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Welcome

A guide to
nutrition

What are
functional foods?

Probiotics &
your health

Obesity –
an Irish epidemic

Nutrition & pregnancy

Your digestive system

The role of vitamins & minerals

Finland – a case
study in healthy
eating


Health Calculators


What is the gut flora?
What can affect the balance of the gut flora?
What are probiotics?
What are some examples of probiotic foods?
How do probiotics work?
What are the health benefits of probiotics?
What is Lactobacillus GG?
What are the health benefits of Lactobacillus GG?
What are prebiotics?
What are synbiotics?

What is the gut flora?
Billions of bacteria inhabit the human digestive system. They form over a kilo (2.2. pounds) of our body weight. These bacteria are referred to as the gut flora. The gut flora is needed to break down food remains that have not been digested earlier in the digestive system and to discourage harmful bacteria and yeasts from invading the body. The gut flora also produces beneficial substances such as vitamins like vitamin K.

The gut flora consists of 400 different species of bacteria. Some of these are beneficial and others are potentially harmful. A balance between the two is vital for health and well-being.


What can affect the balance of the gut flora?
Illness, poor diet, stress, aging, infection by food poisoning and the use of medications can disturb the balance between the beneficial and harmful bacteria. Antibiotics are particularly harmful. Unfortunately antibiotics are unable to distinguish between beneficial and harmful bacteria and they can wipe out the beneficial bacteria, which leaves the bowel vulnerable for the invasion of potentially dangerous bacteria. This can lead to side effects such as gastrointestinal upset, involving diarrhoea, wind and bloating.


What are probiotics?
One way of maintaining a balance between the beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut is to consume a source of beneficial bacteria in the diet. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can be introduced into the digestive system through food.

Probiotics that are added to foods can be derived from a human, animal or vegetable source. Most commercially promoted fermented milk products with probiotic properties contain strains of Lactobacillus bacteria or Bifidobacteria. They are also naturally normally present in the human intestine.

What are some examples of probiotic foods?
Probiotic foods are a group of functional foods. Most commercially promoted products with probiotic properties contain strains of Lactobacillus bacteria or Bifidobacteria. These are often fermented milk products.

Examples of products include:
Probiotic
Lactobacillus casei Shirota
Lactobacillus casei Immunitas
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG

Product
Yakult®
Actimel®
Everybody®
Avonmore Milk Plus


How do probiotics work?
Most live bacteria that are ingested die when they reach the acid conditions of the stomach. For a beneficial bacterium to be classified as a probiotic it must be resistant to gastric, bile and pancreatic juices to reach the colon alive. The probiotics attach to the wall of the intestine where they increase the number of beneficial bacteria and fight against harmful bacteria thus maintaining a balance between the beneficial and harmful bacteria.


What are the health benefits of probiotics?
Generally probiotics help to maintain a healthy digestive system by maintaining a balance between the harmful and beneficial bacteria in the gut. They are of benefit especially when taken during and after antibiotic treatment or when travelling abroad where the body encounters different types of bacteria than it is used to.

Other possible health benefits include immune system stimulation, treatment of acute diarrhoea and other GI disorders and improved lactose digestion.


What is Lactobacillus GG (LGG)?
Lactobacillus GG or LGG is the world's most clinically researched probiotic culture. Over 200 papers have now been published on LGG.


What are the health benefits of LGG?
LGG is proven to tolerate intestinal conditions such as stomach and bile acids. LGG reduces the risk of diarrhoea, shortens the duration of acute diarrhoea and reduces the risk of antibiotic associated intestinal symptoms. LGG balances the intestinal flora during a period of diarrhoea and enhances the immune response.

LGG has been shown to enhance the immune system and to promote the formation of antibodies. Regular consumption of LGG milk by children has been shown to reduce the rate of respiratory infections and a need to treat infections with antibiotics. Simultaneously, the absence of children from day care centres due to illness was reduced.

Calcium and phosphorus in milk help strengthen developing teeth and lactose, the milk sugar, is non-cariogenic. Research on children has shown that the role of milk in protecting teeth is intensified by LGG, as LGG prevents the growth of caries, which cause bacteria.

It is possible that the risk of allergy in infants can be reduced by maintaining a good bacterial balance in pregnant mothers or by modulating the intestinal flora of the infant with probiotic bacteria. LGG has shown to prevent the risk of allergy and to speed recovery in allergy in infancy.

Research in the area of rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and cystic fibrosis has also shown promising results.


What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. They are a natural food for probiotic bacteria.


What are synbiotics?
Synbiotics is a term to describe a food, which contains both a probiotic and a prebiotic.

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Welcome | A guide to nutrition | What are functional foods? | Probiotics & your health
Obesity – an Irish epidemic | Nutrition & pregnancy | Your digestive system
The role of vitamins & minerals | Finland – a case study in healthy eating
Health Calculators