The role of diet in health and well-being has changed as the science of nutrition has evolved. The primary role of diet is to provide the energy needed to meet the requirements of metabolism. Research is being directed toward improving our understanding of specific physiologic effects of the diet beyond its nutritional effect and how the activities that happen in our gut impact our health. The new field of functional food evaluates the potential of the diet to promote health and well-being and to reduce the risk of diseases. A food can be defined as functional if it is shown to beneficially affect one or more target functions in the body beyond adequate nutritional effects in a way that is relevant to either the state of well-being and health, or to a reduction in disease incidence.
The Western diet includes few fresh nutritional components. It is a diet that consists of packaged foods, junk foods, and foods that contain a lot of sugar, salt, and chemicals. While this definition may not surprise you, the fact that hundreds of nutritionists, specialists, and general journalists around the globe are now using this term may shock you.
Why? As it stands, the rest of the globe currently recognizes the fact that Westerners do not follow a healthy diet. Instead, Westerners are viewed as a good example of a diet that shouldn’t be followed. Such a diet may deprive the immune system of important nutrients. The Western Diet causes anti-inflammatory processes promoted by specific microbes and external antioxidants provided by fresh fruit and vegetables.
Inflammation is accompanied by an imbalance in the intestinal microflora and a strong inflammatory response may attack gut bacteria, leading to perpetuation of the inflammation. To balance these gut bacteria we may use oral probiotics to attempt to halt the vicious circle in normalizing the gut activity. The targets for probiotic therapy are thus identified as clinical conditions that impact the gut barrier function, particularly infectious and inflammatory diseases.
The complex ecosystem of the adult intestinal microflora is estimated to harbor about 500 different bacterial species. Some of these bacteria are considered potentially harmful because of their abilities of toxin production, mucosal invasion, or activation of carcinogens and inflammatory responses. The strains with health-promoting properties principally include bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.
Bifidobacteria species are probiotics (“good” bacteria) that live in the intestines. They may help with diarrhea, constipation, and other intestinal disorders. “Good” bacteria such as bifidobacteria can help break down food, absorb nutrients, and fight off “bad” organisms that might cause diseases. Bifidobacteria are commonly used for diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). They’re also used for preventing the common cold or flu, and lots of other conditions.
Lactobacillus is a type of “friendly” bacteria. It lives in your body but doesn’t cause disease. You can also get it in food and supplements. Many studies show that lactobacillus may help prevent infections. For example, it may help prevent lung infections in children in daycare centers. It also may help treat or prevent vaginal infections caused by bacteria.
Probiotics can help stabilize the gut microbial environment and the intestine’s permeability barrier. The probiotic approach, ie, therapeutically consuming beneficial microorganism cultures of the healthy human microflora, holds great promise for the prevention and treatment of many gut health conditions associated with impaired gut functions and sustained inflammatory responses.