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The probiotic with power

The ‘gut reaction’ that could put an end to chronic disease

The latest study on probiotics is one you have to read to believe. In 2016 research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists found an unprecedented link between probiotics and liver cancer.

THE GREAT GUT AND BEYOND

Probiotics, or the good bacteria needed to regulate the gut microbiome that impacts the health of the entire body, have already been linked to a wide range of health benefits, including improved immunity, boosted metabolism, and potential weight loss. Some studies have even suggested that probiotics can help to reduce gut inflammation and possibly prevent colorectal cancer, but this connection between liver cancer and probiotic use is a first.

Here’s what the University of Hong Kong research team found: When manipulating gut bacteria in animal models, researchers were able to help shrink cancerous tumours located outside of the gut.1 Probiotics may already have some impact on colorectal cancer, which makes sense because the good bacteria reside in the gut.2 But the particular location of the tumours in this study is what makes the research so intriguing. This was the first study of its kind to show that probiotics could benefit the most common type of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which also happens to be one of the most common causes of cancer-related death.

You see, up until recently, researchers were not sure how far the probiotic power of the gut could extend to the rest of the body. They knew that the body needed good bacteria to overpower the bad, and they also knew that gut bacterial diversity could impact health for the better.3,4 But to see these benefits extend beyond the digestive tract paints an even clearer picture of how the great human gut can benefit all aspects of our health.

In this Hong Kong study, mice were given a special mixture of probiotics that helped to increase good gut bacteria capable of producing anti-inflammatory metabolites. After just 35 days, researchers saw a 40 per cent reduction in the size and weight of tumours in the probiotic- fed mice compared to the control group. Researchers noted that the anti-inflammatory molecules produced by the probiotic bacteria were able to impact a different diseased area in the body by reducing inflammatory immune cell frequency, or TH17 cells, in the gut. Reducing TH17 cell frequency helped to curb the inflammatory process known to promote cancer development, thus interrupting and discouraging tumour growth.

 

The Probiotic Power Within

IT’S A JUNGLE IN THERE

A 2015 study conducted by University of Oxford researchers explained this “good gut” phenomenon even further. When exploring why good bacteria are needed to overpower bad bacteria in the gut, for the purpose of calming inflammation and reducing risk of chronic disease, researchers compared the diverse bacterial ecosystem of the human gut to a jungle.5

At any given time, there are hundreds of bacterial species that compete for existence in the gut. And lest we forget, the average human body is host to about 100 trillion microbes. But researchers believe that this competitive environment between good and bad bacteria is critical as it creates a thriving internal environment that sets the tone for the health of the entire body. When good bacteria compete and overpower pathogenic bacteria, they cultivate natural gut stability. Asthe researchers explained, people are responsible for improving their own health as “ecosystem engineers” by nourishing a healthy and stable gut.

“The assumption has always been that because these bacteria are doing us good, the communities must be cooperating with one another. What our work suggests, based on a wide-ranging mathematical analysis, is that competition may be key to a healthy gut,” said corresponding study author Kevin Foster, Professor of Evolutionary Biology in the Department of Zoology at Oxford University. “Rather than cooperating like plants and bees, whereby a reduction in one species will drag down the other, we think that the bacteria act more like trees competing in a dense jungle.”

This means that different people will carry different types of gut bacteria, both good and bad, throughout their lifetimes. But what makes one individual healthy and another sick has to do with the healthy competition within the gut - and the gut’s ability to create a stable bacterial environment. That is to say, plenty of different microbes in the digestive tract can help to create a robust gut community, as long as there are enough good bacteria to stabilise the gut environment.

TRUST YOUR GUT

These good bacteria don’t get into the gut by accident. Research has provided us with concrete proof that oral probiotics are needed to inoculate the gut with friendly bacteria that have the power to improve health and prevent disease. Supporting the gut with probiotics has a long list of clinical benefits - including the potential to protect against inflammatory bowel disease, prevent deadly complications of liver disease, reduce the risk of infection for patients in ICU, regulate blood pressure, and even decrease heart attack severity.6,7,8,9,10,11

If your gut community is imbalanced or deficient, most often because of antibiotic use and severe damage from the modern Western diet, then you are already at risk for chronic disease. A daily probiotic can help - potentially reducing noticeable symptoms of disease and improving quality of life.

