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Probiotics and Brain Health: Unveiling the Gut-Brain Connection

Probiotics and Brain Health: Unveiling the Gut-Brain Connection

Degenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, pose significant challenges to healthcare systems and affect millions of lives worldwide. Traditionally, the focus has been on direct neurological interventions and pharmacological treatments. However, a new and promising area of research is emerging, one that links the health of our gut to the functioning of our brain. This connection, known as the gut-brain axis, is shedding light on how our digestive system could play a crucial role in brain health.


The gut-brain axis refers to the complex communication network that connects your gut and brain, involving multiple biological systems. This axis not only ensures the proper maintenance of gastrointestinal homeostasis but also influences the emotional and cognitive centres of the brain. Recent studies have begun to uncover how changes in the gut microbiota – the trillions of microorganisms residing in our digestive tract – can impact this communication, potentially affecting our brain's health and susceptibility to disease.

Enter probiotics – live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. Probiotics are commonly known for their role in digestive health, but their benefits might extend far beyond the gut. Emerging research suggests that probiotics could play a significant role in supporting brain health, potentially offering new ways to treat or even prevent degenerative brain diseases. By influencing the gut microbiome, these beneficial bacteria might help to maintain a healthy gut-brain axis, offering a beacon of hope in the battle against these challenging conditions.

As we delve deeper into this article, we will explore the intricate relationship between the gut and the brain, the role of the microbiome in this dynamic, and how leveraging the power of probiotics could open new doors in treating degenerative brain diseases. The potential of probiotics in this field is not just a scientific curiosity; it represents a paradigm shift in how we approach brain health and disease.

Understanding the Gut-Brain Axis

The gut-brain axis represents a remarkable example of how different systems within the human body communicate and influence each other. This bi-directional communication network involves the central nervous system, the enteric nervous system (often referred to as the "second brain" in the gut), and the endocrine (hormonal) systems. It's through this intricate network that the gut can send and receive signals to and from the brain, impacting everything from our mood to our immune response.

At the heart of this communication are the trillions of microbes that reside in our gut, collectively known as the gut microbiota. These microorganisms do more than just aid digestion; they produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which play crucial roles in regulating mood and anxiety. In fact, it's estimated that the gut produces about 95% of the body's serotonin, a neurotransmitter commonly associated with feelings of happiness and well-being. This production illustrates a direct pathway through which the gut microbiota can influence brain function and emotional health.

Recent research has further illuminated the gut-brain connection by demonstrating how changes in the gut microbiome can affect brain function and, conversely, how the brain can influence gastrointestinal function and composition of the gut microbiota. For instance, stress can lead to alterations in gut motility and secretion, microbiome composition, and intestinal permeability, potentially contributing to various gastrointestinal disorders. This stress-induced change in the gut can then feedback to the brain, affecting mental health and behaviour.

Moreover, studies have shown that individuals with certain neurological disorders often exhibit alterations in their gut microbiome. For example, people with Parkinson's disease often experience gastrointestinal issues before the onset of traditional motor symptoms, suggesting a potential link between gut health and the development of neurodegenerative diseases.

Understanding the gut-brain axis is crucial in appreciating how probiotics might influence brain health. By positively altering the gut microbiota, probiotics could potentially modulate this complex communication network, offering therapeutic benefits for brain health and a promising avenue for the treatment of degenerative brain diseases.

The Microbiome and Brain Health

The human microbiome, particularly the gut microbiome, is a complex ecosystem within our body, playing a pivotal role in our overall health, including brain health. This vast collection of microbes, primarily bacteria, but also viruses, fungi, and protozoa, has a profound impact on the body's physiology, from metabolism to immune function, and significantly, on brain function and health.

The microbiome influences brain health through several mechanisms. Firstly, it affects the body's immune response. A substantial portion of the immune system is located in the gut, and the microbiome directly interacts with it. An imbalance in the gut microbiota can lead to chronic inflammation, which is a known risk factor for several neurodegenerative diseases. By maintaining a healthy and balanced microbiome, this inflammatory response can be modulated, potentially reducing the risk of brain diseases.

Secondly, the gut microbes produce various metabolites, including short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate, propionate, and acetate, which have systemic effects, including on the brain. These SCFAs can cross the blood-brain barrier and influence brain function and neuroinflammation. They are also known to affect the expression of genes in the brain that are involved in neural growth and repair.

Furthermore, the gut microbiome can influence the brain's stress response system, known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. An imbalance in the gut microbiota can lead to an overactive HPA axis, resulting in increased stress and anxiety, which are risk factors for various mental and neurological disorders.

Research has also shown that individuals with certain neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, often have altered gut microbiota. While it's not clear if these changes in the microbiome are a cause or effect of these diseases, it suggests a strong link between gut health and brain health. 

