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The History of Probiotics

By Jeo Spelman Subscribe to RSS | January 28th 2012 | Views:

Probiotics have become the focus of much interest from parts of the public that take personal health very seriously. They have been introduced as health products alongside many other supplements and multivitamins. These supplements, however, are not merely exterior elements that scientists or other researchers have determined to be useful for human health. These supplements are actually microbes, bacteria and other microorganisms that already live inside human bodies and play integral roles in human biological processes.

What Are Probiotics?

They are already present in the human system and are actually critical for maintaining good health. An excellent example of these entities, and one that may already be known to many people who are otherwise uninformed on the subject, is the colony of microorganisms that exists in every person’s intestinal tract. The specific probiotic inhibit the development of toxic bacteria in the waste matter passing through a human digestive system.

Since the discovery of the probiotic, some manufacturers of health-related products and supplements have developed probiotic substances that can be taken in pill form or added to food in order to boost the positive activities of these microbial creatures in human biology. They have also been identified in certain foods, such as yogurt or other fermented foods. These foods are then encouraged or supplemented with more probiotics and sold as health-inducing substances.

History of Probiotics

Artificial uses of these products were originally considered in the early 20th century by a Russian scientist. He suggested that doctors could make modifications to bacteria in the intestinal system by replacing detrimental bacteria with probiotic microbes that would engender health rather than threaten it. This scientist, Elie Metchnikoff, believed that much of the aging process was due to toxic activity in the bowels which had certain injurious bacteria as their root cause. He believed that their replacement with a probiotic could stop or even reverse the aging process.

Among the known probiotics at the time were the lactic-acid bacteria in fermented milk. Metchnikoff made a connection between groups of people who lived much of the year almost entirely on fermented milk and their exceptionally long-lifespans. He alleged that seeding the lining of the intestine with these bacteria would destroy proteolytic bacteria which he believed were responsible for the aging and weakening typically seen in shorter-lived people. So convinced of the possible benefits was Metchnikoff that he began drinking sour milk that he had fermented with lactic acid. Many others in Paris, where he lived, began to follow his example and added these supplements to their diets.

Interested and working at the Pasteur Institute in Paris along with Metchnikoff was a French scientist by the name of Henry Tissier. He discovered the dominant presence of a certain bacteria in the intestines of breast-fed babies. These microbes received the name bifidobacteria. Their probiotic function appeared to be the deterrence of diarrhea caused by the toxic proteolytic bacteria.

In 1917 more probiotic discoveries were made as World War One raged across Europe and diseases broke out among soldiers both healthy and wounded. Alfred Nissle, a German professor, extracted bacteria known as Escherichia Coli from fecal matter produced by a soldier who demonstrated immunity against a particular strain of dysentery. He isolated the strain of bacteria and used this early supplement to help other patients fight infections of the gastrointestinal tract and dysentery in general.

Up through this time and long afterward the term probiotics was not known to the world and scientists had not consolidated their learning about the issue to verify that they were on to something. In 1953, a scientist named Werner Kollath contrasted these substances with the recent discovery of antibiotics, which were used by the body and artificially to attack and kill infections. According to Kollath, the probiotic stimulate beneficial activities rather than destroy the negative activities of other bacteria.

Finally, in the 1980’s researchers came up with an improved definition for these bacteria which is widely used today. This definition says that probiotics are microbes which beneficially supplement an animal by improving intestinal fortitude and bacterial balance.

In the recent past, adding supplements to diets or eating foods already rich in probiotic substances has been recommended by various health experts around the world. However, many people protest this recommendation and point out that there is no conclusive proof that ingesting substances laden with these bacteria help people in any way. The most common claim made by such promoters is that the probiotic present in their product help with digestion.

Possible Positive and Negative Side Effects Of Probiotics

While they are identified as natural to the human system and overall beneficial, they have been shown to cause harm when added artificially to the nourishment regimen of certain people. They appear to increase the death rate of patients who currently suffer from pancreatitis. Intake of these microbes has also been linked to increasing the sensitivity of children to allergens of all sorts. However, data also exists supporting the idea that these microorganisms can boost the immune systems of people that are already desperately ill. Controversy over the effectiveness of probiotic rages on today in the scientific community.

Jeo Spelman - About Author:
Probiotics have become the focus of much interest from parts of the public that take personal health very seriously. These microbes received the name bifidobacteria. Their probiotic function appeared to be the deterrence of diarrhea caused by the toxic proteolytic bacteria.

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