Probiotics and their protective functions

Posted on: April 21st, 2011 by sdavis

Lucinda Harms, RPh, is the director of pharmacy at CarePro Compounding and Advance Health.

I thought I was done with my series on probiotics, but I came across a very interesting article last week that I wanted to share with you. It appeared in a German journal OM and Ernahrung 2009, Nr 128 and was entitled, “The Mucosal Boundary Layer-Protection and Stabilization through Tight Junctions.” (It had been translated into English already-I did not read it in German!) In essence what it said is this:

Human boundary layers, such as in the skin and mucosal membranes, are an important prerequisite for health. These boundary layers protect the human organism from the flood of potentially harmful agents such as allergens, hazardous substances and pathogens. At the same time, there must be a controlled exchange of material between the intestinal lumen and the interior of the body and vice versa. Recent discoveries show that “tight junctions” play a central role in the development of chronic inflammatory intestinal diseases and allergic reactions.

Tight junctions are locks of the body that separate the inside from the outside. They form a seal between the cells of the mucosal lining of the intestine and prevent leakage from the body and also the uncontrolled passage of undesired substances from outside.

The reason I want to talk about these is because there are a number of drugs, agents and diseases that have been shown to damage these tight junctions. These include:

non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen, naproxen), chemotherapy, aspirin, aminoglycoside antibiotics, iron, allergens like histamine and gluten, alcohol, stress, rheumatoid arthritis, skin burns, celiac, epilepsy, bacteria such as C. difficile, helicobacter pylori, and some viruses, plus many other causes.

In inflammatory bowel diseases, the body itself causes misregulations of the tight junctions. Once the structure of the tight junctions is disturbed, processes are initiated that cause the expression of oncogens which play an important role in the development of cancer.

The use of probiotics offers an an already existing possibility of strengthening the tight junctions. An improvement of the barrier function of tight junctions was proved for Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Streptococcus Thermophilus and Escherichia Coli Nissle. The paper further states that it seems reasonable to use probiotics and prebiotics as a prophylactic action in the case of mental stress or influence of certain drugs (aspirin, nicotine, alcohol, and food allergens). If the mucosal lining of the gut has already been damaged, probiotics can also be used for therapeutic purposes in order to restore the structure of the tight junctions.

In good health,

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