Truth about Probiotics...
…what are they?
Probiotics are nothing new. In fact back in 1907, Metchnikoff, a Russian scientist hypothesised that replacing the number of “putrefactive bacteria” in the gut with lactic acid bacteria could normalise bowel health and prolong life. He said that some species of bacteria in the large intestine were a source of toxic substances which contributed to illness and aging.
Probiotics, often called 'good' or 'friendly' bacteria, are live micro-organisms (bacteria or yeast). They mainly reside in the gastrointestinal tract, near to where our immune cells lie. In fact, 80% of our immune cells are found in the gut.
The number of bacteria in our bodies outnumber our body cells by 10:1.
But as bacteria are much smaller than human cells, they make up only 1-2% of our body mass.
Why do we need good bacteria?
We need to maintain good bacteria and keep them colonising in the body, because Probiotics have 4 critical functions:
- Produce anti-microbial substances, such as lactic and acetic acids which kill pathogens (bacteria, virus or micro organisms that cause disease).
- Have beneficial metabolic activities which benefit the host e.g.improve lactose intolerance and sugar and protein digestion.
- Compete for nutrient and adhesion sites from bacteria thereby reducing infection.
- Balance the immune system to manage infectious agents and reduce intestinal inflammation.
What happens when we have insufficient “good bacteria”?
'Good' and 'Bad' bacteria are collectively known as 'intestinal flora'. An intestinal flora imbalance of low good bacteria can lead to a number of health problems:
- Gut infections; including candidasis
- Bloating and intestinal pain
- Diarrhoea and/or constipation
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Poor complexion
The ideal ratio for optimal health is 85:15 for good and bad bacteria respectively.
Antibiotics taken for any bacterial illness can kill both the good and bad bacteria present in your gut, thereby disturbing the ratio and favouring the growth of bad bacteria. This can result in common bowel problems called 'antibiotic - associated diarrhoea' and is why a good probiotic is often recommended to be taken alongside antibiotics.
What are the main types of friendly bacteria?
Lactobacilli- These mainly live in the upper digestive tract and are found in the mouth, nasal passages, throat, oesophagus, stomach and also the vagina, urinary tract, small intestine and colon. They produce important chemicals such as lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide which are disliked and not tolerated by bad bacteria.
Bifidobacteria- There are over 30 different species of this type of bacteria which are mainly found in the large intestine. One species, Bifidobacterium infantis is found in human breast milk and is an important component of the gut flora in infants.
Bifidobacteria, like Lactobacilli produce lactic acid, but also secrete acetic acid, which has a much stronger anti-microbial activity, meaning they kill, or inhibit the growth of damaging micro organisms.
Yoghurt is one of the most familiar sources of good bacteria that keep a healthy balance in your gut.
Why are Probiotics important in digestion?
Digestion is a complex process which starts in our mouths and ends in our large intestine. It is affected by the food we eat, emotion, stress and the environment. We require good digestion for optimal health, to ensure nutrients are obtained and waste products are effectively removed from the body. Probiotics are involved in the final stage of digestion.
Poor digestion caused by low levels of good bacteria can cause
Lifeplan's Digestives range has been specially formulated to help you and your family to maintain healthy digestion and the optimum intestinal flora balance on a daily basis.