Should you take a daily probiotic?

A good question.  And a commonly asked question.

From what you read and hear you could assume that probiotics are the answer to all your health ills?

Just pop a pill and all will be right with your health?  Is the path to good health that easy?

Read on to find out the answer.

There is a growing body of research on probiotics which is fantastic.  Through this research we have come to understand:

  1. The gastrointestinal system (GIT) commonly known as the gut is the gateway to good health.
  2. More about the essential role bacteria play in helping to support and promote a healthy GIT.

However to jump to the conclusion that taking a daily probiotic is a cure all pill is not quite right.   Research to fully understand the GIT, the role our bacteria play and which bacteria we can use to help and support symptoms or signs of various health conditions is still ongoing.

Key probiotic insights?

  1. Probiotics play an essential role in helping to create and maintain a healthy GIT.
  2. The GIT bacteria of people with particular health conditions or issues differs to that of a healthy person.
  3. How bacteria influence your health is influenced by a number of factors including the type, the number, the ratio and where they are located.
  4. Different probiotics treat different conditions.  You need to understand the type and the strength when you are considering whether to take them.
  5. Some health conditions and issues are more responsive to specific strains of probiotics than others.
  6. We know there is a gut brain connection and research suggests that bacteria influence this connection.

Strength of probiotics?

The strength of a probiotic is measured in colony forming units (CFU).   You need to be aware that currently experts and research differ on the minimum amount of CFU required in a dose of probiotic in order for it to be clinically effective (to help redress symptoms or signs of a health condition).  Recommendations range from two billion to more than 10 billion CFU per dose.

It is also generally thought that most foods do not contain sufficient numbers of probiotics to redress symptoms or signs of medically diagnosed health conditions.

When probiotics help?

There are a number of identified health conditions with which probiotics have been proven to help.  They include:

  1. Diarrhoea as a side effect of taking antibiotics or that caused by an infection.  It is estimated approximately 25% suffer from antibiotic related diarrhoea.  Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii have been shown to help prevent and redress symptoms.
  2. Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s Disease.  There are particular strains identified that provide relief to some suffering this challenging condition.
  3. Vaginal candidiasis (thrush) and bacterial vaginosis.  The strains Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus acidophilus have the most research supporting their use.
  4. Boosting immunity for those who are particularly run down from being particularly active.  However there is no one strain that has been proved to be most effective.
  5. Irritable bowel syndrome.  There is some evidence supporting the strain Lactobacillus plantarum however to make a recommendation you need to consider the symptoms and issues of each an individual person.
  6. Initial research on some specific strains that may help provide some relief for anxiety and depression which is promising, however research is still in its early stages.
  7. Allergies where research suggests the microflora (bacterial population) plays a key role in determining the risk of developing allergies.
  8. Autoimmunity.  There is promising new research suggesting that children with a genetic risk of develop type-1-diabetes may be able to reduce their risk by taking probiotics as a new born and possibly whilst still in infancy.

All positive developments and between you and I believe it is highly likely this list will continue to grow over time.

Probiotics and day-to-day health?

I encourage everyone to invest in their health as a preventative strategy to reduce risk of poor health.  Or to put it in more positive terms, invest in your health and reap the rewards of optimising the quality of your health.

This includes knowing the symptoms of poor gut health.  It also includes understanding essential strategies for optimising GIT health are:

  1. Include prebiotic foods in your day to day eating plan / diet.  Prebiotics indigestible carbohydrates that are used as nourishment by probiotics allowing them to survive in the gut.  They include foods such as banana’s, Kefir (cultured milk or water drink), artichokes, oats, yoghurt, fruit and veg, dark leafy greens, radicchio, legumes and whole wheat products.
  2. Eat a whole fresh food based diet/eating plan.  A diet high in refined and processed foods particularly carbohydrates will undermine GIT health over time.
  3. Include sufficient fibre in your daily diet.  Ladies you need approximately 20-25g and gents you need 30-35g.
  4. Limit your exposure to environmental toxins.
  5. If you need to take antibiotics ensure you accompanying this with a quality probiotic.
  6. Create an environment to that promotes and supports digestion, absorption and excretion, that allows you to chew, experience and enjoy your food.

Which probiotic?

Final tips to consider:

  1. The quality of probiotics vary by brand.
  2. Most probiotics are heat sensitive.
  3. The type and number are essential considerations if you are to take them.
  4. A daily probiotic will not compensate for your choice to eat a poor diet high in processed and refined carbohydrates.

If you have a health issue, I strongly recommend you consult a health practitioner.  Probiotics are expensive.  If you want to invest in a probiotic, you want to know that you are taking one that will be most effective in helping to redress and relieve your symptoms.

Wishing you great GIT health.

ciao Jan