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What are probiotics?

GI Jake a type of good bacteria that lives in your gut – he is a bifido-bacterium.  The word bifido just means ‘split into two’ – you can see from the picture that GI Jake is shaped like a ‘Y’ and has two ears called ‘lobes’ – and bacterium just means a single bacteria!

If you look closely at the labels of dairy products of yoghurts, you will see that some of them have had probiotics added.  This means that good bacteria are added that, if you eat enough of them, they will be good for your health.  In fact, the word ‘probiotic’ means ‘for life’.

GI Jake - a bifidobacterium!

GI Jake is a probiotic – he helps to keep you gut healthy and fight off invaders!  He is also called a functional food - that just means that he gives you more goodness than normal vitamins and minerals.

Our friend GI Jake is one of about 700 different types of bacteria that live in your gut!  Altogether an adult has about 2 kilograms of bacteria in their gut – that’s like 2 full bags of sugar!  These bacteria are called commensal bacteria and they all work together to keep you healthy.  Commensal bacteria can:

  • destroy bad bacteria
  • break down harmful toxins from bacteria
  • slow down cells that are growing out of control
  • make vitamins like vitamin B12 and vitamin K 
  • stimulate your immune system
  • help you to digest your food 

Bacteria help you to take the nutrients from the food you eat and make waste with the leftovers that aren’t any use to you!

Scientists at the APC have found lots of different types of probiotics that live in humans and animals.  The APC scientists want to make probiotics work hard for mankind!  They are trying to use probiotics as medicines to treat gut problems like Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis (UC).  To find out more, visit:  http://apc.ucc.ie     

The best know probiotic bacteria are the lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus) and the Bifidobacteria, like GI Jake.  Lactic acid bacteria have been used in the food industry because they are used in the fermentation process.  This is the bacteria used to turn milk into yoghurt and cheeses, sour cream and crème fraîche.  Sometimes people will eat yoghurts that have probiotics in them if they have been sick.  When you are sick, your commensals, the good probiotic bacteria that normally live in your gut, may get damaged or killed in the fight to make you better.  Eating foods with lots of probiotics helps your body to get its full protection back. 


Probiotics have been shown to have benefits to your gut, but there are other things that scientists think they might do.  Scientists think some lactic acid bacteria (probiotics) may lower cholesterol or blood pressure and keep you heart healthy.  Other scientists think that they can prevent infections by using probiotics to control your immune system.  Probiotics could be used to make sure your body gets the most nutrients from the food you eat and APC scientists have shown that probiotics may actually prevent food poisoning! 

Find out more below


Article 1

Irish scientists report that a combination of five probiotic strains may reduce food poisoning by salmonella, if results of their pig study can be translated to humans.
By Stephen Daniells                                                                                         20/03/2007

"The administered probiotic bacteria improved both the clinical and microbiological outcome of Salmonella infection," wrote lead author, Pat Casey from University College Cork. "These strains offer significant benefit for use in the food industry and may have potential in human applications."

According to the European Commission, salmonella induced food poisoning costs the UK economy alone around €1.5 billion each year, with 160,000 cases reported annually Europe-wide. About 1.4 million Americans are estimated to suffer annually from salmonella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new research divided 15 weaned pigs and fed them milk supplemented with a mixture of five Lactobacillus probiotic strains (two strains of Lactobacillus murinus and one strain each of Lactobacillussalivarius subsp. salivarius, Lactobacillus pentosus, and Pediococcuspentosaceous) as a milk fermentate or a milk suspension, or placebo (regular milk) for 30 days.

After six days of the probiotics, the pigs were given an oral dose of Salmonella entericaserovar Typhimurium. The health and microbiology of the faeces were monitored for 23 days.


The pigs receiving probiotics showed reduced incidence, severity, and duration of diarrhoea as well as significantly lower numbers of Salmonella in faecal samples 15 days post-infection. Indeed, Salmonella populations rose from 3.51 to 3.68 log10 CFU/g for the control group between days 8 and 15, while numbers dropped from 3.03 to 1.4 log10 CFU/g, and 2.04 and1.42 log10 CFU/g for the probiotic suspension and fermentate, respectively, reported the researchers in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

The probiotic milk groups also gained, on average, 134 grams per day more in weight than the control pigs, they said.

Probiotic products containing 'friendly' bacteria are now well accepted by consumers in many European countries, with putative benefits highlighted for gut and immune health.

The benefits for gut health have been reported to be due to the probiotic bacteria adhering to the walls of the intestine, which inhibits the ability of the pathogenic Salmonella to stick and colonise the gut, thereby reducing the infection.

"This [study] demonstrates the validity of using commensal Lactobacillus strains in the prevention of gastrointestinal infection and underlines the usefulness of the in vitro and in vivo procedures used to isolate and select the bacteria," concluded the researchers.

Dr. Casey told NutraIngredients.com that the research is ongoing, with "the current emphasis being on methods of preserving and administering the cultures - freeze drying etc."

Applied & Environmental Microbiology; Vol. 73, (6), Pages 1858-1863 - P.G. Casey et al

"A five-strain probiotic combination reduces pathogen shedding and alleviates disease signs in pigs challenged with Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium."


To read the full scientific article press here


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