Years ago when you visited a holistic practitioner, they would recommend you take probiotics to help your gut health. These products were often denounced as a waste of time and money and serving no purpose. Now years later, with modern science being able to undergo far deeper tests on live people, the modern medicine view is changing. It may not be so in your own medical practice, because currently there are often no recommended probiotics available on prescription. There is not much doubt that this will soon change, and when you get your antibiotics, it will be followed by a course of probiotics to take afterwards. For some of my clients, they have already been asked to buy probiotics after completing their course of antibiotics by their health professionals.
So why do we need to take probiotics and what are they?
It all comes down to biology. In order for us to survive, digest food, be well, we need to have certain factors in place, in the right order. So for instance in our mouth, the saliva is alkaline. This starts the process of digesting carbohydrates, when we chew. It’s essential to our healthy digestion. The stomach is acidic. This acid breaks down proteins, so the meat, cheese, eggs, nuts etc. that we eat. Protein is known as the building block of the body, it’s essential for our body. Carbohydrates are basically a brain food.
The small intestine environment is alkaline, it’s the job of the pancreas and gall bladder to shower alkaline enzymes onto the acidic food from the stomach as it descends into the small intestine. Otherwise we can get terrible heartburn and acid reflux.
The small intestine removes the nutrients from our food and drink and delivers them into the blood for processing in the liver, via the villi, which is part of our lymphatic system. There are a number of important enzymes used in this process.
The final journey of our food is into the large intestine or colon as its also known. This happens via a sphincter muscle on the right-hand side of our body, near the appendix. This is known as the ileocecal valve (ICV). It’s not actually a valve, but a tight muscle, which relaxes and tightens again as the pressure of food waste needs to be passed through into the colon.
From a holistic point of view this area is really important, as our lifestyle, diet, emotions all are reflected around this area. IBS, an irritating condition is an out of balance small intestine. It can be triggered off by a time of anxiety, grief or fear. The ICV is an area that responds to anxiety and stress. If out of kilter it can prevent the ‘food waste’ from passing through causing IBS symptoms or constipation and pain. On occasions it can be too ‘open’ and we may experience diarrhoea.
The colon area is the one most affected by antibiotics. The colon should be an acidic environment. There are millions of friendly bacteria that live there. Their job is to break down the food, remove water and prepare the waste for removal from the body when we go to the toilet. If our ‘friendly’ bacteria are unavailable, then problems occur.
The reason why antibiotics affect this area is due to their ability to kill bacterial infections. However, they kill ALL bacteria. And we need bacteria to complete our digestive process. Antibiotics are amazing medicine, that have saved millions of lives. However, the downside is they can leave after effects that can cause rather annoying side effects. Candida or yeast overgrowth is one. Weight issues have now been linked to gut bacteria. READ MORE This was reviewed on the programme on BBC2 about DNA and Weight. To find out about having your own DNA tested follow this LINK
So what type of probiotics do we need to replenish our own?
You can buy sugary yoghurt drinks in the supermarket, however these can actually aggravate issues due to the sugar. Live cultures in organic yogurt works, as do supplements of probiotics. There are many brilliant companies that supply these. One company is Optibac, who also has probiotics available for babies and children.
You can also help yourself, by eating more prebiotic foods. These are onions, garlic, leeks etc. However, the secret is to eat these foods raw. For more information, follow this LINK
So why bother replenishing your gut bacteria?
The list of symptoms often associated with a lack of healthy bacteria in the gut is huge. These are just the tip of the iceberg. The associated symptom of each of these cause so many problems to people in their everyday life.
Diarrhoea (especially after taking antibiotics)
Certain intestinal infections and chronic disorders like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Inflammatory bowel disease
Leaky gut syndrome
As more and more research is done, it shows the importance of creating and maintaining a healthy digestive system, for all the family.