Heard the one about the probiotic that met the microbiome, hit it off, and had a party?
No, well it’s not surprising as it’s not a joke. The microbiome is a term for the collection of bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are strains of live cultures that help keep your microbiome healthy. They get along well. So well that a probiotic can really improve the health of your gut flora. This has effects across the board but readers of this blog will be happy to know that consuming a probiotic and improving your gut health can reduce many of the bowel-related problems so common in western societies today.
If these terms are confusing, let me give you a quick primer:
The microbiome is the bacteria in your body. That might conjure images of nasty creatures and harmful microbes but bacteria can be both good and bad. And your body needs the good stuff. In fact, you are mostly composed of bacteria. Think about that one.
Your microbiome makeup is generally is determined at birth and can be altered throughout your life. Your mother’s bacteria passes to you at birth (note: Caesarean babies will have much lower bacterial counts) and acts as the starter for your gut flora composition. Your environment and diet affect your microbiome from that point on.
Probiotics are good bacteria that help promote a healthy digestive system. Your body needs this ‘good’ bacteria to promote health. Some conditions, such as abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, gas, and bloating are caused directly by the imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.
Dr Mercola suggests that a probiotic is one of the most important supplements to take for treating IBS & Diarrhea, along with a host of other conditions.
Also recommended are the following strains of probiotic:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Lactobacillus Plantarum
- Lactobacillus casei
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Lactobacillus brevis
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Lactobacillus salivarius
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
You can find these probiotic strains in high-quality products available in New Zealand.
We are used to treating bowel complaints after symptoms have started to show. But it’s much better to treat the root causes of bloating and constipation by improving the health of our gut. After that, we won’t need to resort to laxatives or Pepto-Bismol.
Why take Probiotics?
The main function of probiotics is to boost the immune system. They also help your body fight infections and illnesses. And very importantly, probiotics help regulate your bowel movements. There is plenty of evidence for their potential for treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Anyone interested in bowel health, the benefits of squatty potties and general toilet-time hygiene, should take an active look at the interaction of probiotics with the microbiome. You don’t need to go to extreme lengths, a PhD is not required to understand how this stuff works. But having a good understanding of your how your gut works helps you to make informed decisions with regards to your health.
Our microbiome is negatively affected by poor diet, pollution in our environment, stress, and a number of other influences. Many of our foods today contain hormones and antibiotics which greatly affect the healthy microbes in our bodies. The human gut, which has evolved over millions of years, has not yet adapted to the onslaught of modern chemicals such as pesticides and artificial hormones added to meats and crops.
Probiotics for constipation: Will probiotics help me poop?
A good probiotic will ease the symptoms of constipation. Probiotics affect the stool in a number of ways. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, probiotics positively affect stool consistency, frequency, and the transition time in the gut.
How to consume probiotics?
A great way to add probiotics to your diet is to eat probiotic foods like sauerkraut, yoghurt, kimchi, and kombucha. This might not be practical for everyone but a good alternative is probiotic supplements. The technology used to produce supplements has improved considerably over the last few years. Buying from a reputable manufacturer or supplier and avoiding cheaply produced products is the best way to get value for money.
Probiotic foods to add to your diet:
(Note that not everyone reacts well to some of these foods. Add one at a time and monitor your body’s reaction)
- Full-fat greek yoghurt with Lactobacillus Acidophilus
Probiotic foods are essentially foods that have undergone the fermentation process.
Coffee, chocolate, and wine are also fermented products. We’re not recommending that you indulge but just to be aware that all have been part of the human diet for centuries and consuming small amounts generally won’t cause problems.
A good indicator of how probiotics can improve a less-than-optimal diet is a study by the Journal of Probiotics & Health which followed the introduction of a probiotic into the diet of people in developing countries. The intended result was an improvement in overall human health. The results are very favourable. The positive results included suppression of pathogenic microbes and parasites, improvements in lactose intolerance symptoms, and improvements in the digestibility and bioavailability of nutrients.
Who should take a probiotic?
Firstly, probiotic supplements or foods should not be used as a first line defence in treating serious illnesses. People will serious illnesses would be well advised to stay away from supplements that could interfere with their medication or recovery.
Healthy people who need to improve their diet are the best candidates for probiotic supplements. If you are otherwise healthy but suffer from IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhoea, lactose intolerance, poor digestion, bad skin, weak immune system, lack of energy, and yeast infections, you should consider supplementing your diet with a high-quality probiotic.
If you’ve recently undergone a course of antibiotics or have taken a lot of antibiotics in the past, a course of probiotics can help restore healthy gut flora and promote better health in general.
Just as the concept of the microbiome was relatively unknown 20 years ago, we are still learning about how probiotics can help us. In 2017, the indications are that probiotics are very important (essential, even) to our well being. The most likely outcome of the research of the next few years or decades is that consuming probiotic foods or supplements will be a prescribed remedy for many common human conditions.