Probiotics: Say Hello To Your Little Friends – PART 1

The unaided human eye can see only a limited portion of the universe around us. Telescopes and microscopes have given us the ability to see beyond the scale visible to the unaided human eye. There are things that are much bigger than us and there are things that are much smaller than us. We live on earth. One planet in the universe. The number of stars in the universe could be as high as 300 sextillion, 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, and the number of planets in the universe is countless.[1] Telescopes have allowed us to explore things on this scale. Likewise, there are things much that are smaller than us and microscopes have allowed us to explore things on this scale. The following diagram shows the relative sizes of things[2]:

Bacteria are smaller than the unaided human eye can see. The smallest the unaided human eye can see is 10^-4 meters. The diameter of a human hair is a little smaller than this. The diameter of a bacteria is more than 10 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. This is much smaller than the unaided human eye can see. However these tiny creatures have had a huge influence on the human experience.

The first person to see and describe bacteria was Anton Van Leeuwenhoek. When he was an apprentice in a dry food store he observed drapers using magnifying glasses to inspect the quality of cloth. He developed a new method of creating tiny lenses of great curvature. His lenses gave magnifications up to 270 times. His lenses were the finest known at this time. He studied a wide range of microscopic phenomenon and began sending his observations to the Royal Society of England.

His observations were initially welcomed by the Royal Society of England, however, in 1676 his credibly was thrown into question after he sent them a copy of his observations of single-celled organisms. Prior to this single-celled organisms were entirely unknown. With his lenses he was able to see what no one before him had seen before, tiny living organisms. Although the Royal Society of England was skeptical they eventually arranged for a team of respected journalists and doctors to determine whether Van Leeuwenhoek had lost his mind or the known scientific theories of life itself needed to be reformed. Finally in 1680, Van Leeuwenhoek’s observations were fully vindicated and he was appointed as a fellow of the Royal Society. [3][4]

Many years passed before it was shown that microorganisms could caused disease. Prior to acceptance of Germ Theory, it was believed that disease spontaneously generated. There were many people that felt that such tiny organisms could not possibly kill larger ones such as humans.

The person that is credited with proving the Germ Theory is Louis Pasteur. Pasteur was a French chemistry professor. Early in his career he worked with wine growers to resolve a problem with their wine souring. Through a series of experiments we proved micro-organisms were causing the souring of the wine, and that the organisms could be removed by boiling the wine. This process is now called pasteurization, named after him. He then undertook experiments to find where these bacteria came from, and was able to prove that they were introduced from the environment. In 1864, French Academy of Sciences accepted Pasteur’s results and in 1865 he was made the the director of scientific studies at École Normale.

The Germ Theory was the foundation of numerous applications. Pasteur intuited that if germs were the cause of the souring of the wine, they could just as well be the cause of contagious diseases. This proved to be true for many diseases including pneumonia, anthrax, cholera, and tuberculosis. Pasteur fought to convince surgeons that germs existed and carried diseases, and dirty instruments and hands spread germs and therefore disease. Also, after studying the characteristics of germs and viruses that caused diseases. He and others found that laboratory manipulations of the infectious agents can be used to immunize people and animals. His work protected millions of people from disease through vaccination and pasteurization. Pasteur died in1895. He was a national hero and was given a state funeral.[5][6][7]

There was a movie made about Louis Pasteur.

Check out the trailer: The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) Trailer

For many years hygienic practices and vaccinations were human’s only methods for avoiding becoming ill due to micro-organisms. However, the series of events that would change this began on the morning of September 3, 1928. In WWI Alexander Fleming had served as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Having witnessed the death of many soldiers from sepsis resulting from infected wounds, Fleming began searching for anti-bacterial agents. He accidentally discovered penicillin while investigating the properties of a bacteria named staphylococci. On September 3, 1928 Fleming returned to his laboratory from a having spent August with his family. Prior to leaving he had stacked his cultures of staphylococci on a bench in a corner of his lab. After a month of sitting, one of the cultures was contaminated with a fungus. Fleming noticed that the colonies of staphylococci that had immediately surrounded the fungus had been destroyed, whereas other colonies further away were normal. Fleming grew the mold in a pure culture and found that it produced a substance that killed a number of disease-causing bacteria. In 1929, Fleming published his discovery in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology.

Little attention was paid to Fleming’s article. Fleming continued his investigations, however, he had become convinced that penicillin would not last long enough in the human body to kill bacteria effectively. Many clinical tests were inconclusive. Fleming continued to investigate until 1940 when he finally abandoned penicillin. Not long after a team at Oxford worked out a method to isolate and concentrate penicillin. The first method for creating an effective stable form of penicillin was developed in 1940. Several clinical trials were done and their amazing success inspired the team to develop a method to mass produce and distribute penicillin in 1945. Penicillin production was quickly scaled up and available in enough of a quantity to treat all of the Allied soldiers wounded on D-Day.[8] [9] Antibiotics were a medical revolution that has improved and saved countless lives. With the discover of antibiotics we could finally kill the micro-organisms that were making us ill. Illnesses that had once been life threatening could now be effectively treated.

However, this story of human triumph has a twist. While some types of bacteria can causes illness in a host human, some types of bacteria play an important role in both human digestive health and human immune system health. The person to first suggest that there are bacteria that play a positive role in human health was a Russian scientist working in the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Élie Metchnikoff was interested in the immune system. In 1908, he received a Nobel Prize for identifying the process of phagocytosis. Phagocytes, white blood cells, ingest and destroy things harmful to the body. White blood cells protect the body by ingesting harmful foreign particles, bacteria and dead or dying cells.

In his work, Metchnikoff also discovered that the process of digestion in micro-organisms is the same as that carried out by white blood cells. He theorized that diets rich in fermented foods, most notably yogurt, contained friendly bacteria and this friendly bacteria was important to human health. He predicted that beneficial bacteria could be far more important to human health than disease causing bacteria.  He spent the last ten years of his life studying lactic acid-producing bacteria as a means of increasing life span.[10]

As it turns out, some types of bacteria are the cause of disease, some types of bacteria do not affect us at all, and some types of bacteria are highly beneficial to our health. We in effect have a symbiotic relationship with some types of bacteria. There are many examples of animals having cooperating to survive.  The following video shows the symbiotic relationship of giraffes and oxpeckers.

Check it out: Top 10 Odd Animal Couples: The Giraffe’s Oxpecker

Even though we can not see bacteria, we cooperate with bacteria to survive.  Bacteria has been a part of our environment since the beginning of mankind. Bacteria lives on all of the outer surfaces of our body, and some bacteria strains have positive affects on our health. Antibiotics have disrupted this relationship both in a way that is beneficial to humans and in a way this is harmful to humans. Antibiotics have given us the ability kill harmful bacteria, but they also kill beneficial bacteria. If beneficial bacteria strains are absent or lacking in your body, the absence of these bacteria will negatively affect your health. Through probiotics you can add beneficial bacteria to this ecosystem that lives on the outer surfaces of your body.  These little friends will be your partners in creating excellent health.


~ by happydeviant on January 12, 2011.

One Response to “Probiotics: Say Hello To Your Little Friends – PART 1”

  1. I LOVE probiotics! If I go a week without them i can feel a difference. Its incredible, what your body can do when you are supporting the digestive system.

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