ENCAPSULATION OF PROBIOTICS : Balancing the bacteria flora in your gut

Let’s start simple. Have you ever thought about the fact that you host between one to two kilos of hundreds of different species of bacteria inside your intestines? How’s that for a lot of company? Actually this entity of bacteria forms your intestinal flora and is composed of probiotic, or so-called ‘pro-life’ bacteria, along with pathogenic (or potentially harmful) bacteria. Both types of bacteria together help keep ourselves healthy when their presence is equilibrated, or balanced -- as most things in life are, by the way!

For instance, colon cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s have been attributed in part to changes in certain bacterial populations within the gut. But why are there such changes? These little hosts do not live endlessly, and once external factors knock them down, such as when you take antibiotics, how do we restore this very much important equilibrium? A good answer would be by ‘somehow’ ingesting helpful bacteria and hoping that they will arrive safely to their action site, and eventually perpetuate there.

Let’s suppose you chose then to consume non-encapsulated probiotic bacteria for your health. In this case you will need to ingest tons of bacteria to get very few that are still viable. The reason lies behind the extreme conditions these bacteria will go through -- the acid conditions of your stomach, for example -- before a safe arrival into the target site. My PhD explores the crucial issue of how to get helpful bacteria to the gut without destroying it on the way. What about encapsulating viable probiotic bacteria into edible micro-sized materials and further adding these materials into delicious food? Wouldn’t you rather pleasure your senses by eating deliciousness and at the same time reestablishing the equilibrium of your flora? Yes, yes, yes, I would definitely prefer this option!

That’s why I am researching this issue. I am Fernanda Haffner, a PhD student working in the SRSMC laboratory of the University of Lorraine. My project is funded by the Marie Curie Actions under the people’s program of the European Union’s Seventh Framework.

Text by Fernanda Haffner

Illustration by Emilie Schmidt