The health of our guts and, by extension, our whole bodies are largely influenced by a diverse community of trillions of microbes living in our intestinal tract. Our diet plays a key role in determining the health of our gut flora and since we’ve come to realise this, health professionals have promoted a variety of foods to maintain our gut health, from fermented to high fibre foods.
Probiotics are another popular food product that is said to improve various aspects of our health. Today, millions of people take probiotics for their gut health and to prevent and even treat some illnesses. But do probiotics live up to the hype? How effective are they? And are some products better than others? We take a closer look at these questions below.
The Potential Benefits of Probiotics
Since the mid ‘90s, studies have suggested that probiotics can help treat several gastrointestinal conditions and delay the development of allergies in children. Research has also suggested that probiotics can be useful in the prevention and treatment of:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Vaginal infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- H. pylori (ulcers)
- Recurrence of bladder cancer
- Infection of the digestive tract caused by Clostridium difficile
- Pouchitis (a possible side effect of surgery that removes the colon)
- Eczema in children
However, probiotics don’t always work for everyone. This is because there are so many extraneous factors involved in your gut health such as genetics, diet, age and health. Our health is a complicated system, and there is no such thing as a magic pill.
Why Probiotics Don’t Work
There are a variety of probiotic products available on the market, and not all of them are effective. Probiotics may not work for several reasons such as the dose being incorrect, having the wrong strain, poor product quality or incorrect storage. A significant challenge with probiotics is their fragile nature. They must be able to survive the process of manufacturing, distribution, storage and consumption in your stomach acid in order to actually be effective in your gut.
Prebiotics vs. Probiotics
You may also have heard of prebiotics. Like probiotics, they are beneficial to your gut health but the similarities end there. The main difference between prebiotic and probiotic products is that the latter is live beneficial bacteria caused by the process of fermentation. Meanwhile, prebiotic fibre is a non-digestible part of food which can be found in bananas, onions, garlic, artichoke, apple skin, beans, chickpeas, leeks, seaweed, chicory root, asparagus, oats, cocoa, flaxseeds and more.
Research has found that prebiotics help the beneficial bacteria already in your gut flourish. This reduces the risk of disease and improves your general wellbeing. Prebiotic fibre has the advantage of being not as fragile as probiotic bacteria, as it is not affected by heat, stomach acid or time. Another advantage over probiotics is that the fermentation process doesn’t differ depending on the individual. Everyone benefits from consuming these high fibre foods.
Health Checks in Melbourne
Pinnacle Health Group provides a range of health services including nutritional therapy, physiotherapy, massage, clinical Pilates, yoga, general health check-ups and more in multiple locations in Melbourne. If you’re injured or need health advice, book an appointment from one of our centrally based health clinics or join a wellness class near you.