A little history…
In the early 20th century Elie Metchnikoff, a Russian microbiologist and winner of the Nobel prize in medicine, is intrigued by the longevity of the Bulgarians, great consumers of fermented products with a high content of lactic ferments, so called because they produce lactic acid.
He concludes that these bacteria have a positive effect on the intestines and on health. At the time yoghurt was sold exclusively by pharmacies.
At the same time Henry Tissier, a French paediatrician, observed a difference between the intestinal flora of children suffering from diarrhoea and that of healthy children.
The term probiotic (from the Greek biotikos, "in favour of life") only emerged in 1965 to designate "substances produced by micro-organisms which favour the growth of other micro-organisms" (Lilly and Stillwell).
In 2001 the FAO/WHO experts committee gave the following definition: "Live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health bene?t on the host animal by improving its intestinal balance".
Lactic bacteria are among the main probiotics; they notably include the lactobacilli (from the genus Lactobacillus) and bifidobacteria (from the genus Bifidobacterium).
Probiotics in your meals
Dairy: Yoghurts and fermented milk. Cheese.
Fruit and vegetables: Pickled cabbage (raw if possible), fruit juice.
Sea food: Smoked fish.
Olives, sourdough bread, soy sauce
The link between lactic ferments and the intestines/intestinal flora
Our intestines are an immense breeding ground for bacteria, including numerous lactic bacteria, which constitute the intestinal flora or microbiota, unique to the individual just like a fingerprint. The approximate 1014 micro-organisms belong to over 1,000 different species living in equilibrium and forming their very own ecosystem.
3 major roles of intestinal flora for health:
- nutritional role via the digestion of fibres, amino-acids, lactose; synthesis and absorption of vitamins (B2, B5, B6, B8, B12, K)…
- barrier role against the entry or embedding of pathogens in the body through a variety of mechanisms
- immunity role (maturity of the immune system, allergy control)
These benefits depend on bacteria: some have a more digestive purpose (Lactobacillus paracasei, acidophilus, plantarum, Bifidobacterium longum…), others an immune purpose, notably Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG which has been the subject of numerous publications.
The lactic ferments, an essential addition for vitality
Certain factors can modify the species that make up the flora and therefore the equilibrium that exists between them. Unbalanced diet, stress and fatigue can disrupt this equilibrium and destabilise the flora causing bloating, difficult digestion and/or changes to the immune defences.
A regular intake of lactic ferments or probiotics is therefore an essential addition for vitality.