Nestlé, the Swiss company known for its chocolate, has just released a new probiotic infant formula.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria (sometimes referred to as "friendly germs") that help to maintain the health of the intestinal tract and aid in digestion. They also help keep potentially harmful organisms in the gut (harmful bacteria and yeasts) under control. Most probiotics come from food sources, especially cultured milk products. Probiotics can be consumed as capsules, tablets, beverages, powders, yogurts and other foods.
Nestlé's Good Start® Natural Cultures contains probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis. The company reports that the Bifidobacterium lactis in its formula helps children improve the balance of microflora in their gastrointestinal tract, thereby supporting a healthy immune system.
Nestlé claims that bifidobacteria are naturally transmitted to babies via their mothers' breast milk. In formula-fed infants, the presence of probiotics is significantly lower than in breastfed infants. Nestlé noted that breastfeeding is still the best way to provide nutrition to an infant.
Nestlé reports that is has been selling B. lactis formulas in 30 different countries for more than 15 years, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only now authorized the use of B. lactis in Good Start® Natural Cultures.
Probiotics work by colonizing the small intestine and crowding out disease-causing organisms, thereby restoring proper balance to the intestinal flora. They compete with harmful organisms for nutrients and may also produce substances that inhibit growth of harmful organisms in the gut.
Probiotic bacteria have been found to stimulate the body's immune system. They may also aid in several gastrointestinal illnesses such as inflammatory bowel diseases, antibiotic-related diarrhea, Clostridium difficile toxin-induced colitis, infectious diarrhea, hepatic encephalopathy, irritable bowel syndrome and allergy.
Probiotics have been found to enhance the digestion and absorption of proteins, fats, calcium and phosphorus. They may help overcome lactose intolerance. Finally they may help restore healthful bacteria after a course of antibiotic therapy has altered the normal gastrointestinal flora.
Probiotics are generally regarded as safe for human consumption. Long-term consumption of probiotics is considered safe and well tolerated. Some people experience excessive production of gas due to the corrective activity of probiotics in the colon. This is patient-specific and normally will decrease with use. Gradual increase of dosing over time is recommended to minimize this. Probiotics are contraindicated in people who are hypersensitive to any component of a probiotic-containing product. Lactose-sensitive people may develop abdominal discomfort from dairy products containing probiotics. Caution is advised when using probiotics in neonates born prematurely or with immune deficiency.