Probiotics!

Why getting the right strains is important

Gut health and the microbiome has long been an area of clinical interest for me, and I have seen massive changes in understanding of the role of beneficial bacteria over the past 25 years I have been a naturopath.  Working out of a holistic framework means we always need to pay attention to the digestive system and having good gut health is an important foundation stone in optimising all aspects of health.

Many people in the community are now quite aware of the benefit of probiotics for gut health, and often know to supplement after a course of antibiotics. But just taking any old probiotic is not always going to give the results you might be seeking.

The human microbiome is comprised of a vast network of beneficial bacteria that are found to inhabit most regions of the human body and not just the gut. We have distinct and highly diverse groups of bacterial families inhabiting many regions including the skin, the genitourinary tract and the respiratory system. Moreover, bacteria in the gut can influence the health of tissues right throughout the body including the brain, heart and vascular system.  While we have our innate flora that we carry with us from birth, many bacterial species will increase or decrease depending on environmental conditions while others just pass through, but are able to have a major influence the state of the body as they do.

Probiotic supplements are in this category. Probiotics, contrary to what many people believe, are not meant to colonise the body of the host (us). But instead probiotics are found to elicit important and beneficial effects on the body while we take them. Extensive research into individual strains of bacterial families has been conducted to date, and this exciting area of research continues to grow with new discoveries paving the way for novel uses of strain specific probiotics in treating clinical conditions. The most-studied species include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces, but within each of these families of probiotics there are highly distinct strains which do very unique things in the body.

After attending a seminar this week, I was fascinated to learn about the benefits of very specific strains of probiotic bacteria on everything from iron absorption and fertility to osteoporosis, eczema, acne and gum health. It seems that before long we will have a probiotic for most disorders! Much of the way that probiotics work is to alter pH, competitively inhibit pathogenic bacteria, regulate cell functioning, create epigenetic changes, alter immune response and reduce inflammation.

While eating probiotic foods is a great foundation for gut health and one we always recommend, you may achieve more particular benefits on your health issues by using a specific strain of probiotic. Luckily the massive amount of research into probiotics is increasingly getting translated into highly effective products that we can now access in clinic.

So if you would like to learn more about probiotics for your clinical condition or you want to just use them as a preventative tool, please get in touch for a consultation. The dosages and frequency of taking probiotics is a key factor in achieving success, and the clinical trials offer very clear guidelines on this. As always, a holistic treatment plan aims to get to the root cause of a condition to allow the body to heal naturally and will create lasting effects.