About Probiotics and the Human Microbiome
The Human Microbiome
The human body is a complex ecological community consisting of trillions of microorganisms that exist in a beneficial and symbiotic relationship with all of us. In recent years, new technology has allowed medical science to better understand and characterize this community, which is commonly referred to as the microbiome.
The human microbiome consists of thousands of different bacteria types, which vary in diversity and quantity from person to person. The majority of these bacteria are not harmful and act to support and maintain human health by helping us to digest food, synthesize essential nutrients, and prevent invasion by harmful, pathogenic bacteria.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. Probiotics are intended to modulate and augment the microbiome for beneficial or therapeutic effects.
The human microbiome is composed of more than 500 different bacterial species that live in a delicate balance among themselves and with the human body. The colon is the region of our gut where there is the highest concentration of bacteria. This area contains between 1 and 100 billion bacteria/ml of feces material, considering an average total content of 1,500 ml of fecal matter.
The intestinal microbiome is very important for our health because it is able to:
- fight against pathogenic bacteria through a mechanism of competition and the production of antibacterial substances (bacteriocin, H2O2, lactic acid, etc.);
- produce short-chain fatty acids, the most important nourishment for enteric cells;
- produce vitamins (K, B1, B6, B12, folic acid, pantothenic acid, etc.,) which play an important role in different metabolic reactions;
- modulate the maturation of the host’s innate and adoptive immune responses (80% of the immune system is localized in the gut).