Nutrition Made Easy For Busy People

Let’s Talk About Probiotics

You may have seen the recent BBC headline about probiotics, calling them ‘quite useless’, based on feedback from a recent study in Israel. Before you rush to throw out your probiotic supplements, let’s take a closer look at the facts.

In my clinical experience, probiotics aren’t useless at all and there is a wealth of clinical evidence which supports my view. It really depends what product you’re using, how strong the dose is, how consistently you’re taking it and what you’re trying to achieve.

There’s a general assumption that the role of probiotics is to repopulate the gut with ‘friendly’ bacteria, restoring the balance by muscling in on the ‘unfriendly’ bacteria. In fact it’s far more complex than that and we’re only really scratching the surface when it comes to our understanding of the gut microbiome, because it’s a vast and rapidly developing area.

It’s not as simple as restocking the gut with the good stuff. The way that probiotics seem to work is by improving the terrain in the gut so that the resident ‘friendly’ bacteria can thrive.

As they travel through the gut, probiotics will reduce levels of inflammation which can help to limit the growth of harmful bacteria and ease digestive discomfort, such as bloating and wind or inconsistent bowel movements. They also help to support a robust immune function by influencing the action of specific proteins in the gut, which makes them incredibly helpful when it comes to keeping you fit and well. Anyone consistently susceptible to colds and other infections would do well to consider whether they might benefit from probiotic support.

The Israeli research is based on a study of 25 people, taking one combination of probiotics for 4 weeks and examining whether the bacteria had established itself in the gut.  The conclusion was that the probiotics lingered briefly before passing out of the body and therefore couldn’t be effective. Here are a few reasons why I won’t be paying any attention to this study:

As well as using probiotic support, there are lots of ways that the right diet can help to support a healthy gut environment, in particular by focusing on fermented foods. In my new Eat Yourself Well course on immune-boosting foods, I devote a whole session to the importance of gut immunity and we’ll be cooking up some tasty foods for you to try. There are still a few places left, if you’d like to get your immune system in great shape for the winter and you can book your tickets HERE.

A few final tips on probiotics:-

In short, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the gut microbiome and it’s a hugely exciting and rapidly developing area of research. Even if we still don’t fully understand the exact mechanisms behind the effectiveness of probiotics, we do know that they can be highly effective in relieving unpleasant digestive symptoms. It’ll take more than a  4-week study of 25 people to convince me that probiotics are “useless”!

If you’ve been diagnosed with IBS and have been putting up with niggling digestive symptoms for years, you might benefit from a WellWellWell nutrition consultation. The right nutrition can be very supportive and may help to relieve a range of issues, such as bloating, wind and inconsistent bowel movements. Contact me if you’d like to arrange a free 20-minute telephone assessment.