The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in brain health by modulating immune responses, producing beneficial metabolites, and regulating the body's stress response. Understanding this connection opens up new possibilities for using probiotics to positively influence the microbiome and, by extension, support brain health and potentially mitigate the risks of degenerative brain diseases.

Probiotics: Definition and Mechanisms

Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when consumed in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. These beneficial bacteria and yeasts are often referred to as "good" or "friendly" bacteria. They are naturally found in the human body, particularly in the gut, and are also present in certain foods and supplements.

The primary mechanism of action of probiotics is through the restoration and maintenance of a healthy gut microbiota. They contribute to the microbial balance in the gut by competing with potentially harmful bacteria for nutrients and attachment sites on the intestinal walls. This competition helps prevent the overgrowth of harmful microbes that can lead to illness or inflammation.

Probiotics also strengthen the gut barrier function, which is crucial in preventing harmful substances from entering the bloodstream and causing an immune response. They enhance the production of mucin, a component of mucus that acts as a barrier in the gut lining, and stimulate the production of tight junction proteins, which are essential for maintaining the integrity of the gut barrier.

Probiotics can modulate the immune system, enhancing its ability to fight off pathogens while also preventing it from becoming overactive and causing inflammation. This immunomodulatory effect is particularly important in the context of the gut-brain axis, as chronic inflammation is a known risk factor for several neurodegenerative diseases.

In addition to these benefits, certain strains of probiotics can produce neurotransmitters, such as GABA and serotonin, which can have direct effects on brain function. They also produce other beneficial substances, like SCFAs, which have systemic effects, including on the brain. 

Probiotics work by promoting a healthy balance of gut microbiota, enhancing gut barrier function, modulating the immune system, and producing beneficial substances that can impact brain health. This multifaceted approach underscores the potential of probiotics as a therapeutic tool in maintaining brain health and combating degenerative brain diseases.

Probiotics in the Treatment of Degenerative Brain Diseases

The exploration of probiotics as a potential treatment for degenerative brain diseases is a burgeoning field of research, driven by the growing understanding of the gut-brain axis. Probiotics, by influencing the gut microbiota, hold promise in modulating brain health and offering a novel approach to managing neurodegenerative conditions.

One of the key ways probiotics may benefit brain health is through the reduction of systemic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a common feature in many neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. By balancing the gut microbiota and reducing gut permeability, probiotics can help lower the levels of proinflammatory cytokines, substances that can exacerbate neuroinflammation and neuronal damage.

Additionally, probiotics can influence the production of neurotrophic factors, which are essential for the growth, survival, and differentiation of neurons. For instance, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains have been shown to increase the levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a key molecule involved in neuroplasticity and cognitive function. This increase in BDNF could potentially slow or even reverse some aspects of cognitive decline in degenerative brain diseases.

Emerging research also suggests that probiotics may play a role in the modulation of neurotransmitters, directly impacting mood and cognitive functions. Certain probiotic strains can produce or stimulate the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA, which are crucial for regulating mood, anxiety, and cognitive processes. This psychobiotic effect of probiotics opens up possibilities for their use not only in neurodegenerative diseases but also in managing mental health disorders.

Clinical trials have begun to explore the efficacy of probiotics in treating symptoms of degenerative brain diseases. For example, some studies have reported improvements in cognitive function and quality of life in Alzheimer's patients following probiotic supplementation. However, it's important to note that this research is still in its early stages, and more extensive clinical trials are needed to fully understand the potential of probiotics in this context.

The role of probiotics in the treatment of degenerative brain diseases is a promising area of research. By modulating the gut microbiota, reducing inflammation, influencing neurotrophic factors, and affecting neurotransmitter levels, probiotics offer a multifaceted approach to supporting brain health. As our understanding of the gut-brain axis continues to evolve, probiotics could become a key component in the management and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

Nutrients Generated in the Gut and Their Impact on Brain Health


The gut microbiome is not only a complex ecosystem of microorganisms but also a biochemical factory that produces a variety of nutrients and metabolites, many of which have significant impacts on brain health. Among these, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate, propionate, and acetate are particularly noteworthy.

SCFAs are produced when gut bacteria ferment dietary fibres. These fatty acids serve as a primary energy source for colon cells and have systemic effects, including on the brain. Butyrate, for instance, has anti-inflammatory properties and can strengthen the blood-brain barrier, thus playing a protective role against neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration. It also influences gene expression related to brain health and can promote the growth and repair of neurons.

Propionate and acetate, other SCFAs, also have beneficial effects on brain function. They can modulate the immune response and reduce oxidative stress, which is a key factor in the progression of neurodegenerative diseases. Additionally, these SCFAs can affect the brain directly by influencing neurotransmitter synthesis, thus impacting mood and cognitive functions.

