So far in this “Looking after your Gut Health” series, we’ve talked about:
A probiotic primer: what are they, and what do they actually DO?
You’ve probably heard the term “probiotic” before – perhaps as an ingredient in yogurt, kefir or kombucha. If so, you probably know that probiotics are good for you… but you might feel a little fuzzy on exactly WHY.
Probiotics go by several different names: gut flora, probiotic bacteria or beneficial bacteria just for starters. Regardless of what you call them though, literally billions of them from over 400 different species live in a healthy human digestive system. And just some of the benefits they pay as “rent” for their living space include:
- Generally supporting health and wellbeing: research has shown that probiotic bacteria can support digestive health in several ways. And as we talked about back in Article #1, a healthy digestive system plays a role in immunity, and general wellness.
- Competing with less friendly organisms in your gut: there are a vast number of non-probiotic bacteria that have far less beneficial effects on your body. However, when it comes to intestinal real estate, there’s only a limited amount of nutrients and space to go around. So the more probiotic bacteria your gut hosts, the less capacity there is for the other kind.
- Helping to maintain the right pH: one family of natural gut bacteria, Lactobacillus, produces lactic acid. This compound helps to keep environmental conditions in your digestive system less welcoming for non-probiotic bacteria and other unhelpful microbes.
- Producing important nutrients: some probiotic strains actually produce essential B-group vitamins that your body can absorb and use. These B-vitamins play a role in creating cellular energy, processing other nutrients, and helping to maintain immunity.
- Directly supporting your immune response: research in this area is still in its early stages. However there’s evidence that giving animals probiotic bacteria can benefit their immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels; and other studies have shown beneficial effects on white blood cell activity.
Are all probiotics the same?
With the way supplements and health foods are marketed, it’s easy to think of “probiotics” as a single ingredient. In reality however, the term is a bit like “herbs” or “nutrients” – there’s a wide range of different types, and each one does something different in our bodies.
So before you assume that “a probiotic is a probiotic is a probiotic” and just reach for whatever happens to be on sale that day, here are a few things to consider:
- First, not all probiotic bacteria strains have been researched – and for those that have, different effects have been noted. That means that if you’re looking for a specific effect from your probiotic (e.g. supporting immunity, digestive health, kids’ skin health or even urinary tract health), you want a product containing at least one specific strain that’s researched to have that effect.
- Second, unlike other herbs or nutrients, probiotics need to actually be alive when you take them to have an effect. That might not sound like a problem… until you realise just how fragile most probiotic organisms are. Temperature and humidity changes can easily kill many strains in the capsule before you even swallow them.
- Third, not all probiotics are viable all the way to their site of action. Many people believe they can get all the probiotics they need from their food. But bacteria that are comfortable in the cool, creamy environment of yoghurt or kefir drink may not survive a trip through the harsh acidity and heat of your stomach.
Probiotic options for the whole family
Nutra-Life Probiotica is a range of high-quality, probiotic supplements, including:
- Nutra-Life Probiotica Daily Health: a blend of 3 probiotic strains for general daily digestive and immune support
- Nutra-Life Probiotica 50 Billion: a powerful, broad spectrum blend of 11 strains for extra digestive and immune support
- Nutra-Life Probiotica Adult 50+: a blend of 2 probiotic strains with Inulin for older adults
- Nutra-Life Probiotica Women’s Health: the Daily probiotic blend with Cranberry for urinary tract support
- Nutra-Life Probiotica Kids Daily: the Daily probiotic in an age-appropriate dose for children – all in a great-tasting chewable tablet
Each formula contains extensively researched bacteria strains in a shelf-stable format that means the probiotics they provide are guaranteed to be alive.
Ask your pharmacist or health store professional which option is best for you and your family.
 Isolauri, E, Sütas,Y, Kankaanpää, P, Arvilommi,H, and Salminen, S. Probiotics: effects on immunity. Am J Clin Nutr February 2001 vol. 73 no. 2 444s-450s
 http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/011211p20.shtml, accessed on 17/08/2018