Probiotics are the big buzz word now. These are effectively the good bacteria found in your gut. People are rushing out to buy them because they are said to be important for your general health and vitality. But why is this? How can one little capsule of bacteria make a difference? These little bacteria in our gut are fundamental to our healthy digestion and absorption.
The saying goes “we are what we eat” but, in fact, it’s more that “we are what we absorb”. A lot of people spend so much energy avoiding bacteria, they baulk at the idea of eating actual live cultures. But you shouldn’t, probiotics are totally natural and safe to take as a supplement.
SO WHY ARE THESE BACTERIAS SO IMPORTANT?
Good gut bacteria is important. They help digest foods such as protein, which is essential for growth, repair and detoxification. They produce certain vitamins (B and K), they protect from invasion of other pathogenic ‘bad’ bacteria, they have an important role in immunity (70% of the immune system is based in the gut) and they generally ensure proper digestion of foods. They are also implicated in cravings and appetite so hence they have an effect on weight gain and loss.
WHEN DOES IT ALL GO WRONG?
Bacteria is naturally found in our gut. A fascinating (well to me anyway) fact is that until we are actually born we have no bacteria. However, as the baby passes through the mother’s birth canal it takes in its mother’s bacteria and this is the first inoculation, so to speak, of live bacteria in a child. As life progresses the diversity of bacteria improves to create healthy micro biomes: breastfeeding and being in contact with outdoor bacteria all helps. As adults, we have trillions of bacteria busying away in our gut. However, many aspects of modern life can affect our gut bacteria and cause problems: medication including antibiotics; a less than perfect diet (high in sugar, red meat and alcohol and low in vegetables and healthy fats); anti-bacterial products in our homes; an increase in caesarean births; stress also has a huge impact on these little blighters. So, all in all, we have little chance of naturally having the happiest, healthiest gut flora.
When our gut bacterium is impaired we can suffer from what is called dysbiosis, unbalanced gut bacteria. Symptoms of dysbiosis are usually associated with digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, abdominal pain and reflux.
However, more far-reaching symptoms and maybe not so obviously connected for most people could be fatigue, weight gain, anaemia, joint pain, frequent colds and food intolerances… just to mention a few!
SHOULD YOU BE TAKING PROBIOTICS?
The growing research on probiotics suggests that they have a far-reaching effect on overall health including an increase in energy, healthier skin, raised immunity, a happy digestion, a reduction in autoimmune conditions and allergies such as eczema and asthma. Also, a healthy gut bacterium has recently been connected with a reduction in anxiety and depression, an increase in resilience to stress and a better handle on appetite and cravings… quite convincing!
If you decide to give it a try, opt for a high-quality brand, with well-researched strains, and you may wish to choose one that does not require refrigeration. OptiBac Probiotics is a UK company, boasting some of the most researched strains in the world. Pick up a pack next time you’re at Frame!