Our friends are awesome, aren’t they?! No matter what, they always seem to have our backs. And that’s the same when it comes to the good bacteria in our guts. ‘Probiotics’ have a huge influence here and as a result are hitting Insta feeds everywhere. Read on to discover why, what they are and where we can find them.
Our guts are home to a range of bacteria. Whilst most of us worry about the potentially harmful ones, we don’t do enough for the good guys. These have a whole load of potential benefits to our health, including helping our immune system, metabolism, digestion and weight management (Hill et al. 2014). However, stress, medication and poor diet can reduce the diversity of this gut bacteria and send us into a state of ‘dysbiosis’. Consequently, we need to supply our guts with probiotics via food and supplements to help out our unsung heroes of health.
Probiotics influence the bacteria in our guts. However, there are over 500 different types of probiotics out there, each of which function differently. Some species of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, for example, have been shown effective in reducing the severity of symptoms associated with inflammatory gut diseases such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and improving quality of life (Ortiz-Lucas et al. 2013). Meanwhile, some species of Lactobacillus can minimise gas, cramping and/or diarrhoea and return our gut to a normal, healthy state following infection or a course of antibiotics (Caffarelli et al. 2015, Blaabjerg et al. 2017)
However, there’s still lots that we don’t know and more research is needed to find out which probiotics work best for what conditions, and in which populations (Sanders 2015). For example, there’s some evidence that species of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium may help lower LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and improve metabolic health (Cho and Kim 2015). However, the evidence is weak regarding the effectiveness of Enterococcus in achieving the same results (Cho and Kim 2015).
Whilst more research is needed, the scientific community now agrees regular consumption of probiotics has the potential to vastly improve our health and wellbeing. You can find probiotics in fermented products, including sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and yoghurt. For example, all yogurts are required to be treated with the strains Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles. For healthy individuals, 1-2 servings of probiotic-rich foods every day should be sufficient. Meanwhile, you may want to consider a supplement if you’re experiencing any kind of ‘dysbiosis’. However, make sure you shop around and consult an expert on your individual needs,, as the quality and content of supplements varies greatly (NIH 2018).
Probiotics thrive in certain conditions and require specific things to function at their best. For example, heat (including pasteurisation) often kills live active cultures (Terpou et al. 2019). Meanwhile, prebiotics found in fruits, vegetables, sprouted whole grains and pre-soaked legumes act as food for probiotics in our gut (Gibson et al. 2017). Stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll be talking about the importance of prebiotics and their role in supporting the growth of these probiotics!
Ready to learn more about gut healing? Check out Lauren’s latest podcast interview on the “Your Nutrition BFF” podcast here.
Blaabjerg S, Artzi DM, Aabenhus R. Probiotics for the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea in outpatients-a systematic review and meta-analysis. Antibiotics (Basel) 2017;6.
Caffarelli C, Cardinale F, Povesi-Dascola C, Dodi I, Mastrorilli V, Ricci G. Use of probiotics in pediatric infectious diseases. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther 2015;13:1517-35.
Cho YA, Kim J. Effect of probiotics on blood lipid concentrations: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Medicine (Baltimore) 2015;94:e1714.
Gibson GR, Hutkins R, Sanders ME, Prescott SL, Reimer RA, Salminen SJ, et al. Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of prebiotics. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 2017;14:491-502.
Hill C, Guarner F, Reid G, Gibson GR, Merenstein DJ, Pot B, et al. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 2014;11:506-14.
National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dietary Supplement Label Database. 2018.
Ortiz-Lucas M, Tobias A, Saz P, Sebastian JJ. Effect of probiotic species on irritable bowel syndrome symptoms: A bring up to date meta-analysis. Rev Esp Enferm Dig 2013;105:19-36.
Sanders ME. Probiotics in 2015: their scope and use. J Clin Gastroenterol 2015;49 Suppl 1:S2-6.
Terpou A, Papadaki A, Lappa IK, Kachrimanidou V, Bosnea LA, Kopsahelis N. Probiotics in food systems: significance and emerging strategies towards improved viability and delivery of enhanced