Probiotics – what are the best bugs for our guts?

Probiotics are live microorganisms.  Consumed in suitable quantities, they are beneficial to our health.

It’s an exciting area of research.  Food and beverage manufacturers are competing to impress us with the health enhancing qualities of their products.  Possible health benefits from the consumption of probiotics include:

  • Restored microbiotica.
  • Metabolism of fatty acids.
  • Modulation of the immune system through peptides produced by bacteria.
  • Improvement of symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, in some studies, but not all.
  • Relief from constipation, in some studies, but not all.

The lack of a specific nutritional advice on the use of probiotics is due to:

  • The massive complexity of bacteria, differing strains of a single species don’t produce the same effects.
  • Our own microbiotica is unique, a probiotic which is beneficial to one person may be useless to another.
  • Our microbiotica is a dynamic system, its state will alter with multiple factors such as our diet, travel, stress or antibiotics. A probiotic which works wonders at one time might have little or no effect at another.
  • Research from different populations, with different lifestyles, on different diets, consuming different probiotics, doesn’t produce a clear picture. The EU so far has rejected all health claims by food manufacturers for probiotics due to the questionable quality of the research.

 

What to do!?!

Cover our bases by choosing a quality product with at least three or four bacteria strains.  For instance, one well known range of ‘bio live yoghurts’ contains Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactococcus lactis and Bifidobacterium lactis.  Quite a cocktail, they might not all do great things, but they might and they’ll certainly do no harm.

Be our own expert.  If we take an expensive probiotic and don’t see any benefit, then it isn’t the one for us.  However if we do find a product that maybe in certain circumstances feels beneficial to our health, well maybe it is.

With time, more quality research is bound to immerge. This is a vibrant area of nutrition and it will be great to have more knowledge on which probiotics are most useful for which situations. Watch this space.