The idea of consuming good bacteria for health is not new. It dates back to the early 20th century, when shortly after, the term “probiotic” was coined meaning “for life” or “for health”. Probiotics are a type of friendly bacteria that, when introduced into our bowel, stabilise the intestine's resident microorganisms, restoring our natural balance of good ‘bugs’ in the digestive system. If we get the right balance of bacteria then the whole system works.
We have all seen drinks in the dairy cabinet at the supermarket claiming to “keep you healthy on the inside”. And then there are the yoghurts with Lactobacillus acidophilus or ABC cultures, which advertise that they are good for your digestive health. Friendly bacteria or probiotics are one of the latest health trends. But do they work and how often do you need to take them?
HOW PROBIOTICS KEEP YOU HEALTHY:
Friendly bacteria can create the right environment in your digestive tract which helps to:
- Replace normal bacteria that have been killed off by a course of antibiotics;
- Produce substances that make your internal environment unwelcoming for Salmonella, rotavirus and other harmful bugs;
- Stop episodes of diarrhoea including travellers’ diarrhoea;
- Create a barrier so the internal lining of your intestine is less likely to let allergens through;
- Stimulate the immune system;
- Regulate bowel movements and prevent constipation and flatulence;
- Ease irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease;
- Digest the lactose from milk;
- Deactivate harmful enzymes in the intestine.
To be classified as a probiotic the strain must be present in sufficient numbers in a product. Most importantly, the bacteria must be able to survive the gastric acid to arrive at the small intestine and then the large intestine where it grows and multiplies. Most probiotic yoghurts contain booster substances called pre-biotics to aid delivery of active cultures to the digestive system. In other words the booster acts for the friendly bacteria so they can grow and multiply inside you and do their good work. These boosters usually include inulin, fructooligosaccrides and polydextrose.
WHEN DO YOU NEED PROBIOTICS:
You generally need a probiotic if something has disturbed your digestive system:
- After a course of antibiotics;
- After a bout of Gastro or diarrhoea;
- Major diet change;
For general health and wellbeing, the use of a probiotic two or three times a week is fine. But if you are ill or need it to correct an imbalance, then twice a day doses are recommended.
It is important to note that probiotics that have passed their use by date or that are not kept cold simply won't have the number of viable bacteria present. So follow these tips:
- Store it correctly - keep it chilled at all times especially during the trip home from the supermarket;
- Buy from a large supermarket which has a fast turnover so the probiotic is fresh;
- Consume the product within a couple of days.
Although I'm not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics are exceptions if you don't eat fermented foods on a regular basis.
- Emma Williams
If you think taking a probiotic could be beneficial for you, book in to see Andrea or Jess and get a personalised treatment plan that will cater to your needs, diet and goals.