Probiotics – Good and Friendly Bacteria Anyone?
We all want our gut to be happy and for it to do its business – digest food.
After all, promoting gut health – our individual identity card as two-thirds of it is specific to each and every one of us – is to our benefit.
That’s because the human body – mainly in its digestive track – houses most of our microbiota, a colony of microorganisms that outnumbers our own cells by 10 to 1, and plays a crucial role in our general health.
Some of these microbes are pathogenic and can harm us, but most of them are either commensal having no know negative or positive affect, or are probiotics, meaning that they benefit us.
So it is essential for our health that we have a balanced, healthy and strong human microbiome.
Including probiotics – often referred to as “live bacteria” or “good” or “friendly” bacteria – in our diet is one way to help ensure this, as it important to host a favorable gut environment for our collection of microorganisms.
It is worth noting that we “don’t necessarily need probiotics” to be “healthy,” according to the Mayo Clinic in the U.S.
“However,” they argue, that “these microorganisms may help with digestion and offer protection from harmful bacteria, just as the existing “good” bacteria in your body already do.”
More conclusive research is needed but probiotics may have far reaching affects in terms of our health, benefiting everything from our absorption of nutrients, to our immune system, mental health, body composition and detoxification.
An imbalance of beneficial to non-beneficial gut flora has been linked to many different ailments and diseases including obesity, autism, depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, food intolerances, allergies, eczema, recurrent and chronic infections, and the list goes on.
An estimated 10,000 different species of bacteria occupy “just about every part of the human body, living on the skin, in the gut, and up the nose,” according to National Institutes of Health, the U.S. medical research agency.
Researchers at Tufts University in Boston say our personal collection of “bacterial friends” can add “up to three percent of your body mass” so “it’s as hefty as a teacup Yorkie.”
This is still relatively new science, especially when it comes to understanding the intricate balance between these thousands of different species and how they work together and with us.
For this reason, probiotics are best taken how they come in nature, via fermented foods including:
Opt for sheep’s or coconut, as better tolerance than cow’s milk for most people.
• Live unpasteurised miso, fermented bean and/or grain paste
Great to use in salad dressings.
A fermented probiotic drink made by fermenting tea, which tastes a bit like cider!
• Raw sauerkraut, fermented white cabbage
If you are suffering from a particular health issue, there is good research showing probiotics may help with specific conditions.
Here are some examples:
For eczema, a number of studies have shown that the following Lactobacillus strains L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri had a positive effect on relieving symptoms.
Hayfever allergy to birch pollen has shown to be improved by a combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis.
Recurrent cystitis (UTIs), vaginal infections and thrush have been helped by L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri.
Saccharomyces Boulardii has been shown to help with diarrhea both brought on by travelling and antibiotic courses.
In animal studies, Bifidobacterium Infantis, is showing potential to help alleviate depression.
Probiotic supplements found on the market can also be useful with gastro-intestinal issues such as IBS or IBD. However, it is important to investigate in these cases any underlying cause of microbiome imbalance via functional testing to get the best results.
Taking a supplement course of usually three to six months can help to colonise and to shift the balance back to a place of optimal function.
When taking probiotic supplements orally, it is wise to make sure that you are getting an adequate dose and that the probiotics are making it through the digestive tract to the area where they are needed (usually the large intestine) without being destroyed.
Supplement manufacturers have a number of tactics to do this. Enteric capsules protect the probiotic contents whilst it goes through the stomach and small intestine.
High dosages (above 10 billion) mean that enough survive to make a difference.
Alternatively, the probiotics can be dissolved in water so the liquid is flushed through the digestive tract to the large intestine quickly avoiding degradation.
You must also check how to store your probiotics. Many of them need to be refrigerated to keep them fresh and alive.
There are hundreds if not the thousands of different probiotic supplements now in stores and this sector is now big business.
This year, the global market for probiotics is projected to be worth $28.8 billion.
However, it’s important to remember that they have varying strains, dosage, method of delivery and quality.
It is also vital that you do your research or get professional advice first in order to make the best choice and get the best results.