No doubt you have heard about ‘friendly’ or commensal bacteria, the kind that are contained in yoghurt and other fermented foods, so you know that these bacteria or probiotics, which also colonize the gut, play an essential role in aiding digestion and helping the colon to work properly.
But did you know that these bacteria also help stimulate antibody production, synthesize essential nutrients such as Vitamin B12 and Vitamin K, and produce natural antibiotics? They also reduce inflammation in the gut, help intestinal lining cells to heal and can break down some cancer-causing substances. The human gut is colonized by hundreds of trillions of these bacteria, which are essential to the health of your entire body.
One of the features of gluten sensitivity is the breakdown in the balance between the friendly and potentially harmful bacteria in the gut, a situation known as dysbiosis. The onset of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity can occur at any age, so it is clear that CD has both a genetic component and an environmental trigger. Some scientists believe that the trigger could be an imbalance of the good and bad bacteria contained in the gut. One of the main factors that can depopulate the gut of its friendly bacteria is taking oral antibiotics, so it’s important to replace these bacteria with probiotics when taking antibiotics.
Some of these types of bacteria, such as B. infantis, contribute to protecting the body against unnecessary activation of the immune system when faced with pathogenic organisms. Probiotics also have anti-inflammatory properties and it has been hypothesized that taking probiotics, which favorably affect the composition of the intestinal microflora, could be a helpful strategy for those affected by gluten sensitivity.
Certain probiotic strains have been found to be protective against leakage between the tight junction cells which line the intestine. The tight junction cells are the main barrier to the passage of unwanted substances such as the gluten peptide gliadin. Once gaps appear between the tight junction cells, this exposes the body to toxins which can pass through the intestinal lining to the bloodstream and hence to the central nervous system. In laboratory experiments, a Bifidobacterium lactis strain was found to inhibit the increased intestinal permeability caused by gliadin.
Researchers used a mixture of several different probiotics to colonize the intestine and found that they extensively degraded gliadins. They concluded that a mixture of probiotic bacteria could reverse the permeability of the gut and prevent the passage of toxins such as gliadins into the bloodstream.
Probiotic strains derived from Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most commonly available. The bacteria must be alive when administered. They can be dried and put into capsules or tablets, or added as a culture to milk products where they multiply to produce fermented products such as yoghurt and kefir.
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria are considered to be safe in people with normal health, and have been used in clinical trials to treat pediatric disorders such as allergic disorders, enteric infectious diseases and intestinal inflammatory diseases. It is thought that probiotics may help to heal a leaky gut and could protect against cross-contamination exposure.