Probiotics seem to be something that everyone is talking about these days, but what exactly are they? What do they do? Where do they come from? How do I know if I need one?
'Probiotic' literally means 'for life'. More often are defined as being "viable microorganisms that have a beneficial effect in the prevention and treatment of specific pathologic conditions when they are ingested". Basically they are the good bacteria that should be found in your gut. Did you know that approximately 85% of your immune system is found in the gut? This is because it is the job of these good bacteria to be the gatekeepers to our body. They are our first defence against foreign bodies, preventing colonization by viral and bacterial pathogens.
Wondering where you got your good bacteria from in the first place? Your mum! During a vaginal delivery the baby is covered in secretions which contain it's mothers bacteria. The mother passes her gut flora on to her baby and this in turn colonizes their gut. From that day forward we are constantly changing our gut flora depending on what we ingest. We are exposed to coughs, colds, travel, different foods, medications and all of these impact our gut ratio between good and bad bacteria.
Sat there thinking well my granny hasn't taken a probiotic and she never gets ill at 96! The truth is that she has probably had her fair share of 'probiotics' but they just didn't call them that then. Traditionally fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, raw yoghurt and even beer were all sources of good bacteria. In the days before fridges and supermarkets, fermentation was a way of preserving produce to survive long winters.
These days everything goes in the fridge, crops are sprayed with pesticides which just like the antibiotics you get from the doctors are not selective about whether the bacteria they are killing is good or bad. Most supermarket products have also been pasteurised to extend shelf life and prevent outbreaks of harmful bacteria. This means that the good bacteria in traditionally fermented foods is killed along with any bad that may have been present.
The good news is that there is now a move back towards traditional probiotics with kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut gaining in popularity. Thinking about stocking up on those yoghurt drinks from the supermarket? Think again! Did you know that many of them have more sugar per 100g than fizzy pop? One of the easiest ways to up your good bacteria is to take a probiotic supplement many of which also contain prebiotics (food not absorbed by the host that supports the growth of good bacteria).
So do you need a probiotic? The reality is that most of us should take a probiotic supplement even just in the short term. Why? The vast majority of us have at some point done at least one of the following all of which negatively effect your gut flora: taken an antibiotic; suffered from colds and viruses; have IBS or IBD; taken the contraceptive pill; taken steroids; travelled abroad; suffer from or have a family history of auto immune conditions e.g. under-active thyroid, diabetes, lupus, psoriasis, etc; or allergenic conditions e.g. food allergies and excema.
There is a wealth of research out there which clearly demonstrates the huge role that probiotics have in supporting our immune system and preventing disease. A recent study examining the role of probiotics in the reduction of diabetes states that probiotics contribute to a reduction in inflammatory response and oxidative stress. This leads to increased insulin sensitivity and a reduction in the autoimmune response. Increasingly well known is the fact that our gut micro biome influences our mental health with neurotransmitters manufactured in the gut including serotonin and GABA.
Allergenic diseases have increased over the last 40 years in industrialized nations but NOT in the developing world. Put simply we are just too clean, our homes and farms are sprayed to within an inch of their lives, we eat processed foods and we aren't exposed to the diseases we once were. All of this impacts on our gut flora and prevents the normal responses to allergens from developing properly leading to an increase in disease. Children with food allergies have been found to have an imbalance between good bacteria and potentially harmful ones. The same has been observed in a study of children with atopic eczema.
So which one should I take? Well firstly you need to find a probiotic which is scientifically proven to survive gut acidity. Then the answer is it really depends on you and what your individual needs are. If you are looking to support mental health a probiotic with bacterial strains proven to support depression and anxiety would be a good start e.g. lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52 and bifidobacterium long rosell 175 found in Optibac for everyday. However, there are a variety of ranges designed specifically for different needs: travel abroad, when you're taking antibiotics, pregnancy, breastfed babies, bottlefed babies, managing cholesterol levels, one for women for targeting the intimate flora, the list goes on.
Still not sure, or just want to know more? Pop into the shop and have a chat with us.
