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Gut bacteria are incredibly important, a human intestine (gut) has at least one billion bacteria with approximately five hundred different species. Research has shown that your gut flora performs many essential roles in maintaining your health and wellbeing. Training your immune system, preventing overgrowths of harmful bacteria, helping to develop and maintain your gut, producing vitamins such as B complex and vitamin K and even producing certain hormones.
The saying ‘death begins in the colon’ holds a lot of truth. A healthy gut flora that has ample supplies of beneficial bacteria is vital for a healthy body with a strong immune system. An imbalance of bacteria in your gut can be very detrimental to your health. Overgrowths of undesirable species are capable of causing disease and increasing the risk of cancer.
When a baby is born it has a sterile gut, which is then colonised by the mother’s bacteria as the baby leaves the birth canal. Babies born by caesarean or who have a quick second stage during delivery are more at risk of having poor bacterial colonisation.
Probiotic supplements contain friendly intestinal bacteria that help to keep intestinal cells healthy, maintain bowel regularity and a healthy pH level. Below is a list for when taking a probiotic supplement might be beneficial:
Probiotic supplements are sometimes combined with Prebiotics. Prebiotics are a special fibre that acts as a food source to the friendly bacteria.
Travellers Tummy occurs when you have been exposed to a foreign pathogen. By taking a suitable probiotic on holiday you can minimise the risk of food poisoning or a parasitic/bacterial infection. Probiotics can also help to relieve the side effects associated with malaria tablets.
Bladder Infections can occur when bacteria such as e-coli migrate from the intestine to the urinary tract. A suitable probiotic will help to reduce the colonisation of e-coli and reduce the risk of cystitus.
Constipation is relieved by probiotic supplements as they increase a stool’s water content, adding bulk and softness. These factors help to restore the correct muscular movement in the colon.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be reduced by taking probiotic supplements that boost desirable bacteria thus preventing infections from taking hold. Probiotics also help reduce inflammation and intestinal damage.
Bruising may be a sign of vitamin K deficiency. If you are deficient in the beneficial bacteria that produce some of your vitamin K then a supplement may redress this balance.
Energy Levels may be boosted by a probiotic supplement if those bacteria that product some of the B complex in your body are deficient.
Bowel Cancer Risk is on the increase. Probiotic bacteria help to boost the immune system in a way known to sometimes protect intestinal cells from becoming cancerous.
Lactose Intolerance may be relieved by taking a probiotic supplement containing lactase (an enzyme to help digest lactose). Also the beneficial bacteria have been shown in research to help some cases of lactose intolerance. The following strains are the ones known to help:
Lactobacillus acidophilus - Lactobacillus bulgaricus - Streptococcus salivarius
Lactobacillus reuteri - Lactobacillus plantarum - Streptococcus thermophilu
Eczema can sometimes be eased by taking a probiotic supplement especially in babies with a family history of allergies.
Antibiotics are sometimes necessary however by starting a course of probiotics shortly before finishing your course of anti-biotics can help to replenish a desirable balance of gut flora. Helping to replenish the beneficial bacteria you may have lost whilst taking your course of antibiotics.
Good food sources of probiotics are plain yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, miso and tofu.
You can find our full selection of specially selected probiotic supplements in our section: Probiotics.