Living micro-organisms helping human beings- Probiotics are really making a buzz.
Probiotics, they’re trend-setters!
Doctors are prescribing a growing number of probiotics, in addition to conventional allopathic treatments, to the general public. Also, a look into the agri-food industry reveals that some, mostly dairy, brands have already started advertising probiotic on products, often leaving out any details as to what they actually are.
In professional contexts, probiotics are being widely used in aquaculture and agriculture, in cattle farming for example.
But what are probiotics, really?
Bacteria: you eat them every day! While it’s less and less the case, big brands aren’t exactly telling it on the mountain about what really constitutes probiotics. But, why? It probably has something to do with protecting consumers from unreasonable panic about their origins. Really, no need to panic; we’ll explain.
Brace yourself: probiotics are nothing more, nothing less than micro-organisms: bacteria, yeast, fungi, etc. Since they are largely still associated with dirtiness, sickness, and rot, most of us aren’t necessarily ready to stomach such information, much less ask for seconds!
However, and you might already know it: you do eat bacteria every day because, for one, they are needed to produce bread and dairy products, and two, they play an important role in our survival(1).
They often come up in conversations about wastewater biotreatment, but a probiotic cure- be it prescribed or naturally present in the food you eat- is in itself a biotreatment too: essentially, we are “treating” the environment with the intervention of living things and that environment can be pipes, your digestive tract, etc.
Why are they useful?
Once we have accepted the idea that eating micro-organisms is totally “normal,” we can take an inside-look at just how probiotics work.
It’s a simple principle: micro-organisms are naturally present in all environments. They make up what’s called, “bacterial flora,” and their job is to maintain balance. However, this balance can be upset or get attacked by harmful substances (an overload of antibiotics, viruses, or accidental or temporary excesses of organic matter). If the army of bacterial flora can no longer maintain the necessary balance, it needs reinforcements: probiotics are the back-up troops that help take down destructive intruders and hold the “fort” up against attack (preventative) or restore healthy balance to an environment (curative).
We can define probiotics as living micro-organisms used by living beings for benefits other and far beyond simple nutritional value.
The Special Forces, probiotics, are not just any old micro-organisms: bacterial strains are selected as probiotics for their safe use, and certainly for their performance in targeting an environment’s unique need for balance restoration, such as in gut or vaginal flora post-antibiotic-treatments.
What does a cow and shrimp have in common?
In fact, they have two points in common. Firstly, properly prepared, both are positively delicious. (Ok, we admit this one might be a bit biased).
Secondly, depending on the farming practices used, both of them have most likely consumed probiotics.
In aquaculture, probiotics are used in shrimp farming to enhance digestive development, therefore growth, and to increase resistance to pathogens. VIVAGROTWH®, our aquaculture biotreatment, specializes in warding off devastating pathogenic Vibrio species, breeders’ real pet peeves.
In agriculture, probiotic solutions are becoming increasingly more developed so that in cattle breeding, returns can increase through improved animal growth and health.
Here are three distinct ways in which probiotics fight off pathogens:
- Through inhibitory effects,
- Through predation,
- Through quorum sensing (a naturally-occurring phenomenon that researchers are delving into very seriously): some pathogenic bacteria would “feel” the presence of their “enemies” and “choose” not to enter the environment.
“Go take your lessons from nature; this is where our future lies.”– Leonardo da Vinci
For better or worse, humans are good at coming up with inventions. Human beings have already drastically altered our planet’s morphology, chemistry, and biology: the Anthropocene era, a new geological era — our era – began when human activities significantly impacted the worldwide eco-system.
But the exploration of living species and the gems it uncovers is a promise for healthier progress, one that is in-line with respecting the earth and all its inhabitants.
(1) Read it again on HTS’Mag « You are host to 10000 billion bacteria! »