R. Rolfe. (2000) The Role of Probiotic Cultures in the Control of Gastrointestinal Health. Journal of Nutrition. 130 p.3965-4025
M.Geuking et al. (2014) The interplay between the gut microbiota and the immune system. Gut Microbes 5(3) p. 411-418
P. Kirjavaninen et al. (2001) Characterizing the composition of intestinal microflora as a prospective treatment target in infant allergic disease. FEMS Immunology & Medical Microbiology. 32 (1) p. 1-7
B. Bjorksten et al. (1999) The intestinal microflora in allergic Estonian and Swedish 2-year-old children. Journal of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 29(3) p 342-346.
A.Gomes et al. (2014) Gut microbiota, probiotics and diabetes. Nutrition Journal. 13(60)
Optibac probiotics For Women
£9.99 - £49.99
‘For women’ contains two highly researched strains, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1® and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14®, which have been clinically trialled by over 2,500 women around the world.
The two strains in this product are proven to survive to reach the intimate area. With over 30 years of research, you can trust that if you want a live cultures supplement especially for female intimate flora, OptiBac Probiotics ‘For women’ is the one for you.
This supplement is safe and appropriate for women in the menopause, as well as for pregnant & breastfeeding mothers.
Alongside taking this product, it may also be worthwhile considering lifestyle factors such as diet (for example reducing your intake of sugar, which can feed harmful bacteria and yeasts), increasing your water intake, and avoiding wipes, douches and soaps in the intimate area, which can upset the natural vaginal pH.
OptiBac probiotics For daily immunity 30 capsules
Live cultures and Vitamin C Food supplement
Vitamin C contributes to the normal function of your immune system and to the reduction of fatigue. This optibac product contains 4 natural strains of bacteria, along with grape seed, green tea and pine bark extracts which are rich in polyphenols.
Optibac probiotics One week flat
'One week flat' is a food supplement containing natural bacteria (live cultures), in powdered sachets to be taken daily as a one-week course. This can be taken once a month, or as frequently as desired.
Optibac for Every day
£12.99 - £34.99
What's it for?
6 different live cultures, with FOS fibres, for everyday use.
Who's it for?
For anyone, aged 1 year and over, seeking a general OptiBac live cultures supplement.
Provides 5 billion live microorganisms + 88mg of FOS fibres.
Filler: potato starch; Live cultures: (Lactobacillus rhamnosus Rosell-11, Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52, Bifidobacterium longum Rosell-175, Lactococcus lactis Rosell-1058, Bifidobacterium breve Rosell-70, Bifidobacterium bifidum Rosell-71); Fructooligosaccharides (FOS 88mg); vegetarian capsule: hydroxypropyl methylcellulose; anti-caking agent: magnesium stearate; antioxidant: ascorbic acid
Suitable for Vegetarians
Optibac for Everyday Max Strength
What's it for?
A quality 50 billion option from OptiBac, suitable for everyday use.
Who's it for?
For those who want a very high strength, yet high quality, live cultures supplement.
Provides 50 billion live microorganisms, guaranteed until end of expiry.
Live cultures: (Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM®, Bifidobacterium lactis Bl-04, Bifidobacterium lactis HN019); vegetarian capsule: hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, titanium dioxide; stabiliser: micro-crystalline cellulose; anti-caking agents: vegetable magnesium stearate, silicon dioxide.
Daily dose (1 capsule) guarantees 50 billion micro-organisms.
Optibac for Everyday Extra Strength
£23.99 - £59.99
What's it for?
A premium option from OptiBac containing L. acidophilus NCFM®, for every day use.
Who's it for?
For anyone who feels the need for extra strength live cultures support.
Each capsule:Provides 20 billion live microorganisms, guaranteed until end of expiry.
Filler: micro-crystalline cellulose; Live cultures: (Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM®, Lactobacillus paracasei Lpc-37, Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07, Bifidobacterium lactis Bl-04, Bifidobacterium bifidum Bb-02); vegetarian capsule: hydroxypropyl methylcellulose; titanium dioxide; anticaking agents: vegetable magnesium stearate, silicon dioxide.
Each capsule guarantees 20 billion micro-organisms.
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