Your intestines hold from 500 to 2,000 species of micro-organism.
These include bacteria, yeast, viruses and parasites. In fact, there are 10 times as many cells of OTHER species in your body that there are your own human cells! Many of these are probiotics.
Probiotics are bacteria that live on the intestine lining and have beneficial effects for our health and function.
They help assist the immune system, aid digestion, and are involved in the production of certain vitamins in our intestines. They aid digestion by helping with absorption of fatty acids, glucose, magnesium and vitamins. They accumulate in large numbers on the gut lining where they out-compete pathogenic bacteria, making us less susceptible to opportunistic infections. They also help control the inflammatory response and are involved with production of B-vitamins and enzymes.
We inherit probiotics from our mothers during childbirth as we exit through the birth canal (C-section babies unfortunately have less at this young age). Lack of probiotics, or an imbalance, can lead to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other autoimmune diseases, poor digestion, and candida.
Two of the most widely used probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, both of which can be found in huge numbers in a single probiotic table. For example, Biocare’s branded BioAcidophilus tablets contain 10 billion viable bacteria, which is 20 billion per daily recommended allowance of two tablets. This includes Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum & Bifidobacterium lactis.
Most people don’t need to constantly take probiotics, particularity if they already gave a healthy gut flora.
However, an occasional course can be useful if you have recently improved your diet and wish to improve your gut function too (e.g. if you cut down on your sugar intake); if you’ve been on antibiotics (which of course also destroy your natural ‘good’ gut bacteria; if you’re travelling abroad and are likely to encounter food and pathogens your body is not used to; if you’ve had diarrhoea, which again removes your healthy bacteria.
When buying probiotics always read the label, look for the quantity of bacteria present and go for the best quality that you can afford. This is because the best brands will properly encapsulate their tablets so that the pills reach the intestines before the outer layer breaks down to release the probiotics inside; if they are poorly protected by the capsule then they can be released to early and destroyed by the acidic stomach environment, rendering them useless. For this reason, it’s best to avoid the probiotic yoghurt drinks – research has shown that many of the probiotics inside can be destroyed immediately in the stomach.
Do you use probiotics? How have you found them useful in your own experience? Let me know next time you visit the clinic in Eastbourne.
Thanks for reading.
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By James Revell
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