How probiotics can boost your health
The discovery of how a strain of bacteria survived for 25 million years in a state of suspended animation is one reason health scientists’ view of probiotics has changed.
Until recently most probiotics in supplements or yoghurts were thought to be more smart marketing than good science. That’s now changing.
Health researchers were always agreed that probiotics – the microscopic ‘good’ bacteria in your gut – are vital for your health. But there were doubts whether taking probiotics in supplements was effective and severe doubts that probiotics in yoghurts survived being eaten.
What’s known is that probiotics:
- Are critical for your immune system
- Are vital for your digestion
- Fight food-borne illness
- Crowd out pathogenic (dangerous) bacteria, yeasts and fungi
- Synthesise certain vital vitamins like B12, folic acid and K2
… and now we are discovering that they are also able to:
- Fight inflammatory diseases like IBS and colitis
- Reduce the risk and duration of urinary tract and candida infections
- Help prevent traveller’s diarrhoea
- Affect mood and reduce stress
- Aid weight loss
… and may have a role to play in cutting the risk of some cancers, Parkinson’s and even Alzheimer’s .
But, as we’ve already said, until recently many health researchers were doubtful that taking probiotics in yoghurt or supplement form works. And regulators have been slow to approve health claims for probiotics.
Set against these doubts, Harvard Medical School, in a summary on probiotics in 2015, stated:
“A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that you can treat and even prevent some illnesses with foods and supplements containing certain kinds of live bacteria.
“Some digestive disease specialists are recommending them for disorders that frustrate conventional medicine, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Since the mid-1990s, clinical studies suggest that probiotic therapy can help treat several gastrointestinal ills, delay the development of allergies in children, and treat and prevent vaginal and urinary infections in women.”
Other respected research institutions strongly recommend probiotics after a course of antibiotics. So why the controversy?
It’s because for probiotics to positively affect your health they need to:
- Be live when you consume them
- Be present in sufficient numbers
- Survive being eaten
- Pass, still alive, through the stomach, which is highly acidic.
They then need to establish themselves in the lower gut where they must remain and breed, in order to boost the numbers and range of the existing ‘friendly’ colonies there – and to ‘crowd out’ and decrease the number of disease-producing bacteria. Because the wider the range of beneficial probiotics in your gut, generally the healthier you are.
Probiotics that work
The aim of this report is to give you the latest research, what is fact, and what is unproven, the best probiotic (and prebiotic) foods to eat and the benefits of a new generation of probiotic supplements called endospore probiotics.
Endospore probiotics are changing experts’ minds about the viability of probiotic supplements. Endospore bacteria are a family of bacteria that has evolved over time to develop a shell that protects them against extremes of heat, cold, moisture, dehydration, enzymatic destruction and even UV radiation.
How hardy are these endospore bacteria? Well, scientists examining the stomach content of a fossilised bee that had been trapped inside amber for 25 million years, found it contained viable Bacillus bacterial endospores. In fact ‘endo-‘ means ‘inside’ and ‘-spore’ refers to a ‘dormant structure.’
Nebraska University has specialised in probiotic research for over 85 years. Scientists there have now developed probiotic bacteria with the same shell mechanism that preserved the bacillus endospore bacteria in suspended animation within that bee.
These strains are able to survive the harsh acids of the bile duct and stomach and the anaerobic (no oxygen) environment of your intestines. Once endospore bacteria reach the small intestine, the shell disintegrates – so the bacteria remain in the gut and can reproduce to form a colony.
There are now other strains, too, that definitely do survive to increase the numbers and variety of ‘friendly bacteria’ strains in your intestines. They include Lactobacillus Acidophilus DDS-1 – also developed at Nebraska University.
The key probiotic questions
This report will answer these key questions:
- Which probiotics actually survive to reach the gut? They don’t all!
- What numbers of probiotic bacteria do you need in a supplement to be effective?
- Which strains are most effective and how many strains should a supplement include?
- Are yoghurts an effective way to boost your probiotic status?
- When do you need to specifically boost the level and range of the probiotics in your gut? Because few people need to take a probiotic supplement continuously.
For those who want the findings immediately, here is a summary of the top 10 reasons to take a probiotic supplement.
But please do read the whole report – you will find some fascinating facts about your body we guarantee you didn’t know!
There is an extensive reference list at the end.
The top ten reasons for taking probiotic supplements
- Probiotic strains have now been developed that do reach the gut and can colonise there. These include resistant strains like the endospore Bacillus coagulans ProDURA™ and Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1.
- Increased diversity of probiotic bacteria is linked to reduced risk of many diseases. So a supplement with at least 5 strains of probiotic is better than high levels of one or two strains.The make-up of each person’s intestinal flora is unique. So a probiotic supplement with only one or two strains in it may have noticeable benefits for one person but not the next. Whereas a multi-strain probiotic supplement has a far better chance of delivering its health benefits.
- Increasing the number and variety of probiotics in your diet is very important after a course of antibiotics – because antibiotics kill off both good and bad bacteria.
- Boosting probiotic levels can fight candida yeast infections, prevent traveller’s diarrhoea, reduce stress levels and possibly support weight loss.
- Increasing the level and diversity of ‘friendly’ bacteria supports the health of your immune system, as 70% of this is located in the gut. Certain probiotic strains may also have an anti-cancer role.
- The balance of bacteria in the gut directly affects mood and can even reduce the risk of some neurodegenerative disease.
- A deficiency of probiotics in older people is now thought to contribute to memory loss and impaired cognition.
- Probiotics, by synthesising vitamin K and by helping the absorption of calcium, help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Yoghurts have health benefits, but are not usually an effective way to boost your probiotic balance. High temperature pasteurisation kills both good and bad bacteria, and independent studies show that few good bacteria from yoghurts actually reach the gut.
- Probiotic bacteria are living organisms and need their own food to thrive. These foods are called prebiotics. So any well designed supplement will not only include resistant probiotic strains but some prebiotics as well.