What You Need to Know About Probiotics

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are pretty commonplace nowadays, but what are they and do we really need them? The term probiotics is defined as;

‘Preparations that contain viable, microbial agents that have been demonstrated to improve health. Typically these products will contain freeze-dried or live bacteria or yeasts’

That sounds a bit confusing, but essentially probiotics are good bacteria found in some foods or in supplemental form! The health benefits stem from the many strains of "good" bacteria. The supplemental ‘off the shelf’ form of probiotics have usually undergone rigorous testing to ensure that whilst making their way through the digestive process, the bacteria survive the journey to our gastrointestinal tract and home to our lovely gut bacteria. Whilst its harder to determine the accurate numbers of bacteria from certain foods, they are still beneficial to incorporate in the diet.

 

Why?

From a health perspective, the reason that probiotics/probiotic foods are beneficial is to keep our gut microbiome thriving. Our gut is home to trillions of bacteria, parasites and fungi - some good and some bad. Ideally, we want more good bacteria than bad bacteria and probiotics help to replenish our guts with good bacteria. The more good we have, the more we can crowd out the bad pathogenic bacteria!

 

When?

Antibiotics are commonly known for killing off bad bacteria and an unfortunate byproduct of that can also be killing off our good bacteria too. It's always worth chatting to your pharmacist about a probiotic supplement during or post a round of antibiotics. Some other things that can compromise our gut microbiome include stress, alcohol, processed foods and medications.

 

Who?

Not everyone needs to take probiotic supplements and a key way to identify if you do is to pay attention to your bowel movements and whether you notice any changes. For example, if you suffer from diarrhoea that can be an indicator that you may want to look into things further.

Probiotics are generally safe to consume in healthy people of all ages and also during pregnancy (although I always recommend seeking professional advice before taking any supplements). Probiotics can offer a whole host of health benefits and there is emerging research into links between the gut microbiome and mental health as well as their use in gut-associated disorders such as diarrhoea, constipation or irritable bowel syndrome.

 

Where?

Sourcing probiotics from foods in your day to day diet is a great way to keep your gut nice and healthy, and provide an easy way to give your diet a boost! Food sources of probiotics are found in fermented foods (the fermentation process creates bacteria!) such as:

  • yoghurt (look on the packaging for the words ‘live active cultures’)

  • sauerkraut

  • kimchi

  • kefir

  • kombucha. In theory, kombucha should contain probiotics due to its fermentation process but the scientific research to support it doesn't really exist.

There are some new products emerging that are supplemented with beneficial bacteria and Healthy Urban Blends Berry Probiotic Throwdown is a great way to include some probiotics in your diet, particularly if sauerkraut isn’t your thing. Made from whole food ingredients, these healthy snacks are not only high in fibre but also contain 1 billion lactobacillus acidophilus per serving!

 

Summary

Probiotic foods are great to include on the daily, but do you need a supplement? Not everyone does and different strains of bacteria offer different health benefits. It's always worth seeking advice from a qualified professional to determine what is best for you!

 

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