What are Probiotics?
Every now and again a new ‘superfood’ or ‘must have’ supplement is heralded through the media with celebrities claiming they can’t live without it.
Probiotics are one such supplement that has been on the shelf in our supermarkets for a while now. Mainly in fruit yoghurts and flavoured drinks. These are products that manufacturers claim to contain 'live bacteria' Unfortunately they also contain a lot of sugar.
So if you think that these Probiotics are unnecessary, take note! As a healthy person you are already host to over 100 million micro-organisms living in your intestinal tract aiding digestion, the production of B vitamins and beneficial enzymes.
Probiotics have become part of the normal weekly shop for many and for good reason.
In a nutshell - Probiotics are live bacteria (micro-organisms) that normally inhabit the digestive tract. If anything upsets the balance when taken in sufficient quantities it can alter the micro-flora of a host’s gut. Then you can be unwell.
Why would you want to alter the micro-flora of your gut?
One reason could be when you’re taking or have taken a course of antibiotics. It is well known that as well as killing the 'bad' bacteria that have caused the initial problem, antibiotics also kill off the ‘good’ bacteria that live in the gut naturally. Even worse, when the good bacteria are killed off the 'bad' bacteria flourish and dominate through overpopulation.
The balance is then out of kilter and can lead to further health problems needing more antibiotics and so it becomes a vicious circle. If you do take antibiotics it’s a good idea to also take a Vitamin C supplement as well to help build immunity.
Avoid Holiday Tummy!
Another good reason to take Probiotics is when you are travelling to another country. By taking a course before and during your trip you will lessen any digestive problems such as diarrhoea that could arise and could seriously spoil your trip.
Are there any other conditions that Probiotics could help?
Different strains help different conditions but Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum are the most common probiotics available and have been known to help the following conditions:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Lactose intolerance
- Those on a low fat diet
- Immunity problems resulting in continual infections
- Gastro-intestinal problems
Other benefits to health when taking a Probiotic:
- Increased resistance to infectious diseases
- Reduction in blood pressure
- Reduction is LDL cholesterol
- May modulate the immune response when taking vaccinations
- Reduces allergies to foods
- Helpful due to ageing which causes the decline of beneficial bacteria If there are changes to Acid/Alkaline balance which can affect beneficial bacteria
- If you are a meat eater then you are most certainly ingesting antibiotics (more than is relevant).
- Improved absorption of nutrients and B Vitamins
How can you access these ‘wonder bugs’?
Well, firstly taking them in drinks and yogurts full of sugar and flavourings is not the best way. In addition the amounts in commercial products are probably not high enough to make a difference. However, as part of everyday diet they will not do you any harm (apart from the amount of sugar most of them contain).
Live, non pasteurised and non heated, plain yoghurt contains Probiotics but they are hard to find. You are more likely to find it in Health food shops and small shops selling specialist groceries.
Not many supermarkets stock this type of yoghurt because most customers prefer sugary, fruity varieties. Best place to look is in health shops and small grocery shops, especially those selling deli/organic items and local produce.
The best and most convenient way is take them as a supplement in capsule form. All good brands will require that Probiotics be kept under refrigeration as they are susceptible to heat.
In supplement form the amount of live bacteria is in the millions and at this level a Probiotic is most effective.
For general well being take a Multi Vitamin and Mineral supplement together with a Probiotic. Read our take on this Why Take Supplements
NOTE: Take it slowly in the first week or 2. You may experience wind, stomach rumblings and crampy feelings. This is because the flora in gut is rebalancing and it should settle down. Obviously if it doesn’t settle then stop taking.
And the Best reason of all to take Probiotics is…
Excellent all round health insurance for you and your family!