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Local strains for local diets
Published:  Sep 2, 2015 5:00 PM
Updated: Sep 9, 2015 7:09 AM

Better gut protection from locally derived probiotics in Lacto-5

It is interesting to note that there are more bacteria in our gut than there are stars in the universe. While it is common knowledge that our body harbours many different types of bacteria, the same could not be said about probiotics.

“Probiotics are good bacteria that reside within the gut,” says natural health advocate and columnist Dato’ Dr Rajen M. However, they have not always been there, as we are not born with them. As Dr Rajen explains, “When we were born, our gut was sterile.”

Where do they come from?

Before ending up in our gut, these good bacteria are acquired from our environment starting from the birth process all through our growing and living years. According to Dr Rajen, the first probiotics come from the birth canal and the mother’s nipples.

As we grow, the good bacteria are picked up from our surrounding and food – basically everything we touch and consume – and over time, these will build up to be a colony of bacteria that is synergistic with our system.

Outside the gut, the bacteria exist on the skin, nose, and mouth. Dr Rajen explains that they thrive anywhere in the body where there is a close interface with a living part of the body.

Maintaining the balance

Probiotics make up 10-15% of the bacteria in our gut, and they help to keep the balance in the ecosystem. Ideally, the balance can be maintained naturally, but as Dr Rajen puts it, we live in a modern world where we take antibiotics, chlorine and sugary drink, among others, that make other bacteria thrive and upset the balance.

The consequences of not maintaining the balance can be seen both immediately and in the long term. The immediate effect can be quite obvious, where we could have an upset stomach, constipation or diarrhoea. In the long run, it could affect our immune system and we could be prone to allergies and infections.


“They’re obviously put there by nature over time from birth and have evolved with us, grown with us, and as a result play a myriad of different functions: from just digestion, immunity, cleansing, detoxification, preventing disease, and basically guarding the gut.”

“We also know they help digest food, they ferment and cause the production of certain amino acids, they break down vitamins,” Dr Rajen says about the functions of the probiotics.

Interestingly, Dr Rajen notes that we probably know what is happening in the universe more than what is happening in our gut. This could mean that there may be other functions served by these probiotics in addition to what we already know.

Good bacteria beyond natural food

Probiotics is not only found in natural food. As Dr Rajen previously mentioned, our modern life in a less than pristine environment has resulted in our intakes of antibiotics and other substances that inhibit probiotics. Due to this, there is a need for probiotics in dietary supplements.

Dr Rajen says that although some might argue that they do not need probiotics, he contends that it is not possible unless we live in a pristine environment and take pristine food. The food we take affect the gut bacteria, hence the need for probiotics in supplements.

Are they viable?

While supplements may provide a convenient way of getting probiotics to ensure gut health, there is a concern about whether these probiotics can actually survive and thrive. Dr Rajen points out that although there is a focus on CFU – colony-forming units – there is no analysis on how many of them are actually alive.

Another concern is how probiotics from foreign countries could thrive in our gut. Thirty to 40 years ago, the notion of having probiotics imported from Europe, Australia, Canada, Finland, or Japan was conceived.

However, Dr Rajen says the idea is not a viable one, as local probiotics are better adapted to our diets. The different mix of food that we take could be detrimental to the foreign probiotics, he says, for example, food with preservatives or high intake of sugar would kill gut bacteria.

“The whole trick with probiotics is that you want them to survive in your gut. It’s not like other supplements where they’re digested and thrown away.” Dr Rajen says that the good bacteria must enter the stomach environment where they must be kept alive in order to perform their functions.


In view of the viability of local probiotics that are better suited to our local diets, Holista Colltech, in collaboration with Melaka Biotech, has developed Lacto-5 as a supplement. Since the local strains adapt better to our diets, they could provide optimum protection to our intestines.

Employing the same technology used in sperm banks, the locally derived probiotics are lyophilised, which allows them to be kept suspended without refrigeration until they are brought back to life in the right environment.

The local strains of probiotics in Lacto-5 are suspended at the time of consumption and come alive upon entering the intestines, where they would thrive and perform their functions.

According to Dr Rajen, studies have been carried out in collaboration with a biotech company in India to prove that the local probiotics can actually survive, ferment, multiply and eventually passed in the stools – alive and active – proving that the probiotics taken do not end up as dead bacteria.

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