Learn what probiotics are and why they’re essential for good health, and discover how to choose the most suitable probiotic for you and your family.

What are probiotics?

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Learn what probiotics are and why they’re essential for good health, and discover how to choose the most suitable probiotic for you and your family.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms – bacteria and yeasts – that, when ingested, have beneficial effects on the host.

In simple terms, this means that by eating foods rich in probiotics or taking a probiotic supplement, you’re helping to enhance your overall health and wellbeing.

Why do I need probiotics?

Your body already contains trillions of bacteria, yeasts and viruses – and, most of these reside in your gut. These ‘microbes’ are known as ‘good’ (beneficial) probiotics, and ‘bad’ (disease-causing).

You need a balance of both good and bad bacteria to function well.

How do probiotics work?

Consuming probiotics can help to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics can also help to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut.

Why might I need probiotics?

If the balance of bacteria in your gut is disturbed and you have too much bad bacteria as a result, then consuming probiotics can help to restore the balance.

You might need to increase your probiotic intake if you’ve recently taken antibiotics. Antibiotics are medications that kill off all bacteria in the gut – the good as well as the bad.

In some cases, stress or a lack of sleep can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut. A poor diet lacking in essential nutrients can also interfere with gut health, too.

More and more research is linking gut health to a variety of health conditions, such as immune system, mental health, heart health and even skin health.

Restoring the balance of good bacteria in the gut may be one way to help reduce some of the symptoms associated with many chronic diseases and maintain optimal health and wellbeing.

How many types of probiotics are there?

There are two types of microorganisms that have been used in probiotics for decades:

  • Bacteria – mainly from the Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria species
  • Yeast – in particular Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii which is most clinically researched yeast probiotic

These microorganisms have distinct yet complementary modes of action.

Lactobacillus

  • – This species of bacteria produce lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, or milk sugar
  • – Produce lactic acid, which helps control the population of bad bacteria
  • – Increases the body’s absorption of minerals
  • – Populates intestinal tract
  • – Reinforces the intestinal barrier

Bifidobacterium

  • – Supports the immune system
  • – Limits the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestine
  • – Helps to break down lactose into nutrients the body can use
  • – Populates intestinal tract
  • – Reinforces the intestinal barrier

Saccharomyces boulardii

  • – Adheres to and eliminates bad bacteria
  • – Anti-toxin effect
  • – Antimicrobial effect
  • – Enhancement of immune defence
  • – Resistant to antibiotics and can be taken at the same time

How to find the most suitable probiotics

Here’s how to choose the most suitable probiotic for you and your family:

  1. Visit your healthcare professional – chat about your specific health needs and which type of probiotic supplement could be most suitable for you
  2. Find the most suitable product for you – there are different strains of probiotics for different life stages, so make sure you read the labels and choose the most appropriate probiotic for you and your family
  3. Keep a diary you may want to record your daily probiotic intake so you can monitor for changes over time
  4. Be aware of storage – proper storage ensures the probiotic lasts and is effective; some probiotics need to be stored in the fridge while others can be kept at room temperature