The use of probiotics in gastrointestinal disease analysed
A new era in medical science has dawned with the realization of the critical role of the "forgotten organ", the enteric flora, in generating a variety of functions which sustain health and, when disrupted, may lead to disease. Central to this beneficial interaction between the flora and man is the manner in which the bacteria contained within the gut "talk" to the immune system and, in particular, the immune system that is so widespread within the gut itself, the gut- (or mucosa-) associated lymphoid tissue (GALT or MALT). Into this landscape come two new players: the probiotic and the prebiotic. While many products have masqueraded as probiotics, only those which truly and reproducibly contain live organisms and which have been shown, in high quality human studies, to confer a health benefit can actually claim this title. Several human disease states have benefited from the use of probiotics, most notably, diarrheal illnesses, some inflammatory bowel diseases, and certain infectious disorders. To this list, the irritable bowel syndrome can now be added. Prebiotics, typically carbohydrates, promote the growth of one or more species of beneficial commensal organisms; however, less data is available on the benefits of prebiotics in man. Though this is an exciting area with much potential for therapeutic benefit, we need more high quality trials of both probiotics and prebiotics in digestive disorders as well as laboratory investigations of their mechanisms of action. Copyrigth © Sociedad Iberoamericana de Información Científica (SIIC), 2010.
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