What are probiotics?
Probiotics are the good bacteria responsible for keeping everything within our digestive system in check. Our body homes billions of bacteria, both good and bad. There are at least 10 times the amounts of bacteria in our bodies than there are cells. The majority of our bacteria are located in the digestive tract. We need to make sure we have more good bacteria than bad bacteria so as to keep a healthy digestive system and prevent illness. Probiotics are found naturally within the body, although sometimes we need to take some extra in supplement form so as to keep the balance.
Why do we need probiotics?
The good bacteria are responsible for good gut health. They are the guys responsible for aiding the breaking down and absorption of all the good stuff in your food. They keep toxins released from food at bay and keep the pH at a level where the bad bacteria cannot thrive. Lactobacillus also helps with smooth muscle contractions within the gut thus helping to prevent constipation, and can also help with the digestion of lactose. Good bacteria also help to synthesise vitamins such as vitamin B and K and help the gut to absorb the nutrients we take in. Bad bacteria produce a lot of gas in the intestine and can cause excessive bloating and flatulence. The more good bacteria we have, the less bad bacteria can fit in our digestive system, thus helping to reduce the amount of gas present.
The majority of the immune system is also located in the digestive tract. Ever find that after a course of antibiotics you seem to pick whatever cold or mini bug is going around? That’s because the medicine has also killed lots of good bacteria that protect you.
Do I need to take them?
There is a strong chance that you might! Pretty much everyone will be in a position where they need a helping hand with probiotics at some point in their lives. If you want to know whether you may or may not need a probiotic supplement, check out my other probiotic blog here.
What are symptoms of low good bacteria count?
The possibilities are endless. Due to the huge impact your digestive system has on the rest of your body, poor gut health could be seen through a huge variety of symptoms including (but not limited to):
- Acne or very dry skin
- Low mood & anxiety (studies have shown a strong link between gut and mental health)
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Thrush or candida
- Lowered immune system
- Bloating and gas
- Acid Reflux
- Vitamin/ Mineral deficiencies
What’s the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?
Simply put, probiotics are the good bacteria in our tummies and prebiotics are the food that feeds them. Prebiotics are usually non-digestible fibre foods such as asparagus, chicory, Jerusalem artichoke, wheat bran, members of the onion family etc. Inulin is a supplement commonly sold as a prebiotic. Inulin is the soluble fibre that comes from chicory root.
Which probiotic should I take? How many good bacteria do I need?
Good question. When it comes to brands, it unfortunately varies from person to person. Much like other supplements, different varieties will suit different people. Udo’s Super 8’s and Optibac are our most popular products for their high bacteria count and absorbability. Udo’s has a higher bacteria count, while Optibac has a variety of different products for various ailments and scenarios.
The strength will be dependent on how badly you need the probiotic. If you have just come out of a nasty stomach bug, a very high stress period of time, or a course of antibiotics, you will need the highest strength product such as Optibac Extra Strength or Udo’s Super 8. If you have been eating a bit badly, you’re feeling a bit bloated, or your taking a maintenance dose daily, you can go for a lower strength dosage.
Do I need to keep them in the fridge?
This depends on the product! Udo’s Choice should be kept in the fridge, though Udo himself admits to leaving them out of the fridge and even travelling with them sometimes, so it’s not the end of the world if they have to spend a couple of days at room temperature!
The bonus to the Optibac range is that none of them need to be stored in the fridge which makes them easy to transport and they can be left in a place you are more likely to remember to take them.
Are there any side effects from taking probiotics?
Side effects are unlikely to occur and when they do, they are usually mild and of a digestive nature. Some people complain of gas and/or diarrhoea. This is usually down to a sudden increase of bacteria into the digestive system. If this happens, try lowering the dose, another brand, or stick it out for a few days until your digestion regulates again.
How long will it take for the probiotics to work?
Again, this depends on your symptoms and how low your gut is in friendly bacteria. If your symptoms include candida and digestive issues, you could feel the difference pretty quickly, maybe even after a week or so. For more long term problems like skin issues, it could take up to 3 months before you really notice the change.
What can I expect after taking my probiotic supplement?
This depends completely on your symptoms and reasoning for taking the probiotic. You may find you haven’t been sick in a long time. You may also find your digestion improves, your bowel movements become more regular and your stomach feels flatter. Your energy may increase and your head my feel clearer and more focused.