Probiotics are valuable allies of health and defend the body from diseases caused by:

  • Cooling
  • Can alleviate symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome
  • Prevent vaginal infections and allergies and protect against bowel cancer

Professor Silvio Danese, a gastroenterologist and Head of the Center for intestinal inflammatory diseases in Humanitas and Dr Federica Furfaro, a gastroenterologist of the Center, spoke about probiotics in a recent interview.

The intestine represents a large part of our immune system. If the microbiota (the microorganisms in the intestine) is rich in good bacteria, it reacts better to influenza and parainfluenza germs and viruses.

“Therefore, taking probiotics in view of the colder weather, is the simplest strategy to keep the functions of the intestinal microbiota efficient and protect the body from the typical diseases of the winter“, explains Dr Federica Furfaro.

Probiotics Types vary

As emphasized by Prof. Danese, there are hundreds of different microorganisms that perform different functions in the intestinal ecosystem. In order for the probiotics to be defined as such, their stability and ability to adhere to the intestinal walls, resisting gastric juices must be recognized in scientific studies.

“In order to choose the right probiotic, it is good to rely on a specialist. They will be able to indicate which is the most suitable for each problem”, emphasizes the professor.

Probiotics for Irritable Bowel Symptoms

“Recent studies have shown that the intestinal microbiota is involved in the origin of IBS. In fact, in patients suffering from IBS, the concentrations of methane-producing bacteria are higher, modifying the intestinal transit and favouring meteorism. On the other hand, lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are present in minor quantities, with an anti-inflammatory action and maintenance of the integrity of the lining of the intestine. For this reason, if probiotics are chosen under medical advice, they can help patients with an irritable bowel. In fact, they regularize intestinal motility and also act on the perception of pain“, explained Prof. Danese.

Probiotics to Prevent Vaginal Infections

Probiotics contribute to the restoration of the balance of the vaginal ecosystem, a barrier against germs and fungi. The most effective in this sense are the lactobacilli. “They maintain the vaginal pH on acidic values. Thus, unsuitable for the proliferation of unwanted hosts such as Candida or Gardnerella, the bacterium responsible for one of the most frequent vaginal infections. They also are an effective weapon against relapses“, underlined Dr Furfaro.

Probiotics for Bowel Cancer

According to some studies, the alterations of the microbiota would play a role in the evolution of this tumour. “There is a continuous dialogue between the enterocytes (the cells of the lining of the intestinal walls, which can undergo mutations) and the cells of the intestinal immune system, that work at full speed with the help of the right probiotics. Numerous studies are evaluating the effectiveness of different strains in maintaining this dialogue at maximum levels. Therefore, we do not exclude that in the future the so-called good bacteria can become an extra weapon to protect us from this big killer”, explained Prof. Danese.

Effective High-dose Probiotics

“Supplements and enriched foods with dosages of no less than 10 billion are recommended since the percentage of bacteria that manages to survive gastric acids and reach the intestine is less than 40%. In order for probiotics to develop at their best, prebiotics are also paramount (ie fibres such as inulin). This is why a diet rich in vegetables should include probiotics“, concluded Dr Furfaro.