when bacteria help each other
One of the reasons why probiotics are effective, is because they can produce substances that gut bacteria (commensals) need to grow or to produce metabolites that positively affect our health. This mechanism is called ‘cross-feeding’.
Bacteria can help each other
One of the reasons why probiotics, especially multispecies, are more effective, is because bacteria can ‘help’ each other. This happens when one bacterial strain produces metabolites that another strains needs in order to either grow or produce other important metabolites. This process is called ‘cross-feeding’. A well-known example of cross-feeding is when a cow eats grass and produces dung, which a dung beetle then feeds on. In our gut, cross-feeding happens when bacteria, such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, break down prebiotic fibers, such as inulin and FOS, into lactate and acetate. These metabolites are then used by the gut bacterium Eubacterium halli – which is unable to break down inulin and FOS – to produce butyrate.
The mechanism of cross-feeding
Winclove’s bacteria and cross-feeding
Since cross-feeding is such an important mechanism, it is exciting that scientific research has shown that cross-feeding also happens with Winclove’s own bacteria, especially when combined with a prebiotic fiber. In a recent study, researchers found that Lactobacillus paracasei W20 was able to metabolize short-chain inulin (a prebiotic fiber) into FOS and energy substrates, which were subsequently used by Lactobacillus salivarius W57, stimulating its growth(1). These findings contribute to the idea of a multispecies probiotic or synbiotic (probiotic combined with prebiotics) being the most effective, because of the synergy between all ingredients.
1) Boger, M. C., van Bueren, A. L., & Dijkhuizen, L. (2018). Cross-feeding amongst probiotic bacterial strains on prebiotic inulin involving the extracellular exo-inulinase of Lactobacillus paracasei strain W20. Appl. Environ. Microbiol., AEM-01539
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