Berta Corbera, Pharmacist and Nutritionist, discusses the role probiotics play on restoring our microbiota, and how our health can benefit from taking them.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria that can survive the acid environment of the stomach and increase the number of good bacteria in the gut.
They are incredibly useful to our body, producing vital vitamins that our bodies need and chemicals that remove pathogens from our gastrointestinal tract and can kill diarrhoea viruses. Our gut bacteria can, amongst other things, reduce inflammation, the risk of diabetes and heart disease, improve digestive issues so it is really important to know which probiotics help the gut bacteria to thrive.
What are probiotic supplments?
Probiotic supplements contain carefully selected strains of friendly bacteria.
Over 100 trillion bacteria make up the human microbiome in your digestive system. This delicate ecosystem can be disturbed by many things including illness, antibiotics and poor diet. Probiotic supplement formulas contain live bacteria to complement the gut flora naturally present in your gut.
It is important that the bacterial flora of the gut is healthy and diverse, as a balanced gut flora is strongly linked to good health. Different types of friendly bacteria have different impacts on the body. Bacteria have symbiotic relationships with each other, which boosts functions in complementary species. This is why it is important to choose a probiotic range that is multi-strain. Most probiotic dairy drinks only include 1 live bacterial strain which makes them considerably less effective.
Why are probiotics important for health?
Stress, poor sleep, viruses, antibiotics, eating on the go and erratic food consumption patterns can all put pressure on the gut. This can lead to bloating, discomfort and ultimately to poor nutrient absorption that in turn can mean we have lower energy. Probiotics increase the number of friendly bacteria in the gut and help to balance the number of bad bacteria present. These are some of the reasons why taking probiotics could be beneficial for you.
- The gut has a strong link to our brain and therefore an unhappy gut can greatly affect our mood and ability to function.
- Studies have shown strong effects on our immune system including reducing chronic inflammation and decreasing reactions to allergens in both the environment (like pollution) and food.
- They help our gut’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals, allowing the gut absorb more goodness from food.
- They reduce the growth of bad bacteria, including those that can cause tummy upsets.
- They act as a barrier to prevent other harmful bacteria from colonizing the intestines.
- They are able to modify the microbial flora through the synthesis of antimicrobial compounds.
Who can benefit from probiotics?
Any healthy person will benefit from probiotics, but there are some people for who probiotics are recommended.:
- Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Diarrhoea caused by a virus, bacteria or as a result of taking antobiotics
- Probiotics can be preventative, helping travelers avoid tummy upsets abroad
- Urinary tract infections, such as cystitis
- Infant colic
- Common cold and flu by helping to boost the body’s immune response
- Food intolerances and allergies
- Depression and anxiety: 90 % of the body’s seratonin is produced in the gut