Probiotics are defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”. This definition emphasizes the importance of probiotics being live cells. Probiotic organisms support the beneficial bacteria already present in the intestinal system. These microorganisms are necessary for the digestion of nutrients and the balance of the intestinal microflora.
How do probiotics work?
Probiotics have been shown to work by the following mechanisms:
- Competition for nutrients – within the gut beneficial and pathogenic microorganisms will be utilizing the same types of nutrients. This results in a general competition between bacteria for these nutrients which the bacteria needs to grow and reproduce. When a probiotic is administered there is an overall reduction in nutrients available for pathogenic bacteria and consequently, this minimizes the levels of pathogenic microorganisms.
- Competition for adhesion sites – beneficial bacteria can attach to the gut wall and form colonies at various sites throughout the gut. This prevents pathogenic bacteria from gaining a foothold, resulting in their expulsion from the body.
- Improvement in digestion – probiotics have been shown to increase the efficiency of digestion and therefore provide improvement indigestion.
- Lactic acid production – probiotics produce lactic acid which acts to reduce the pH of the gut, thereby inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria, which prefer a more alkaline environment.
- Effect on immunity – probiotics have been shown to increase the levels of cell-signalling chemicals and the effectiveness of infection-fighting cells (white blood cells).
What makes a good probiotic in pet food?
When choosing a probiotic for your pet it is important to identify the best product possible. When assessing probiotics it is important to check:
- Safety – the micro-organism chosen must be non-pathogenic and non-toxic. Within the EU all probiotics must be registered for use in an individual animal species. For example, Enterococcus faecium (DSM 10663/NCIMB 10415) 4b E1707 is registered for use in dogs and cats.
- Viability – the micro-organisms within a probiotic product should remain viable during their storage. The probiotics should also be able to pass safely through the stomach so they are able to colonize the gut. A good freeze-drying process will enable the product to be stored at room temperature throughout the duration of its shelf life. Microencapsulation will provide protection from the acidic environment of the stomach.
- Sufficient numbers – the concentration of a probiotic must be such that inclusion rates provide a beneficial effect.
- Quality assurance – when manufacturing probiotic products high-quality standards and processes are imperative. This ensures that the product meets label specifications and is effective and safe to use.
Are there any side effects associated with the use of probiotics? Can you give too many?
There are no side effects associated with the use of probiotics. All EU-registered probiotics have to pass stringent safety trials before being approved for use in each species. Probiotics have never been found to be toxic. Even more than 100 times, the recommended level does not cause any problems. It is also not possible to give too great a quantity of probiotics as any excess will pass out in the faeces. Only pathogenic bacteria can become overpopulated within the intestines which will result in the development of diarrhoea. Giving probiotics on a daily basis will prevent this from happening.
Can probiotics be used at the same time as antibiotics?
Whenever antibiotics are used, especially orally, the normal population of the intestinal flora is disturbed. When antibiotic therapy is prolonged, the effect on the intestinal flora can be profound. Evidence shows that taking a probiotic supplement at the same time as antibiotics can reduce the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. do not administer the probiotic at the same time as the antibiotic, give them at least three hours apart if possible. The probiotic will not affect the effectiveness of the antibiotic.
What is a prebiotic?
Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrate (complex sugar) found in different types of plants, vegetables and grains. They act as a food source for the beneficial bacteria and thus stimulating their growth. Because of their complexity, these carbohydrates resist digestion by salivary and intestinal enzymes in the stomach and enter the intestines where they are fermented by probiotic bacteria. Selective stimulation of growth of the probiotic bacteria is why prebiotics are also very beneficial to the intestinal system.
The prebiotic used in all ProBiotic LIVE products are exclusive to Protexin and consists of fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS) and acacia (Gum arabic). This dual source prebiotic exerts its effect across a larger area of the gut compared to a single source prebiotic.
Why can't live yoghurt be used?
Live yoghurt can be used to provide some live microorganisms, however, it has some distinct disadvantages when compared to ProBiotic LIVE:
- The concentration of live microorganisms present in yoghurt is unknown but will tend to be relatively low and will depend on the freshness of the yoghurt and the conditions in which it has been stored. After opening, the microbial concentration can become depleted. Compare this with the high and guaranteed concentration of probiotics in the ProBiotic LIVE products.
- The actual strains of microorganisms contained within live yoghurts will tend to be chosen for taste and textural properties rather than a probiotic benefit. The micro-organisms contained within the yoghurt may not produce any probiotic benefit.
Do the probiotics survive the very acidic conditions of the stomach acid?
All our probiotic bacteria are microencapsulated which means they are protected from the very acidic environment in the stomach. This enables them to pass through the stomach, and reach the intestines where they can start to improve the conditions for the microflora, thereby providing your pet with everyday wellness.
What is microencapsulation?
Microencapsulation is the process whereby the probiotic bacteria are enclosed by a protective coating during the manufacturing process. This allows the bacteria to remain dormant until they are ingested and ensures their viability throughout the entire shelf-life of all ProBiotic LIVE products.