Importance of Understanding Intestinal Microflora

It is obvious that an understanding of the cross-talk that occurs between the intestinal microflora and its host promises to expand our conceptions of the relationship between the intestinal microflora and health. There is also an increasing amount of information indicating that specific aberrations in the intestinal microflora may render us more vulnerable to intestinal inflammatory diseases and other diseases beyond the intestinal environment. It is likely that some aberrations may even predispose us to specific diseases. Unfortunately, however, we are still far from knowing the qualitative and quantitative composition of the intestinal microflora and the factors governing its composition in an individual.

✓ Rotavirus diarrhea

✓ Antibiotic-associated diarrhea

✓ Alleviation of allergic disease

✓ Lactose intolerance x Irritable bowel syndrome x Inflammatory bowel disease x Traveller's diarrhea x Cancer x H. pylori eradication x Cholesterol control

Figure 2 Health benefits of probiotics.

Working hypotheses can be supported by studies carried out in vitro using cell culture models or in vivo using animal models. However, the studies most important for efficacy assessment are carefully planned and monitored clinical studies in humans.

In summary, well-designed human studies are required to demonstrate health benefits. Using the criteria thus obtained it can be concluded that certain specific probiotics have scientifically proven benefits that can be attributed to specific products (see below). Other reported probiotic health-related effects are only partially established (Figure 2), and require more data from larger double-blind placebo controlled studies before firm conclusions can be reached.

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