Taking a soil-based probiotic with more than 29 different strains of beneficial microflora can supply the gut with the bacterial diversity it needs to compete for your good health. A diverse probiotic like this gives the gut what it may be missing: a hefty dose of good bacteria similar to those found resident in the healthy human GI tract.

For health problems large and small, and for the prevention of disease in the future, the answer will always lie in your gut. Take care of this bountiful bacterial hub, and good health is sure to follow.

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Sources
1. Li, Jun, Cecilia Ying Ju Sung, Nikki Lee, Yueqiong Ni, Jussi Pihlajamäki, Gianni Panagiotou, and Hani El-Nezami. “Probiotics Modulated Gut Microbiota Suppresses Hepatocellular Carcinoma Growth in Mice.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Proc Natl Acad Sci USA (2016): 201518189.
2. World J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2014 Feb;30(2):351-74. doi: 10.1007/s11274-013-1499-6. Epub 2013 Sep 26.
3. J. G. M. Markle, D. N. Frank, S. Mortin-Toth, C. E. Robertson, L. M. Feazel, U. Rolle-Kampczyk, M. von Bergen, K. D. McCoy, A. J. Macpherson, J. S. Danska. Sex Differences in the Gut Microbiome Drive Hormone- Dependent Regulation of Autoimmunity. Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1126/science.1233521.
4. Jason M. Norman, Scott A. Handley, Herbert W. Virgin. Kingdom-agnostic Metagenomics and the Importance of Complete Characterization of Enteric Microbial Communities. Gastroenterology, 2014; DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2014.02.001.
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6. Marie-Anne von Schillde, Gabriele Hörmannsperger, Monika Weiher, Carl-Alfred Alpert, Hannes Hahne, Christine Bäuerl, Karolien van Huynegem, Lothar Steidler, Tomas Hrncir, Gaspar Pérez-Martínez, Bernhard
Kuster, Dirk Haller. Lactocepin Secreted By Lactobacillus Exerts Anti-Inflammatory Effects By Selectively Degrading Proinflammatory Chemokines. Cell Host & Microbe, 2012; 11 (4): 387 DOI: 10.1016/j. chom.2012.02.006.
7. Manish Kumar Lunia, Barjesh Chander Sharma, Praveen Sharma, Sanjeev Sachdeva, Siddharth Srivastava. Probiotics Prevent Hepatic Encephalopathy in Patients With Cirrhosis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 2014; 12 (6): 1003 DOI: 10.1016/j. cgh.2013.11.006.
8. David W. Victor, Eamonn M.M. Quigley. Hepatic Encephalopathy Involves Interactions Among the Microbiota, Gut, Brain. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 2014; 12 (6): 1009 DOI: 10.1016/j. cgh.2014.01.022.
9. Min Tan, Jing-Ci Zhu, Jiang Du, Li-Mei Zhang, Hua-Hua Yin. Effects of probiotics on serum levels of Th1/ Th2-cytokine and clinical outcomes in severe traumatic brain-injured patients: a prospective randomized pilot study. Critical Care, 2011.
10. S. Khalesi, J. Sun, N. Buys, R. Jayasinghe. Effect of Probiotics on Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized, Controlled Trials. Hypertension, 2014; DOI: 10.1161/ HYPERTENSIONAHA.114.03469.
11. Vy Lam, Jidong Su, Stacy Koprowski, Anna Hsu, James S. Tweddell, Parvaneh Rafiee, Garrett J. Gross, Nita H. Salzman, and John E. Baker. Intestinal microbiota determine severity of myocardial infarction in rats. FASEB J., 2012 DOI: 10.1096/fj.11-197921.