Beyond SCFAs, the gut microbiota also influences the production and availability of essential vitamins and amino acids that are crucial for brain health. For example, certain gut bacteria are involved in the synthesis of B vitamins, which are vital for brain function and the maintenance of neural structures. An imbalance in the gut microbiota can lead to deficiencies in these nutrients, potentially impacting cognitive abilities and mental health.

The gut microbiome's role in metabolising and modulating the availability of these nutrients underscores the importance of a balanced diet rich in fibres, probiotics, and prebiotics. Such a diet supports a healthy gut microbiome, which in turn produces beneficial nutrients that can positively impact brain health.

The nutrients generated in the gut, particularly SCFAs, play a crucial role in maintaining brain health. They help in modulating inflammation, protecting neural structures, and influencing neurotransmitter levels. This highlights the potential of targeting the gut microbiome through diet and probiotics as a strategy for supporting brain health and potentially mitigating the progression of degenerative brain diseases.

Challenges and Considerations

While the potential of probiotics in treating degenerative brain diseases is promising, there are several challenges and considerations to acknowledge. Firstly, the field of gut-brain axis research is relatively new, and many studies are still in preliminary stages. The complexity of the microbiome and its interactions with the brain means that definitive conclusions are yet to be drawn, and more extensive, controlled clinical trials are necessary.

Another consideration is the specificity of probiotic strains. Not all probiotics have the same effects, and the benefits seen in research may be specific to certain strains. This specificity underscores the importance of personalised medicine in choosing the right probiotic supplement.

Additionally, the dosage and duration of probiotic treatment for brain health are not yet well-established. Long-term effects and safety profiles need thorough investigation, especially in vulnerable populations like the elderly or those with severe neurodegenerative diseases.

While probiotics offer an exciting avenue for brain health, careful consideration of these challenges is essential for their effective and safe application in treating degenerative brain diseases.

Future Directions

The future of probiotics in the context of brain health is ripe with possibilities. As research continues to unravel the complexities of the gut-brain axis, we anticipate more targeted probiotic therapies tailored to specific neurological conditions. Advances in microbiome sequencing and bioinformatics will enable a deeper understanding of individual microbiome profiles, paving the way for personalised probiotic treatments. Moreover, the integration of probiotics with other therapeutic strategies, such as diet modification and pharmacological interventions, holds promise for a more holistic approach to managing degenerative brain diseases. Continued research and innovation in this field are essential to fully harness the potential of probiotics for brain health.

Conclusion: Probiotics and Brain Health

The exploration of probiotics in the context of brain health marks a significant shift in our approach to treating degenerative brain diseases. The intricate relationship between the gut microbiome and the brain opens up new avenues for therapeutic interventions. While challenges remain in fully understanding and harnessing this connection, the potential benefits of probiotics in enhancing brain health are clear. Continued research in this field is crucial, offering hope for innovative treatments that could improve the lives of those affected by these conditions. Embracing the gut-brain axis in medical science signifies a promising frontier in neurodegenerative disease management.

Discover more about enhancing your brain health with probiotics and explore a range of water for health products.

Further Reading

For further reading on the topic of probiotics and brain health, here are some recent articles that provide in-depth information and insights:

  • Gut microbiota's effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis - This article from PMC discusses the significant interest in the bidirectional communication between the central nervous system and gut microbiota, known as the gut-brain axis. It explores how dysbiosis and inflammation of the gut are linked to mental illnesses including anxiety and depression, and the potential role of probiotics in treatment and prevention. Read more.
  • Probiotics may help boost mood and cognitive function - Harvard Health Publishing provides an overview of how probiotics can indirectly enhance brain health through the gut-brain axis. The article discusses the biochemical signalling between the nervous system in the digestive tract and the central nervous system, including the brain. Read more.
  • The Gut-Brain Axis: Influence of Microbiota on Mood and Mental Health - This article from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) discusses the influence of microbiota on mood and mental health, highlighting the gut-brain axis. It covers the bidirectional communication network that links the enteric and central nervous systems and the impact of gut microbiota on mental state, emotional regulation, and neuromuscular function. Read more.

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The Importance of Good Gut Health for Overall Wellbeing

The Importance of Good Gut Health for Overall Wellbeing

Good gut health is very important for our overall wellbeing, but an increasing number of people are struggling with digestive problems.

Many names and labels are given to bowel dysfunction. Whatever the name or label you have been given for your gut problem, the secret to reclaiming your health is to restore the balance of your microbiome. Read on to learn more, including three things that are vitally important if we are to restore bowel health.

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3 Things That are Vitally Important for Probiotics to be Effective

3 Things That are Vitally Important for Probiotics to be Effective

Over the last couple of decades there have been huge advances in understanding the key role that the microbiome plays in our physical and mental health. As a result, there has been a myriad of probiotic products developed, ranging from probiotic enriched foods to food supplements. Many of them have brought results, yet in many ways they are only part of the answer.

