What are probiotics?Sometimes known as 'good' or friendly' bacteria. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts which administer health benefits straight to our bodies. They work towards ensuring there is a healthy balance of both good and bad bacteria in the intestine. When our intestine is in a healthy condition, it could contain about 1kg of the helpful bacteria at any one time. It's vital that the bacteria remains at a healthy balance, when this is disrupted and the bad bacteria start to over take, then this is when problems start to occur. The good bacteria we carry could be affected by a number of factors such as use of antibiotics, chlorinated water, pesticides and chemicals found in foods or through stress. Taking probiotics help to keep our intestine stocked up with the healthy intestinal flora it needs to thrive and to keep our digestive tract happy.
What are the benefits?Aside from keeping a happy balance inside our bodies, taking probiotics can also aid with a number of other key health and wellbeing benefits:
- Probiotics can help your gut recover and remain healthy whilst taking antibiotics, without them the antibiotics could wipe out the protective gut bacteria.
- Probiotics are thought to directly kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria that produces toxic substances, which then make you sick.
- Improve how we absorb nutrients in the body such as vitamin B12, magnesium, glucose and fatty acids
- Aids with healthy bowel movements and digestion
- Assists in detoxifying the body
- The healthy bacteria increases the function and effectiveness of our immune system
- Maintaining radiant looking skin
What else to look out forAs with taking any supplement, there can be some down sides and it's important to remember that every body is different and one thing that works for someone, may not work for you too - do your research!
- Shop smart! Not necessarily a downside but just like food and beauty products, you must be careful to check the dates printed on any probiotics you take. Look for probiotics which are labelled 'viable through end of shelf life' - this ensures you are getting the amount of bacteria which is labelled on the supplements. If it is labelled 'viable at the time of manufacture' this could mean thousands, if not more, of the live bacteria have already decayed and you are getting a much lower number of microbes in your supplement.
- Side effects - some people may find they are effected with mild side effects such as gas or bloating in the stomach. However this should not be a problem for more than a couple of days and after this time has passed, there should be no further issues.
- Not all probiotics are made equal. For example if you are getting your dose from foods such as yoghurt, then look out for 'live and active' written on the label. This means that you are actually consuming what contains billions of the good bacteria you are after. Other products which do not naturally produce probiotics, may only have a small amount of organisms in it, with many of them having already decayed.
- If you have a weakened immune system, for example this may be due to having under taken serious medical treatment, then you should avoid probiotics due to the level of bacteria, albeit good, that your body takes in.
- The last thing to note when thinking about taking probiotics is they are unregulated and often classed as food, so they do not undergo the rigorous testing you may get with other supplements or medicine, so be aware of this when deciding which brand to go with.