Refrigerated or shelf-stable? Single strain or multi-strain? Yoghurt or Kefir? Sauerkraut or Kimchi?
What even is a probiotic anyway?
A probiotic can either be a fermented food such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso or a specific supplement that contains friendly bacteria that are beneficial to our gut.
What's the microbiome?
In the last few years, the word ‘microbiome’ has been floating around the health world and media. The microbiome refers to the combined micro-organisms – bacteria, yeast, parasites – and their genes that live in and on us.
That’s right, you even have bacteria living on your skin. All for good reason, of course, to protect our skin from harmful bacteria entering our body.
Just like your unique fingerprint, you have your own unique microbiome. Genetically influenced, your own individual composition made up of approximately 38 trillion organisms. Not billions. Trillions, all over and throughout our body, with the majority residing in the colon, all playing different roles to keep our health in check. It is the balance of these micro-organisms that plays an important role in keeping our entire body healthy. An imbalance and disharmony of these micro-organisms - more of the unfriendly bacteria, fungi and parasites than the friendly protective ones - is called 'dysbiosis'. Correcting this imbalance is one my priorities in helping you heal your body.
What the research is explaining now is that there are some ‘super strains’ that are able to reorganise the quantity, diversity and the function of bacteria in the gut.
How important is the strain?
Different probiotics have different actions in the body, so it is important to use a strain that is specific for your individual needs. The right strain will help replenish and grow your own unique strains of bacteria that only you have. A good quality probiotic will always include the strain, just like a good clinical trial (a human study) will always state which strain has been tested. Luckily in Aus, we make some pretty good quality ones.
What do they actually do?
For years, it was believed that probiotics helped to ‘re-inoculate’ and ‘replace’ our gut flora, especially after taking a course of antibiotics.
We are continually understanding more and more about what probiotics really do in the gut. There has been a surge of research to better understand the complexities of different probiotics and their specific actions in disease treatment and prevention. Good news is - what the research is explaining now is that there are some ‘super strains’ that are able to reorganise the quantity, diversity and the function of bacteria in the gut. This may explain why a broad-spectrum probiotic everyday hasn’t been successful for everyone.
Depending on the strain, probiotics can perform the following:
· Repair and strengthen the gut lining
· Reduce inflammation in the gut
· Compete with potentially pathogenic bacteria and fungi for space in the gut
· Bind to viruses and reduce their virulence
· Speed up or slow down the time it takes for food to travel along the digestive tract in
constipation and diarrhoea
· Dampen immune hypersensitivity in conditions such as eczema and hay fever
More doesn’t always equal better
While it may seem logical to reach for the probiotic with highest billion units of units of bacteria, more does not necessarily equate to a healthier gut. Like anything in nature, too much of anything can overwhelm the gut and not be beneficial for gut function – oh you're body will communicate this to you in the form of bloating and diarrhoea.
Similarly, more strains in the one probiotic capsule does not impact the diversity of gut flora population. While it may deem common sense to choose the probiotic with multiple strains, it is best to choose an evidence-based strain that is proven to treat a specific condition at the right dose - this is where I come in. Based on what's going on with you, I'll prescribe the right strain that your body needs right here and right now.
When can they help?
Probiotics are not only used for treating gut conditions!
As continuous research links gut health to most conditions, they also support non-gut related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular conditions, anxiety, endometriosis, auto-immune conditions, hay fever and skin conditions such as acne and eczema - omg don't you just love the human body!
Here are some strains used for specific conditions:
Looking for a just want to give my gut some TLC? Then the strains Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 are the guys to choose for an everyday probiotic to help maintain healthy gut function and restore gut flora after a course of antibiotics. These strains also reduce the symptoms and incidence of colds and flus – great to take during winter to give your immune system a boost.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG is the world’s most extensively researched probiotic strain, backed by over 1,000 research papers! Yeah, I'm going with this famously researched strain! It is a restorative strain to the gut and is found to be beneficial for eczema and food allergies and the eradication of Helicobacter pylori (that super stubborn bacteria that causes stomach ulcers).
Lactobacillus reuterii DSM 17938 and Bifidobacteria lactis HN019 are useful in the treatment of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). Learn more about SIBO here.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae (boulardii) SB, a probiotic-acting yeast, is a protective strain suitable for the prevention and treatment of travellers’ diarrhoea – be sure to pack this one on your next holiday - well whenever we can travel again!
What you eat controls your microbiome
While it’s easy to pop a capsule and think ‘I’ve made my gut happy today’, your diet in essential for keeping your current flora happy and in harmony.
The composition of your gut microbiome is very sensitive to your diet – everything we eat encourages the growth of either the friendly or unfriendly bacteria in your gut. Eating fresh, and seasonal wholefoods (foods in their whole form - no that doesn't mean wheatbix!), especially those high in dietary fibre, such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains, will feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut to help keep your gut in the best of health.
It is best to check in with a gut health expert about which foods and beverages to consume as not all foods, even healthy ones, may be appropriate in certain conditions. For example, I've consulted many women with Candida or thrush consuming fermented foods such as kombucha and kimchi because their probiotic-actions, but eating these foods have actually exacerbated their Candida or thrush symptoms.
Find out what your microbiome looks like and which probiotics are thriving and which are lacking?
If it's not clear already, I'm fascinatingly intrigued with looking, like really microscopically looking inside your gut! Metabiome is my stool test of choice to have a look at the unique composition of your microbiome. It looks at not only how you digest your food and the presence of opportunistic and pathogenic organisms, but also which strains of probiotics your digestive tract may be insufficient in – a key indicator for balancing the health of your gut.
Do yourself a favour and check out the health of your gut right now - and then let me analyse it for you. Order your super easy, non-invasive, non-awkward, discreet stool test here - go on!
Want to know more about which probiotic is best for your body? Book in Bec today to get your gut sorted.
Bec is obsessed with your gut...in more of an enthusiastic-than-creepy way! Book online for a consultation with Bec or contact us to learn more about how Natural Medicine and Colon Hydrotherapy can help you say good-bye to your gut issues!
*This blog is for educational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your doctor or other qualified health practitioners before acting on information on this article, particularly if you have a medical condition, taking medication or if you are pregnant.