Guest blog by Tamara Rammal- Dip.WMC and Human Nutrition Student, BSc (hons)
Some people say that probiotics are the solution to whatever troubles you have; digestive problems, allergies, anxiety, and even cancer. Probiotics are popping up everywhere and we are at the beginning of understanding how to use and create them!
The truth is, taking a probiotic can be worth it. But, any benefits depend on who’s taking the probiotic, under what circumstances, and for what goal.
So what are probiotics?
They are friendly bacteria or microorganisms that offer health benefits when consumed. They can be found either in supplement form or in various fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yoghurt, and kefir.
Our bodies are full of different types of bacteria and other microbes- especially our gut.
This is what we mean when we talk about the gut microbiome- the intricate ecosystem of microbes that live in our GI tract. These microbes play an important role in regulating immune responses to allergens and infections, preventing harmful bacteria from overpowering the gut, fermenting undigested nutrients, and influencing energy balance.
Since these microbes have many important jobs, it makes sense to want to prioritize gut health.
When we talk about a healthy gut, we mean having a diverse microbiome with different types of microbes that can perform a variety of functions to support our health. Basically, the microbial ecosystem within our gut has to be healthy for us to be healthy.
But, the bottom line is: we still don’t know much about the gut microbiome and there is no way to define “good” or “bad” gut health.
We only have a moderate amount of evidence that some probiotic strains can help ease certain health issues and doing the research is very tricky. This is because there are thousands of strains of gut bacteria and designing high quality research isn’t easy. A lot of this research is done on animals and there could be bias in which the strains get studied. It’s important to remember that response to probiotics is also highly individual. Where one supplement might work for someone, it can have no benefit on another and this is because there are different gut profiles.
Research has shown that taking a probiotic can be helpful if you’re taking antibiotics. This is because antibiotics can kill some of your gut microbes and this can cause a form of dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is when you don’t have enough microbe diversity in your gut. It has also been proven that probiotics can help with IBS symptoms and ulcerative colitis. There’s some evidence to show that some strains can improve lipid profiles meaning cholesterol can be reduced and insulin sensitivity can be improved.
Meanwhile, systematic reviews and studies show no effect on general immunity, skin problems, yeast infections, and metabolic health. Right now, probiotics are only shown to be helpful for a handful of specific health concerns and for some people.
Some people prefer probiotics in pill or powder form because it’s the easiest way to get probiotics in. But, if you want to get them naturally, you can eat fermented probiotic-rich foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and also yoghurt.
In order to balance your gut flora, a low glycemic, whole food diet packed with healthy fibre, protein, and fats can improve the health of your gut significantly.
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Brown, M. (2016, August 23). 8 Health Benefits of Probiotics. Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-health-benefits-of-probiotics#TOC_TITLE_HDR_1
Hyman, M. (2019, December 04). Do probiotics really work? Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://drhyman.com/blog/2016/09/08/do-probiotics-really-work/