It seems to be everywhere these days. Probiotic foods, supplements, skincare and even deodorants. But how much do we know about the new superhero ingredient taking the world by storm?
What are probiotics?
In a nutshell, probiotics are “good” bacteria that work by supporting the balance of your gut microbiome. This microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria, yeasts and microorganisms that form an ecosystem as complex and dense as that of the Amazon rainforest. The role of probiotics is to protect and sustain a balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria within our microbiome and as a result, provide a whole host of health benefits.
To give this a bit of context, think about when you’ve suffered from an infection. This is usually when the “bad” bacteria is overpowering the good, and your health suffers as a result. Antibiotics are prescribed for these types of illnesses as they work to fight off this bad bacteria. The downside? Sometimes they can end up taking the good stuff along with it. This is why probiotics are often taken after a course of antibiotics, as they help to reinstate that all-important balance that keeps us healthy.
More recently, it’s become increasingly popular to take probiotic supplements on a daily basis. There is evidence to suggest that with more “good” bacteria inside of us, the better equipped we are to fight off infection and illness. But it’s also thought that a healthy dose of probiotics can help aid digestion, ease symptoms of IBS and bloating and help prevent obesity as well as numerous other health benefits.
How do I know which probiotic is best?
Probiotic jargon can get a little confusing! The key things you need to look out for are the number of strains, the CFU and the guarantee. Multi-strain probiotics are thought to be more effective than single-strain formulas, so always look out for these listed on the packaging. Different strains can have a variety of benefits on the body, so make sure you do some research to find which formulation is suited to your needs. CFU (Colony Forming Units) refers to the bacteria within the product and indicates how potent a probiotic is. There are formulas available ranging in CFUs from 2 billion to 100 billion. Again, the CFU will be dependent on your individual needs, and if you're looking for a super potent formula then opt for a higher guaranteed CFU.
Finally, look out for the 'shelf stability' of your probiotics. When exposed to oxygen or humidity, probiotics can lose their efficacy. To ensure maximum health benefits, you want to ensure that your supplements are shelf stable so that the bacteria reaches your gut in its most whole and potent form.
So, what’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?
Quite simply, probiotics are live bacteria and prebiotics are the food that this bacteria feed off. Prebiotics are naturally occurring in foods such as bananas and apples and their role is primarily to support the survival of “good” bacteria by feeding it and supporting its growth. Taking pre and probiotics together is therefore your best chance at maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria within the gut.
Understanding how probiotics work goes a long way to explain why many brands are looking to harness their powers in a number of different ways. We know that a healthy gut helps to improve a number of digestive-related issues, but it can also have significant effects on the health of our skin and hair.
So why probiotics in beauty products?
It’s been suggested that a healthier gut can optimise our body’s overall performance and result in a healthier physical appearance. But the beauty industry has begun to explore more direct and innovative solutions for unleashing the potential of probiotic benefits on the skin.
Just like the gut, our skin contains delicate ecosystems of bacteria that are thought to promote skin health and protect its defense barrier. But over-washing and the use of harsh formulations on our skin can deplete the levels of good bacteria, leaving our skin more prone to skin issues such as acne breakouts, rosacea and even psoriasis.
Probiotics are thought to reduce acne breakouts by regulating the bacteria that can cause spots on the skin. In the same way, research also suggests that they can help to slow down the ageing process by reinforcing skin’s natural defences against everyday aggressors.
So what’s the verdict?
There doesn’t seem to be a downside to probiotics and it’s easy to see how they’ve become the latest must-have ingredient. Finding the right probiotic for you is essential, so make sure you do your research and look out for those key indicators of quality (CFUs, strains etc.). Not all probiotics are the same, and like everything else, you'll want to avoid those formulations filled with bulkers, fillers and little to no potency. At Naturisimo, we hand-select our probiotics based on their quality and efficacy, so you can easily find the right blend for you.
So, whether it’s your face mask, your protein powder or a supplement, there’s no excuse not to get your daily dose of probiotics and experience that glowing goodness - inside and out.