What are probiotics and what do they do?
In our gut, we have a world of bacteria and microbes, in fact, trillions of them. Whilst we might typically associate bacteria with not-so-pleasant outcomes, we have plenty of ‘good’ and beneficial bacteria in our gut that we want to keep alive. They help to carry out digestive processes and absorb nutrients as well as support our immunity and well-being.
Probiotics are essentially live strains of bacteria that can help improve the gut microflora and ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. This can support a thriving and diverse microbiome, which itself can have many benefits.
Whilst there are many varieties of bacteria, this is an area of ongoing research and from what we know so far, specific strains have been discovered to have specific positive outcomes. For instance, there is evidence to support that the species S. Boulardii helps in managing and treating diarrhea.
How can we include them?
Probiotics can be found in specific foods, typically fermented ones such as curd, buttermilk, kefir, and pickles. However, not all fermented foods would have probiotics because, with cooking methods such as heat, the ‘good’ bacteria may not survive. Probiotics are also now commonly available in concentrated pills and supplements.
Do you need a probiotic supplement?
Well, it depends! For specific gastrointestinal conditions, such as ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome there could be benefits with appropriate probiotic supplements at the required dosage. While there remains more to be understood in this area, at present there is not quite enough evidence to indicate that these supplements are something everyone needs to include. What we do know is that a diverse and healthy gut is a happy one so focus on building that up with a variety of gut-loving foods, probiotic ones included!