Probiotics and the intestinal flora

Intestinal flora? No flowers in your stomach, but all the micro-organisms in the intestines that ensure that our food is properly digested. And a probiotic is composed of microorganisms that normally occur in a healthy intestine. The intestinal flora is an ecosystem consisting of millions of microorganisms, mainly bacteria, which can be divided into probiotic organisms, pathogens and neutral organisms. A probiotic is defined as a dietary supplement containing living microorganisms, which has a beneficial effect on the host by improving the microbial balance. Healthy flora can suppress pathogens and is beneficial to the health of the host for several reasons. Probiotics can restore the balance of the microflora, including due to their ability to adhere to the intestinal mucosa (colonization). Competition for attachment sites and nutrients prevents the growth of pathogens. By limiting destabilization of the flora, probiotics can prevent diarrhea and other side effects after antibiotic use.

Probiotics can strengthen the resistance of the intestinal flora by:

  • production of antimicrobials against pathogens
  • stimulation of the maintenance of the mucus layer (mucus secretion)
  • strengthening the intestinal barrier
  • improvement of intestinal motility
  • stimulation of the activity of immune cells against intestinal pathogens
  • Probiotics accelerate the recovery of normal microflora

Probiotics after a course of antibiotics

After a course of antibiotics, it may take two months or longer for the disturbed flora to recover. Multiple courses within two months therefore increase the risk of AAD (Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea) or other intestinal complaints. During this period, patients may be intolerant to lactose or other food components and more susceptible to intestinal infections caused by both contaminated food and pathogens from their own intestinal flora. By killing beneficial microorganisms, antibiotics can cause overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria from the intestinal flora. This leads to diarrhea and damage to the barrier function of the intestinal mucosa by toxins from pathogenic organisms. Overgrowth of pathogens can cause severe or persistent diarrhea.
A probiotic can accelerate the normalization of the microflora when taken during and a week after antibiotic treatment. A study in healthy volunteers showed that after one month the flora had recovered by 65% with the additional use of a probiotic to the antibiotic treatment, compared to 48% without a probiotic.

Safety probiotics

Probiotics consist of symbiotic microorganisms normally found in human flora. They can be safely used by children (from the moment they can eat solid food), adults and the elderly. Use during an antibiotic treatment should be done in consultation with the treating physician.
Probiotics should not be used by patients with pancreatitis, with intestinal ischemia, in intensive care patients.

Use of probiotics

To prevent intestinal problems, probiotics should be used during, for example, a course of antibiotics and continued for at least a week after the end of the course. There should be at least two hours between taking probiotics and antibiotics. It is also possible to start the probiotics immediately after finishing the treatment and use them for a week.

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