Today we provide a basic explanation of how the human gut operates, and also look at how probiotics work and what some of the different strains do.
What is the human microbial community?
Bacteria and other micro organisms are a necessity to life. In the human body, bacteria out number our cells by 10 to 1.
Often referred to as commensal microbiota, microbes or microflora, these “good” germs exist on the skin, in the gut, and within the genitourinary and respiratory tract.
The gut contains the majority of microbes, but they perform a number of functions beyond the gut to help us maintain our health, including:
- Developing and maintaining our immune system
- Metabolism and nutrient absorption
- Regulation of inflammation
- Protecting us from pathogens
- They may also play a role in mood, stress-response and appetite control*
There are between 500 to 1000 species of bacteria in the gut, however it is dominated by two strains: bacteroidetes and firmicutes.
What are probiotics?
Today evidence-based practices incorporate a wide range of probiotic therapeutics for the management of a wide range of conditions.
Probiotics contain single or multiple strains of microbes that are designed to recolonise and/or maintain healthy gut function in every stage of life. For a therapeutic effect, it is important to consult a practitioner to understand what probiotic may help you and how much of it you require.
According to a recent comparative study, mixtures of probiotics may be more effective then single strains in providing beneficial health effects and in the treatment of Helicobacter pylori. Beneficial effects have been documented for:
- Irritable bowel syndrome and gut function
- Atopic disease
- Immune function
- Respiratory tract infections
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Modulation of gut microbiota
When are probiotics helpful?
Studies show that from the moment we are born microbes begin to colonise our body. Newborn and infant probiotics may be particularly important to consider when babies haven’t been exposed to microorganisms via vaginal birth or breastfeeding.
As we grow the microbial community flourishing within us begins to change. Antibiotic regimes and bouts of illness may disrupt the balance of “good” and “bad” microorganisms, causing problems with digestion and immunity.
Persistent food intolerances and sensitivities along with symptoms of poor digestions such as bloating, diarrhoea, indigestion and constipation may indicate the need for a probiotic treatment regime.
Which Probiotic is right for me?
Research indicates that probiotics can help to recolonise good microorganisms to restore the balance of microbiota within the gut. In order to recolonise and restore gut function with probiotics you may need to alter your probiotic supplementation throughout the course of treatment.
For instance, first, you may need to prepare the gut with an environment that probiotics can “stick” to. Saccharomyces boulardii (SB) is a probiotic yeast that helps to repair the gut and promote the growth of probiotic bacteria. This probiotic has been shown to have specific therapeutic uses and may be preferable to a multistrain probiotic in cases where antibiotics have been used or the immune system requires support.
Some probiotics may also be better than others for immune support. Again, Saccharomyces boulardii (SB) has been shown to be important here, along with a prebiotic known as lactofferrin. Lactoferrin has been shown to be particularly important for developing mucosal immunity and protecting the body from a number of disease-causing pathogens.
A multistrain probiotic that provides the body with a range of good microbes will be important to recolonise the gut and maintaing the gut microflora after the “ground work” and repair has been established. There are a number of multistrain probiotics available, we recommend using a probiotic that has been clinically tried and tested.
Ultrabiotic 45 by Bioceuticals is an example of a multistrain probiotic that has been clinically trialled to improve health. Consisting of 9 strains this product has been shown to also maintain a health microbial environment within the urinary tract.
Interested in talking to a practitioner about the right probiotic for you? Ask a naturopath here to find out more.
*Numerous animal studies have led researchers to hypothesise that human microbiota play a role in the regulation of mood and behaviour.