Probiotic is a Greek compound word that literally means “good for life”.
Apart from the Greeks, many other ancient cultures link good gut health to overall well-being.
Probiotic rich foods were often regarded as “elixirs for longevity and vitality”. Russians enjoyed their morning kefir, the Japanese start their meal with miso, Koreans serve a portion of kimchi at their BBQ’s, whilst the Germans wouldn’t consider passing on sauerkraut when serving Bratwurst. The paleo culture jumped on the band wagon with delicious coconut yoghurt and coconut kefir.
So how does a healthy gut exactly impact on other areas of health?
Lets start with a few quirky facts about your digestive system:
- If spread out flat our digestive system would be the same size as a tennis court
- Our body contains over 100 trillion microbial cells that live in harmony with our cells. This is 10 times more than our own cells (how human is the human body really?)
- As humans we share 99% of DNA with each other, which means that 1% makes up our uniqueness. However, everybody’s microbial community make up is unique; your gut flora is 90% different to the gut flora of the person next to you
- Probiotics are the seed of a healthy immune system; old wisdom now backed by medical research
- The gut is a seat of many hormones, which impact healthy weight
- 80% of serotonin is made in your gut, hence it is called “second brain”
Our gut contains both protective and pathogenic bacteria in different ratios. We have good and bad microbes in our gut, depending on our lifestyle choices one would outnumber the other. Food, mindset and life style choices determine whether the good or pathogenic microbes prevail.
“ All disease begins in the gut” Hippocrates (The father of medicine, 460 BC)
When things go wrong
…. and the pathogenic microbes outnumber the good ones:
- Antibiotics – taken in pill form or unwittingly ingested when eating non-organic meats (which have been found to contain antibiotics ), were found to disrupt carbohydrate metabolism and promote antibiotic resistant genes
- Pesticides – this includes those strawberries straight from the punnet
- Stress – cortisol has a direct effect on disrupting gut flora 
- Sugar – food for bad bacteria to feed and multiply on
Healthy gut, healthy mood
You know when you get that “gut feeling” or “butterflies in your stomach” ? The gut and the brain communicate via their own nervous system. Medical professionals have recently created a term “psychobiotic” (the link between gut flora and behaviour) which is constantly being explored. Probiotics were found to produce a neurotransmitter called GABA , responsible for calm mood . When deficient we feel anxiety, poor quality sleep and digestive disorders.
Healthy gut, healthy weight
Carbohydrate metabolism was found to be disrupted when ingesting antibiotics. In fact studies point to low grade exposure to antibiotics (mainly from our food) were linked to weight gain 
Rob Knight leading microbiologist quoted “It turns out that if you give children antibiotics in the first six months of life, they’re more likely to become obese later.”
Gut flora is directly responsible for nutrient absorption, so when disrupted the body does not absorb nutrients from food and sends out hunger signals. Furthermore gut flora regulates energy intake, storage and expenditure through an intricate hormone chain.
Human research shows that a high-fat, high-sugar, low fibre diet for 1 month can disrupt a healthy flora by as much as 71%. The good news is that the body can increase it’s good gut flora by 38% within one month when on diet rich in fibre, good fats and low sugar .
So how to survive and enjoy periods of excess?
- When choosing a good yoghurt, opt for a sugar and “fruit” free variety with live, active cultures
- Keep things moving with high fibre salads; try this miso tahini dressing
- Bring tzatziki to your next BBQ
- Opt for grass fed, organic, antibiotic-free meats
- Have a refreshing kombucha on a hot summers day (the boys even willingly replaced their beer with one of these)
- Go zen with yoga / meditation or simply put your feet up
- Before a that big festive lunch pop a good multi strain probiotic such as Bioceuticals Ultrabiotic 45
 Elizabeth Lipski Ph.D. Digestive Wellness 2012
 Perez-Cobas et al. PLoS One 2013 Nov 25; 8(11):e80201
 Bested AC et al. Gut Pathogens 2013; 5(1): 3