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Gut Health: All About Probiotics

On a day-to-day basis, looking after the health of our digestive systems is something we tend not to worry about until it gives us problems. However, there is growing recognition that, just like caring for our skin in our previous blog, our gut and general health will feel better given a bit of TLC. One way to do this is to take ‘Probiotics’.

So, what are Probiotics?

Probiotics are dietary supplements, drinks or foods containing ‘friendly’ bacteria that can benefit health. We usually think of bacteria negatively, more as harmful ‘bugs’ to be avoided - but not all are ‘bad guys’: there are the good guys also!  Friendly bacteria are needed to keep the gut functioning properly.

Probiotics are also important to help our immune system, the body’s defence against outside invaders. The gut doesn’t just break down our food – it also makes up nearly three quarters of our immune system. By boosting the immune system, probiotics can help protect the gut and the rest of the body from attack. Probiotics also help to produce nutrients such as vitamins, which are vital for keeping the body working properly, as well as helping to neutralise some potentially toxic by-products of digestion.

How can probiotics help me?

Good health is all about getting the right balance and the gut is no exception. Certain diseases, stress, poor diet, infection and medicines such as antibiotics, can all wipe out the good bacteria in your gut. This can then lead to other health problems including diarrhoea, wind, bad breath, ‘candida’ yeast infections, skin problems and coughs and colds.

The most commonly used ‘friendly’ bacteria are ‘Lactobacilli’ and ‘Bifidobacteria’. Lactobacilli may help reduce gastrointestinal dysfunction, vaginal yeast infections and may also boost immune function. Bifidobacteria can help lower cholesterol levels, prevent food poisoning, help digest lactose (the sugar in milk) and make B vitamins (to protect against heart disease). A healthy population of these beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract enhances the digestion and absorption of nutrients, detoxification and elimination processes, as well as helping to maintain your immune system.

Sounds great! Where can I get Probiotics?

Probiotics are available in a range of food supplements and in some foods, including yoghurts and yoghurt drinks. Eating live yoghurt can help top up your levels of good bacteria, but you may not know which strain of bacteria you’re eating. With probiotics in supplements, you know just what you’re getting.

Probiotic supplements provide a convenient and easy way to help protect yourself against these potential gut problems. They ensure your body has enough ‘friendly’ bacteria, especially when they become depleted or there is an influx of harmful bacteria, to keep balanced and healthy.