What are Probiotics?


As the name indicates probiotics mean for life in other words life promoting or giving. Probiotics are usually named for beneficial bacteria in a supplemental form. There is about 4 lbs of bacteria that live in our digestive system. 80% of our stool is made up of bacteria.

There are different colonies of bacteria present in the gastrointestinal tract and those referred to as beneficial bacteria (probiotics) help keep pathogenic bacteria in check and do a lot to promote good health in an individual as will be presented later.

When antibiotics are taken and this is necessary to overcome some serious infections all bacteria in the gut is destroyed. Antibiotics as the name suggests (anti-life) wipe’s out all bacteria not only those that cause disease but also health promoting bacteria named probiotics. This can leave a gap for some opportunistic bacteria or yeasts to multiply and take hold of the digestive tract causing disease.

Apart from this as the gut or GALT (Gut associated lymphatic tissue) is our first line in our immune defence to protect us from infectious disease an individual with less than optimal digestive function (for example low stomach acid) and low a immune system (someone more susceptible to infections or diseases) is left defenceless to pathogens present in the outside of the body. It may be possible to suggest that an individuals well being may be measured by the level of good bacteria present in their gut!

The most beneficial resident bacteria’s are Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium species. There are other beneficial strains and beneficial yeasts such as Saccromycees Boulardii.

Why use probiotics?

Probiotics are commonly recommended to promote healthy digestion and they perform some important functions in our bodies.

Here is a summary:

  • They manufacture many vitamins; B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, Fa and vitamin K and sometimes vitamin A.
  • They increase the absorption of minerals such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and manganese.
  • Increase our resistance to food poisoning.
  • Digest lactose (milk sugar).
  • Help regulate peristalsis and regular bowel movement.
  • Establish good digestion in infants.
  • Contribute to immune function.
  • Produce antibiotics and antifungals that prevent colonization of harmful bacteria and fungus
  • Protect against development of allergic conditions.
  • Increase the number of immune cells.
  • Manufacture essential fatty acids and short chain fatty acids.
  • Involved in normalising serum cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Produce antibiotics to protect against some types of bacteria.

Probiotic supplements may be beneficial for the following health conditions:

  • Recurrent urinary infections
  • Diarrhoea in adults and children
  • Complications from antibiotic therapy
  • Travellers diarrhoea and / colitis
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Immune system stimulation
  • Small bowel bacterial overgrowth
  • Kidney stones
  • Allergy including food allergy
  • IBD, IBS
  • Flatulence
  • Bacterial and fungal infections
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • And more…

Source: Digestive Wellness, Lipski,E., 2004. New Optimum Nutrition Bible, Holford, P., 2004.

Food sources of probiotics

  • Home cultured yoghurt, Kefir, cottage cheese
  • Sauerkraut, fermented vegetables some pickles
  • Miso, natto. Tempeh, tamari, shoyu, and soya yoghurt
  • Wine, cider, cider vinegar with mother
  • Sourdough bread

Diet to promote good bacteria

Follow a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables. Eat raw foods and organic wherever possible. Consume foods rich in fibre especially fructo-oligo sacharides (FOS), which is an indigestible fibre, also called prebiotic that probiotics like to feed on. Foods rich in FOS include: bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, asparagus, tomatoes, leeks, barley, garlic, onions, Soya beans and wheat.

While re-populating the gut it is a good idea to consume less of sugary foods and drinks as pathogenic bacteria’s favour these foods and organisms, keep animal foods and dairy low also to promote good colonisation.

Nutritional therapy fordingbridge hampshireAbout The Author 

Susan Davis is a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist located in the New Forest, Hampshire. Susan typically sees from the surrounding areas of Cranbourne, Damerham, Verwood and Three Legged Cross.

Find out more about Susan’s work by visiting her GoToSee profile page here

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