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We’ve all heard about probiotics and how they’re good for our health, but what exactly are they?  Probiotics fall under the umbrella of nutrition and they are the friendly bacteria that live in the gut.  These bacteria are vital for our health – two of the most well known probiotics are lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus.

Why do we need Good Bacteria?

Friendly bacteria are important in the digestive system as it helps the digestion of food as well as helping the body to absorb the nutrients that it needs.  It also helps with the maintenance of the lining of the gut, and helps the body to make vitamins, as well as stimulate the immune system.  A healthy intestinal system should have at least 85 percent of good bacteria in order to be able to keep the disease-causing bacteria under control.  Good dietary sources that contain beneficial probiotics include yoghurt, fermented cheese, miso, tempeh, and sauerkraut.  There are even probiotic drinks in the supermarket that you can buy.

What Happens if the Digestive System is out of Balance

Things that can cause the digestive system to become out of balance include stress, drinking fluoridated water, a poor diet, alcohol consumption, antibiotics, the contraceptive pill, and many conventional drugs.  If the digestive system is out of balance, poor digestion and a “leaky gut” will occur, which can lead to things such as excessive gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, and reflux.  It can even be a precursor for infections, allergies, and inflammatory disorders, as well as other problems.

Benefits of Taking Probiotics

The main benefits from taking probiotics include:

  • treating digestive problems
  • helping with stomach bugs
  • helping with urinary tract infections
  • preventing the overgrowth of yeast and fungus in the body (making them excellent for treating candida (link to candida article))
  • assisting the body to digest protein
  • useful for lactose-intolerant people
  • stimulates the absorption of nutrients into the body
  • preventing and treating conditions such as diarrhea and candida that are often brought on by taking antibiotics
  • helps to minimise the effect of food intolerances
  • decreasing the likelihood of “leaky gut”
  • helps in the manufacture of B vitamins and vitamin K
  • helps to balance the systemic and mucosal immune systems within the body
  • reduce the amount of toxic by-products that are created in the bowel

How to Get the Most from your Probiotics

To get the most benefits from your probiotics, it is important that the bacteria are live, and present in high numbers within the food or dietary supplement that you choose.  This is because the stomach and intestines are naturally very acidic as a means of killing bad bacteria.  However, this acidity can also kill the good bacteria and for a meaningful number of good bacteria to survive the journey to the intestinal tract, the probiotic food or supplement needs to contain at least one million live colony forming units of good bacteria per gram.  If you do not want to eat a fermented food such as miso, tempeh, etc, there are supplements available in the form of tablets, capsules, or powders.  Capsules or tablets should ideally be enteric-coated so that fewer amounts of good bacteria are lost.


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