WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?
We hear a lot about probiotics but few of us fully understand what they are, what they do and whether we actually benefit from taking them.
You may well have seen adverts for probiotic drinks on the TV, with pictures showing the presence of bacteria in the intestine. The large bowel contains up to 100 trillion bacteria at any one moment (that’s more cells than the body produces in a lifetime) with thousands of different strains working to keep the gut environment harmonious.
Probiotics are strains of good bacteria that when consumed, help to top up our own levels of bacteria and rebalance the gut’s ecosystem. Found naturally in fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut and kimchee, they can also be taken in supplement form in capsules, powders and drinks.
WHY DO WE NEED THEM?
Our bacteria are immeasurably important for the health of our digestion, but also for pretty much everything else in the body.
Within the gut, they help us break food down and absorb it; whilst synthesising vitamins and minerals, fighting off any harmful bacteria we ingest, keeping us regular with wash-board (potentially, anyway) abs. They also keep the cells lining the digestive tract, an organ in of itself, healthy and may help protect from polyps, fibroids and unhelpful inflammation that can potentially be associated with cancerous beginnings. Imbalanced flora can also have big impacts on how we feel digestion wise, and many common digestive complaints - from bloating and tummy ache to constipation and diarrhoea – are caused by imbalances between the bacteria.
This link might seem quite obvious, but there are many other negative symptoms one can experience when bacteria is out of whack. Low energy, imbalanced hormones, acne, eczema, frequent colds and infections, yeast issues, thyroid trouble and many others problems will often have some link with the health of the gut; with many being accompanied by IBS type symptoms. Recent research has even linked our micro-flora with schizophrenia, anxiety and memory loss.
This is why Equi London puts such a huge emphasis on gut health, and why it is one of the most important systems within the Equi Eight philosophy. You can eat the cleanest, healthiest diet in the world, but if you don’t digest food properly you wont get all the benefits from it, so it’s vital to get gut flora right.
WHY DOES IT BECOME IMBALANCED?
Our bacterial balance is highly sensitive, and sadly the modern world can put strain on the intricate balance that lies within. Medication (especially antibiotics) undigested food, too much gluten, alcohol and stress can all disrupt the balance quite easily, leading to undesirable symptoms such as bloating, gassiness, changes to bowel motility, intolerances and cramps.
HOW TO BALANCE THEM
Watch out for:
- Antibiotics - Though they should never be overprescribed, or taken unless absolutely necessary, antibiotics save lives and are essential for modern medicine.
- Stress - We should also work to limit stress… and yes we know, it’s tricky but check out our article on meditation/5 ways to busy stress.
- Yeasty foods – Like beer, baked goods, bread, crackers and champagne (wahh!)
- Gluten - Which can disrupt the balance of our bacteria and cause inflammation in the gut… especially in high levels. One source a day of wholegrain bread, pasta, crackers is enough.
- Sugar – In all its forms wont help. The usual chocolate, sweets, cakes, biscuits obviously, but also watch out for too much fruit – two/three portions per day is enough. Watch out for yoghurty drinks, as alongside bacteria they also contain a lot of sugar and sweeteners.
- Fibre – In all its forms, feeds bacteria and supports the entire gut environment. Wholegrains, vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses, beans should be eaten regularly.
- Foods containing ‘friendly’ bacteria - natural yoghurt, kimchee, picked vegetables, kefir (which is now widely available) kimchee are all ideal.
- Take Probiotics - A very easy and safe choice particularly as they tend to deliver high levels in resistant forms and a variety of strains. On rare occasions, those with IBS or severe digestive concerns can find they get bloating or discomfort when they first start taking probiotics, which is generally a sign that other aspects of gut health need to be managed first. If you’re unsure, speak to a nutritional therapist or the Equi Team.
For more information or help, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Certain supplements are used for different reasons and a one-size-fits-all approach shouldn’t be adopted. In addition, pregnant women and anyone on medication should always consult a doctor before embarking on a supplements programme.