Probiotics – we’ve all heard of them, but do we really know what they’re good for?
We’re constantly told they’re good for a healthy gut but what does that really mean – and what is all that ‘good bacteria’ doing to our bodies?
Here are 10 surprising ways a daily probiotic can improve everything from your mood and your skin to your stress levels.
1. Weight Loss
New studies suggest that a mix of bad and good bacteria in our guts could play a role in weight gain. Ensuring that you are getting lots of good bacteria alongside a healthy diet and fitness regime could help to reduce unwanted weight around your middle.
Not many people are aware of how well connected the brain and the gut are. Research has indicated that maintaining a healthy gut flora could help to reduce anxiety and lower levels of brain activity linked to emotion and pain while increasing activity associated with decision making.
Nutritional Therapist Claire Barnes from Bio-Kult explains: "Our gut flora fluctuates during the resting and active phases of the day. Certain species, such as Lactobacillus increase during resting phases and then decline again in active phases. If we disrupt our body’s normal resting and active phases this could potentially cause an altered gut flora.”
An altered gut flora, says Claire, can have a detrimental effect on our health, possibly leading to diabetes, obesity and even cancer.
“Often, following a poor night’s sleep, an individual will choose high energy foods, such as those high in refined sugar to provide a quick energy boost. Generally, harmful bacteria are more likely to feed on these foods in the colon which may lead to an overgrowth of these harmful strains."
Stress can disturb the mixture of bacteria in our gut, allowing for increased production of bad bacteria. Stress has been shown to irritate or aggravate a range of diseases; probiotics could therefore be a valuable tool for encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria which supports healthy immune functions.
A lack of energy could arise when you aren’t getting the vital vitamins and nutrients from your food needed to keep you functioning at your best. A multi-strain probiotic such as Bio-Kult could help to sustain healthy levels of good bacteria, to help you absorb the goodness from the food you’re eating. A healthy gut flora also aids in the production of extra B vitamins, which are essential for energy production throughout the body.
Natalie Lamb, Nutritional Therapist at Protexin Probiotics, commented: "In recent years, there has been a lot of interest in the use of probiotics and the maintenance of a healthy gut flora in preventing and treating oral infections, including dental caries, periodontal disease and halitosis."
It is the bad bacteria in the gut which can produce gas and cause bloating in the stomach. Sugary foods can feed this bacteria, helping it to multiply. Taking a multi-strain probiotic could help to top up the beneficial bacteria to prevent an imbalance in the gut and reduce the effects of bloating.
8. Seasonal affective disorder
Taking a daily probiotic has been shown to increase vitamin D levels - well known to be low during the winter months - by more than 25%, and to modulate the area of the brain responsible for mood.
Allergies are said to be a malfunction of your immune system. With 70% of the immune system lying in the gut, maintaining a healthy gut flora could help to manage the various symptoms of allergies.
10. Irritable bowel syndrome
IBS is associated with an imbalance of the normal 'friendly' bacteria in the intestine, and is becoming increasingly common in our modern busy lifestyles. A multi-strain probiotic could help top up levels of healthy bacteria supportive of healthy digestive function.