Probiotics are one of the newest health fads, even though humans have been medicating with them for centuries.
Probiotics, which are healthy gut bacteria that aid in human digestion, were only recently discovered by researchers.
Living in our guts, probiotic bacteria help to digest food and synthesize compounds in our food for later use.
Probiotics occur naturally in fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir and more. Or, a person can supplement with them via probiotic capsules or liquids.
And while there’s a lot of literature supporting the therapeutic use of probiotics to help in the alleviation of many conditions, new research is indicating there could be problems with probiotic supplementation. Especially in those who have already compromised gut function.
At the University of Texas, researchers used a novel new technology to assess how exactly probiotics worked inside of our guts.
Using something known as “organ-on-a-chip technology,” the researchers attached human cells to microchips and were able to make them mimic cells inside of our intestines,
Their aim with using these organ-on-a-chip was to measure how inflammation in our digestive system occurs.
At the present time we still don’t know what causes inflammation in the gut.
Hyun Jung Kim who was a lead on the study explained what their new research study was trying to figure out.
“By making it possible to customize specific conditions in the gut, we could establish the original catalyst, or onset initiator, for the disease,” Kim says, adding, “If we can determine the root cause, we can more accurately determine the most appropriate treatment.”
What they discovered in their research is that the most likely causes of inflammation in the gut is the fact the intestines are permeable.
When the intestinal epithelium (a thin layer of cells that help protect the rest of your body from digested material) is damaged it allows for toxins and bacteria from the gut to invade the rest of the body where they could cause harm and promote inflammation
The conventional theory is bad bacteria in the gut are what compromise the epithelium and that if bad bacteria can be replaced by good bacteria (probiotics) then it means the gut can heal and the toxins and bacteria will never escape.
However this new research shows that taking probiotics might not be the key to healing the gut, and if the epithelium is too far damaged then probiotic bacteria will make it into the body and cause inflammation. out into the rest of the body, where they could cause harm.
“Once the gut barrier has been damaged, probiotics can be harmful just like any other bacteria that escape into the human body through a damaged intestinal barrier.”
Researcher Woojung Shin Shin, a biomedical engineer who worked with Kim on the project, continues, “When the gut barrier is healthy, probiotics are beneficial. When it is compromised, however, they can cause more harm than good. Essentially, ‘good fences make good neighbors.'”