A healthy balanced diet and probiotics are key factors for preserving gastrointestinal health. The benefits of the second have been known for a long time, although the underlying mechanisms behind the action were not totally clear. This was one of the main topics debated during the Gut Microbiota for Health Summit, held in Miami (USA) on March 8-9, 2014. Leading experts discussed the latest studies related to gut microbiota, which are providing more and more knowledge that sheds light on both the effects of our daily food on the gut flora and its impact on our health.

“Diet is a central issue when it comes to preserving our gastrointestinal health, because by eating and digesting, we literally feed our gut microbiota, and thus influence its diversity and composition” Spanish professor Francisco Guarner, from University Hospital Vall d’Hebron, in Barcelona, pointed out.

A high intake of animal fats, greasy and fried food can disturb our gut microbiota balance, which may result in a significant number of health problems, from bowel diseases to allergies. In order to maintain healthy gut flora, doctors recommend a diet rich in fiber (vegetables, salads and fruits), as well as fermented dairy products containing probiotics.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), probiotics are live organisms which, when ingested in adequate amounts, bring healthy effects to the host. “The crucial challenge is to clearly determine which organisms are beneficial and exert a preventive or therapeutic effect. And for those that can duly be termed ‘probiotics’, the range of applications has to be defined more precisely than has been done so far,” explains Professor Guarner.

The role of probiotics in maintaining digestive health is crucial: they strengthen the immune system by stimulating immune mechanisms inside and outside the gut. In addition, they help to regulate the gut motility and have anti-inflammatory properties. They also improve the gut’s microbial balance and preserve its stability and diversity. Important steps have already been taken to determine which microorganisms are beneficial and have a preventive or therapeutic effect. And this is very good news!