The human gut has an estimated surface area of a tennis court, and we have more than 100 trillion different bacteria living there. These can be split into three main groups; lactic acid bacterial group (which are used in probiotics), anaerobic group, and aerobic group.
These bacteria produce essential nutrients, promote good bacterial growth, promote immunostimulation, protect against carcinogenesis, resist infection and control colonic pH, along with being involved in behavior and stress response by creating a barrier between our intestines and pathogens, or unhealthy bacteria.
Problems start to occur when the unhealthy bacteria outweigh the healthy bacteria. Not eating enough fruit, vegetables, or fiber, food intolerances, antibiotics and a stressful lifestyle can all cause your gut health to be disturbed.
So, does this mean you should take a probiotic? The research currently shows that it is not a 'cure all'. Given the huge number of bacteria living in your gut, this is no surprise, as a drink, tablet or capsule, at this time, does not have everything on it you need. However if you wish to take it to assist with promoting general health, you can. Supplements are especially effective for those prone to gut issues (such as IBS or runners gut), or if you have recently been taking antibiotics. However a supplement should be used as just that, a supplement; it does not replace a healthy diet.
Remember to check in next week, where I'll be discussing probiotics!
Chloe McLeod is a dietitian at BJC Health.
This blog focuses on diet & nutrition generally and diet & nutrition in relation to the treatment of arthritis and arthritis-related diseases. Contact us if you’d like our help in managing diet-related health issues.