According to the OMS, “probiotics are live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”. They are naturally present in certain foods and they are also available in drugs and dietary supplements. Their role is to pamper our microbiotas or safely correct their imbalance (dysbiosis).
What are their benefits?
Probiotics act on the gut ecosystem to improve it, strengthen its barrier function, boost the immune response and decrease inflammation. In gastroenterology, probiotics are used to:
decrease the frequency and severity of diarrhea (Clostridium difficile diarrhea, antibiotic-associated diarrhea or gastroenteritis...),
substantially decrease the risk of relapse in case of pouchitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (CIBD),
improve the intestinal comfort in case of irritable bowel syndrome...
But several strains are also under investigation to restore other microbiotas (skin, vaginal…) in diseases such as allergic eczema, acne or vaginosis.
Where are probiotics found?
Saccharomyces boulardii, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium infantis… these Latin names designate probiotics that are beneficial to your well-being. You probably ingest them unknowingly in yogurts, cheese, sauerkraut… and many other everyday foods. That is why it is crucial to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
Identifying a probiotic: no small feat!
Among the billion existing microorganisms, which one to choose? It is an arduous task for researchers who proceed step by step, trial after trial, first in animals and later in humans. They gradually screen potential candidates by selecting microorganisms based on:
their properties (anti-pathogenic, cholesterol-lowering…);
their resistance resistant to the gut ecosystem (temperature, pH, bile acids…), and their safety.