What are probiotics and how do they work?

Probiotics are live bacteria that promote positive health benefits. They work by helping to restore the natural balance of gut bacteria and by increasing the quantity of ‘good bacteria’ in your gut.

Your microbiome, the scientific term for your gut, is where most of these live bacteria (‘microbes’) live in your body. And there are trillions of them!

The good bacteria in your gut can help keep your body healthy and happy by contributing to digestive health, immune health, serotonin production (‘the happy chemical’) and disease prevention.

I like to think of our good bacteria as our ‘live active friends’ on the inside. Looking after them is essential!

Consuming probiotic bacteria to support a balanced microbiome has been shown to improve overall health. Whereas, an unbalanced gut can lead to digestive issues, allergies, weight challenges and more.

What are the benefits of probiotics?

Probiotics help restore the natural balance of gut bacteria.

Probiotic bacteria may help:

  • Improve your digestive health

Probiotics bacteria have been linked to reduced bloating and increased stool regularity. They have been used for decades to help alleviate the symptoms of digestive disorders such as bloating, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis and diarrhea.

  • Boost your immune system

Did you know, 70% of the cells that make up your immune system are found in your gut?

Having a healthy and balanced microbiome is one of the best things you can do to protect and strengthen your immune system. A healthy gut is linked to benefits including resistance to infections and colds, and recovery after illness.

  • Protect your mood

Have you ever heard of ‘the gut-brain connection’?

Your gut is often referred to as your second brain because it’s the only organ in your body, besides your brain, with its very own nervous system. Your gut even contains more neurotransmitters than your brain!

This is why many researchers believe your gut can affect your mood. In fact, 95% of your serotonin (the ‘happy chemical’) is produced in your gut.

Many researchers believe our emotions are influenced by the nerves in our gut. This may explain the science behind ‘gut feelings’ and why we feel butterflies in our stomach when we’re nervous …

How should I take probiotics?

Probiotics can be consumed daily through a wide variety of sources. These include fermented foods, probiotic supplements and probiotic foods & drinks.

  • Fermented foods

Fermentation is an ancient technique for preserving food, which involves breaking down the carbs and sugar with bacteria and yeast, creating lactic acid. This promotes vitamin and bacteria production. Fermentation typically results in a strong, tart or sour taste.

Common fermented foods include kombucha, tempeh, kefir, pickles, yogurt and sauerkraut.

  • Probiotic Supplements

Like vitamins, you can find probiotics in supplement form.

Probiotic supplements are typically dry tablets that contain dormant probiotic cultures. They are not all the same, the types of probiotic strain and quantity of probiotic cultures will differ from supplement to supplement.

  • Probiotic drinks

Probiotic drinks are functional beverages that contain live and active bacteria to support gut health, particularly digestive and immune health.

When should I take probiotics?

An unbalanced gut occurs when there’s an imbalance of bad to good bacteria in your digestive system. This means, there is not enough friendly bacteria on the inside looking out for you!

This can happen if you have a poor diet, have recently been ill or been taking certain medicines, such as antibiotics.

Taking probiotics can help restore the natural balance of gut bacteria and increase the quantity of good bacteria in your gut.

Though some research suggests that more bacteria survive if you take probiotics before a meal, consistency is more important than specific timing when it comes to supporting your gut. A month-long study found that probiotics caused positive changes in the gut microbiome regardless of whether they were taken with a meal.

Do probiotics survive stomach acid?

Many of us have questions about whether the probiotics we consume actually survive their journey into our guts. This is an important question, because our friendly bacteria have a pretty tough journey and they must survive to be beneficial!

To reach our gut, probiotics must pass through acidic environments in your digestive tract, before they reach the small intestines and start multiplying. Once they are in your small intestine, the probiotic bacteria can start their beneficial job.

The quantity of probiotic cultures (CFU’s – or Colony Forming Units) that survive this journey differs from product to product. This will depend upon the probiotic strain used and quantity present. Different sources can be tested in clinical trials to ensure they survive.

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