suggest Probiotixx.

How often to take probiotics?

Follow recommendations if you have bought a supplement. Again, Mary E Sanders (Phd) provides very useful insight. Most probiotics are taken orally, as foods or dietary supplements. Probiotic strains—even those isolated from human sources—generally do not last in a consumer’s
intestinal tract for more than 2 weeks. This is because the normal microbes colonizing the digestive tract effectively prevent transient microbes from colonizing. Therefore, regular consumption of probiotics is necessary for continued benefits.

When are the benefits imparted?

Mary E Sanders (Phd) says that the benefits that probiotics impart are incurred during their transit through the alimentary canal, including
the mouth, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine, into a woman’s vaginal tract, and onto a newborn’s body. Mucosal interfaces along this path provide a means for probiotics to intimately interact with the host immune system, and the relatively slow transit through the colon provides enough time for dynamic metabolic activity that can affect colonizing microbes or host cells, and interaction with the Central Nervous System through the vagus nerve. Bron and colleagues provide an excellent review of probiotic mechanisms of action.

Bron PA, van Baarlen P, Kleerebezem M. Emerging molecular insights into the interaction between probiotics and the host intestinal mucosa. Nat Rev Microbiol. 2011;10(1):66-78.

What are some of the side effects when starting on probiotics?

When starting with probiotics, you may experience symptoms of bloating, flatulence (gas), abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhoea in the first few days of probiotic intake because your digestive system is rebalancing in favour of the good bacteria. The symptoms should subside after a few days. However, if they persist, then you can always reduce your dosage and ramp back up slowly as instructed on the label. Please seek medical advice as well.

At people can also react poorly to ingredients used in probiotic supplements (allergens like dairy) or to naturally occurring amines in probiotic foods. If this occurs, stop using probiotics.

In some rare cases, people whose immune systems are compromised, or prolonged hospitalizations or recent surgeries, may develop an infection from probiotic bacteria. People with these conditions should weigh the risks and benefits before consuming probiotics.

Overall, probiotics are a beneficial addition to most people’s diet or supplement regimen, with relatively few and unlikely side effects.

Are probiotics bad for you?

Some of the side effects are mentioned above. In addition, if you are immune-compromised, have certain bowel problems or are seriously ill in other ways, avoid probiotics unless your doctor has okayed their use. 

Probiotics are a promising field of research and may one day be used to treat or help prevent many disorders. Whilst, there is an increasing number of studies and clinical trials are being done worldwide, but still, more work is needed to fully understand the benefits, claims that can be made, dosage requirement, viable cfu in finished goods that will be effective for health. 

As the world is looking for other options other than just antibiotics, probiotics do represent an exciting frontier in health.

Are probiotics safe for children?

YES. There are a number of products in the market targeted at children.

Can you take probiotics and vitamins together?

You can take probiotics and multivitamins together. In fact, it is a good combination and many dietitians will recommend this. Probiotics and vitamins work together really well in the body. Probiotics can help vitamins to be separated and used in the body through the digestive processes. Vitamins do not impede the probiotics role, just as probiotics do not hamper the potency of the vitamins. If you are interested in trying put probiotics, prebiotics and multi-vitamins combination, then use our DYNAMIC TRIO.

Probiotics Health Claims

The rules and regulations vary from country to country. In Europe, the term "probiotic" is a health claim! For more information on the European regulation, check out the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.