Gut health is the new buzz word in wellness. It’s everywhere. According to some experts, the cure for ailments as diverse as bloating to acne may be as simple as keeping your core healthy with the help of these miracle bacteria.
A 2014 study in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that some probiotics may even help women lose weight.
But do they really work? And if they do, will a one-size-fits-all capsule do the trick or should you be tailoring your supplement collection to suit your individuality? Here are all your burning questions, answered.
What Exactly Is a Probiotic?
According to Satish S.C. Rao, MD, PhD, the director of the Digestive Disease Centre at Augusta University, probiotics are essentially “bugs in a capsule.” But don’t let that freak you out. “Probiotics are active bacteria that have been grown and cultured in the laboratory and are believed to be helpful or beneficial to the human microbiome, or the human gut.”
Why is Gut Health So Important?
“Feeding the good bacteria in your gut and balancing your microbiome can be one of the biggest game changers in your physical, mental and emotional health,” explains nutritional therapist, Sara Jackson. Your microbiome (or gut bacteria) manufacture neurotransmitters, enzymes, vitamins and other essential nutrients. In fact, around 70% of your body’s defenses are found in the gut — so you can see why you simply must keep it in top working order.
Okay, But Do Probiotics Really Work?
According to Tom MacDonald, professor of immunology at The London School of Medicine: “Aside from eating a balanced diet and reducing your alcohol intake, I think probiotics are the only immune-booster with real scientific grounding.” It’s important to remember that clinical researchers are currently learning new things everyday about the bacteria that live in our body. Still, many agree that there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that supports probiotic use.
How Do I Maximise The Effects?
Look for a multi-strain probiotic that has billions of CFU (colony forming units) — Bodyism’s Ultra Probiotic is super high strength— and add fermented foods to your shopping list. For utmost impact, you should also support the supplements you’re taking with a healthy lifestyle. Keep your diet low in sugar, low in alcohol and minimise refined carbohydrate intake.
Probiotics Are Safe, Right?
Although Dr. Rao emphasizes that you shouldn’t take a probiotic as if it’s a multi-vitamin, he does believe them to be generally safe. But if you are suffering from constipation, bloating (or one of the many other symptoms that probiotics are meant to help with), you should also examine your diet and exercise regimen. “Complex carbohydrates and fibre can [also] feed your microbiome and make it more healthy and functional,” he adds.
“There’s a reason it’s called gut instinct or gut reaction – our emotional, physical and overall wellbeing is hugely affected by our gut. So be kind to yourself by being kind to your gut.” James Duigan.
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