Top 5 Reasons to Take Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms, often called microbiota. They are typically bacteria or yeast and are believed to provide health benefits. People will often call them “good bacteria” because they help to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the digestive system and gut. It is suggested that the body contains a complex community of microorganisms, known as the microbiome.

Microbiota and bacteria occur throughout the body, not just in the gut. For example, in the mouth, on the skin, in the nose and around the pelvic organs.

Key aspects of probiotics include:

Types of Probiotics: The most common types of probiotics are bacteria belonging to the groups Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Yeasts like Saccharomyces boulardii are also used as probiotics. Each group comprises different species and strains, each with its own health effects.

Sources of Probiotics: Probiotics are found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kimchi. They are also available as dietary supplements in the form of capsules, tablets, powders, and liquids. Avoid probiotics that are particularly high in sugar.

Mechanism of Action: Probiotics work by enhancing the gut microbiota, which can be disrupted by factors like diet, illness, or antibiotic use. They help in restoring the natural balance of gut bacteria, inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria, and enhancing the body's immune response.

Safety and Side Effects: Probiotics are generally considered safe for most people, although some immune-compromised or immuno-suppressed patients may need to seek further advice from a nutritionist.

Benefits: The effectiveness of probiotics can vary greatly among individuals. Different strains and species of probiotics have different effects, and what works for one person may not work for another.

Top 5 Reasons to Take Probiotics

1. If you have taken a course of antibiotics

As a prescriber who can potentially prescribe antibiotics, I’ve not yet in 7 years ever prescribed a single dose of antibiotics. The last time I took antibiotics was 20 years ago, after a persistent bacterial parasite infection, and I felt very sick for four days before stopping them. Strong antibiotics can have serious side-effects too (organ toxicity, allergic reactions, rashes).

One of the problems with antibiotics is they kill bacteria, and damage the microbiota. This can cause gut issues like diarrhoea, constipation, nausea and stomach cramps. They are also ineffective against viral infections, and no use for flu, coughs, colds or COVID-19. There’s also a rising issue of antibiotic resistance. Bacteria are smart, they can become resistant to the drugs over time.

With the microbiota damage caused by antibiotics, taking a course of probiotics is essential. However, what is better is to only use antibiotics if the risk of infection is very high.

2. Strengthen your gut and microbiome

Probiotics help to maintain a healthy level of gut bacteria, which is important for digestion. This can help if you have poor gut health (for example, high sugar diets, high carbohydrate diets, very fatty diets, alcohol consumption, high levels of red meat, and excess fizzy drinks).

Probiotics can enhance production of mucin (similar to mucus) to prevent harmful pathogens and toxins from entering the blood stream. This is known as “leaky gut syndrome”. This globular mucus lining in the gut helps to form a barrier from stomach acid, aiding digestion.

They can also help gut motility, that helps regular and good bowel functions.

Probiotics can also aid digestion and nutrient absorption by helping to break down foods in order for them to be digested. They may also play a role in production of vitamin K and B vitamins.

3. Boost your immune system

Probiotics can enhance the body’s immune response and help reduce the chance of getting infections. They can also help to:

  • Increase good bacteria in your gut – can help outcompete harmful bacteria.

  • Interaction with immune cells in the gut, such as macrophages, T and B lymphocytes.

  • Reduction of inflammation. Probiotics can help reduce and regulate inflammatory levels, and promote the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines.

  • Stimulate the production of immunoglobins such as IgA - these play a role in immune health.

4. Preventing diarrhoea

Most of us will be familiar with going abroad and getting an upset tummy. This can be extremely unpleasant and last several days, ruining a holiday at best, and leaving some patients dehydrated and hospitalised at worst. Tummy bugs can be due to drinking water that we are not used to, or eating food that may have bacteria in it. Many travelers will advise the benefits of taking probiotics before travelling to high-risk countries to help prevent getting an upset stomach while abroad.

5. Reducing inflammation

We believe that a lot of inflammation comes from the gut. I remember a few years ago being at a study day organised by St George’s hospital and clinicians from all the major musculoskeletal, rheumatology and orthopaedics fields were invited to a conference room to discuss the future of care. As you can imagine, little was achieved. I recall suggesting that rheumatoid conditions could be improved by gut health by reducing inflammation. I was categorically advised by the consultant rheumatologist on my table (I won’t mention her name) that this was not possible and there was absolutely no evidence to support that theory. However, I stand by it. Improving gut health (with probiotics) can help reduce inflammation in the body.

Physiotherapists and osteopaths at Surrey Physio have a particular interest in holistic lifestyle, nutrition, exercise and gut health. Call our team to find out the best people to book in with for support on weight loss, exercise, and gut health at Surrey Physio. Telephone: 0208 685 6930.