The gastrointestinal tract represents the most extensive interface between the human organism and the external environment. The human gastrointestinal tract is colonized by a complex ecosystem of microorganisms, where microbiota, nutrients, and host cells interact extensively, a process crucial for the gut homeostasis and host development with a real partnership. The various bacterial communities that make up the gut microbiota have many functions, including metabolic, barrier effect, and trophic functions. The relation between the gut microbiota and human health is increasingly recognized. It is now well established that healthy gut flora is mainly responsible for the overall health of the host.
The human gut hosts an enormous number of microorganisms whose composition affects the epithelial barrier functions and the gut immune system. Prebiotics and probiotics exert beneficial effects by modulating gut microbiota and the immune system.
Many clinical studies have proven the effectiveness of probiotics for treating diseases such as obesity, insulin resistance syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Furthermore, the positive effects of probiotics on human health have been demonstrated by increasing immunity. Scientific reports also show the benefits of the prophylactic use of probiotics in different types of cancer and side effects associated with cancer.
Molecular and genetic studies allowed the determination of the basics of probiotics’ beneficial effect, involving these mechanisms:
(1)Antagonism through the production of antimicrobial substances;
(2)Competition with pathogens for adhesion to the epithelium and nutrients;
(3) Increasing the activity of macrophages or natural killer cells;
(4) Modulating the secretion of immunoglobulins or cytokines;
(5)Altering the mucus secretion;
(6)Inhibition of bacterial toxin production.
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