Lactobacillus casei, more commonly referred to as L. casei, is a harmless, nonpathogenic microorganism that has been widely recognized for the attributes and properties it possesses that have been found to be beneficial to the human body. L. casei is a type of bacteria that helps protect the human body from disease and illness by restricting the growth of various types of harmful bacteria that cause infection and be detrimental to an individual's health. According to the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations probiotics are "live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host."(1) Because of the benefits L. casei offers it is typically categorized as a probiotic.
Lactobacillus casei is a beneficial bacteria that is found naturally in both the mouth and intestines of human beings. It produces lactic acid which helps lower pH levels in the digestive system and impedes the growth of harmful bacteria. L. casei may be found in "raw or fermented dairy and fresh or fermented plant products."(2) These sources may include yogurt, cheese, and other types of food sources such as fermented green olives.(3) According to some reports, "Scientists have found [Lactobacillus casei] to possess beneficial properties that support human health. It is able to improve and promote digestion. Some strains of the bacteria help control diarrhea, while other strains have an anti-inflammatory effect on the gut. Other advantageous effects include reducing lactose intolerance, alleviating constipation, and even modulation of the immune system."(3) Because "friendly bacteria are vital to proper development of the immune system, to protection against microorganisms that could cause disease, and to the digestion and absorption of food and nutrients"(1) ensuring that the body has an appropriate amount of L. casei inhabiting the body is important. This may especially true for individuals suffering from Crohn's disease and critically ill children suffering from diarrhea.
Crohn's disease is a type of IBD and can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), but the area of the GIT most commonly affected by Crohn's disease is the color or small intestine.(5) The symptoms of Crohn's disease generally include abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and vomiting. When an individuals has Crohn's disease their body reacts inappropriately to good bacteria for harmful bacteria and the body begins to attack the good bacteria. When this occurs "the body sends white blood cells into the lining of the intestines, where they produce chronic inflammation. These cells then generate harmful products that ultimately lead to ulcerations and bowel injury."(5) This process leads to Crohn's disease.
Doctors understand that "the interaction of commensal bacteria with the intestinal immune system is an essential factor in the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)."(4) Therefore, a study was conducted to determine if Lactobacillus casei had any affect on the symptoms of Crohn's disease. The conclusions of the study indicate that "live L. casei can counteract the pro-inflammatory effects of E. coli on [Crohn's disease]."(4)
Diarrhea in Critically Ill Children
According to a 2006 study, "there is increasing evidence that probiotics decrease the incidence of acute infectious and nosocomial and antibiotic induced diarrhea among children hospitalized in non-intensive care settings."(6) Furthermore, "L. casei has been used safely and with positive effects for when given to critically ill children suffering form diarrhea."(6)
Lactobacillus casei is described as a "beneficial microorganism [that] helps to promote other beneficial bacteria [growth] and prevents the overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria in the human body. In particular it helps with the growth of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, which can help prevent conditions such as constipation and irritable bowel syndrome."(6)
(1) An Introduction to Probiotics, published by the National Center fro Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 2008.
(2) Lactobacillus Casei ATTC 334, published by the DOE Joint Genome Institute, United States Department of Energy, unknown.
(3) Lactobacillus Casei, published by Citizendium, The Citizens' Compendium, 2009.
(4) Lactobacillus Casei Downregulates Commensals' Inflammatory Signals in Crohn's Disease Mucosa, published in inflammatory Bowel Diseases, Wiley InterScience, 2008.
(5) About Crohn's Disease, published by Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America, 2009.
(6) Underwood, C. (unknown). What is Lactobacillus Casei? Published by eHOw.
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