Probiotics have a key role to play in digestive health. They give relief from many digestive problems such as IBS, constipation, SIBO, leaky gut, colitis, acid reflux and numerous other labels for digestive system disfunction. However their role in the body is much more wide ranging.

They have a key role to play in our immune function and our brain health. There is a very strong gut brain connection and poor microbiome health is known to be a contributory factor to degenerative brain problems such as MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimers and Autism.

It is also very much involved in emotional health where it impacts mood, particularly depression and anxiety.

Good health really does begin in the gut. We cannot really enjoy optimum health without optimising gut health. That, to a very large extent, means improving the microbiome.

Over the last number of decades the microbiome has been under considerable attack from chemicals in our environment and the extensive use of antibiotics and steroids.

Another contributor to the problem is births by caesarean section leading to the newborn child missing out on the beneficial microbes they would normally be seeded with when passing through the birth canal. This loss of immune protection given through normal child birth often leads to the early use of antibiotics. This compounds the problem and can often lead to a sequence of future problems.

If used correctly, probiotics can make a hugely important contribution to a healthy microbiome and the benefits that can be achieved cannot be underestimated. However in our view there are 3 aspects that need to be considered for optimum results to be achieved. These are seldom considered and as a consequence you will find many people disappointed with the results of probiotic supplementation.

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Why Multi-Strain Probiotics Always Trump Single-Strain

Why Multi-Strain Probiotics Always Trump Single-Strain

Why Multi-Strain Probiotics Always Trump Single-Strain

Gut health is a topic we have explored quite relentlessly in our blog.

From 10 Kitchen Habits That Are Damaging Your Gut to the links between gut health and B12 status, via 6 Signs of Poor Gut Health and 3 Key Factors You Must Consider to Improve Diversity, we have produced thousands of words, referenced countless studies and communicated the myriad benefits of a rich microbiome to anyone who’ll listen for the last decade.

During the same time period, we’ve witnessed the probiotic industry explode like a hydrogen bomb, with more manufacturers releasing patented probiotic formulas that they claim will solve everything from hay fever to psoriasis.

There have also been many books published on the topic, and it’s fair to say that the importance of gut health is now well and truly established in the field of preventive medicine and clinical nutrition.

But a question that continues to rear its head is this: are multi-strain probiotics preferable to single-strain? And if so, why? It’s a query we intend to answer, once and for all, in today’s blog.

Bacteria: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The human microbiome is home to thousands of species of bacteria which have evolved with us over the course of thousands of years. 

Actually, that number could be an understatement. The SILVA sequence database contains “hundreds of thousands of bacterial operational taxonomic units (OTUs).” 

Whatever the true figure, the human microbial gene catalogue is nothing if not extensive.

Everyone’s microbiome is as unique as their fingerprint, and dependent on a complex matrix of factors including genetic, dietary and environmental.

Interestingly, the latest research indicates that the microbiomes of people living around the world tend to alter depending not only on host lifestyle (exercise levels, dietary customs, vitamin D status, etc) but also on the level of industrialisation.

Depending on the species, bacteria may acquire anywhere between 10 and 100 new genes on an annual basis.

While there are thousands of individual bacterial species, the actual number of microbes living in the human gut is anywhere between 30 and 40 trillion.

This fact alone proves the folly of taking a probiotic supplement containing a mere 10 or 20 billion Colony-Forming Units. It’s a drop in the ocean.

Bacteria are often bracketed into two categories: beneficial (so-called “good bacteria”) or harmful.

While beneficial bacteria have a host of functions, including helping our bodies digest food, absorb nutrients and manufacture vitamins, harmful organisms are linked with everything from food poisoning (e.g. Salmonella) and pneumonia (Streptococcus pneumoniae).

Of course, it’s not as simple as eliminating all harmful bacteria and making our guts a factory of net-positive microbes, such as lactobacillus acidophilus.

The truth is, so-called harmful bacteria can circulate in the body at low levels and not cause us any problems.

It’s more about cultivating a diverse and balanced microbiome, and feeding the good gut bugs that can counteract the ill effects of their relatives.

Why Multi-Strain Probiotics Are Superior

According to a 2015 paper published in the journal Bioengineered, “to survive the stomach and arrive to the intestine in optimal numbers, probiotic strains must be able to adhere to intestinal epithelium and/or mucus, persist and multiply in the gut to maintain its metabolic activity, and confer their probiotic properties in the human body.”

That plural is instructive: strains.

While some probiotics contain one or two (Yakult, for example), the majority contain multiple in acknowledgement that diversity is the objective.

In the main, these belong to the genera Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which have a lengthy history of safe application.

Of course, it’s also worth considering whether you have introduced the correct combination of strains.

The best protocol is to research strains accordingly and introduce them in sufficient number.

For some species, a comparatively low quantity is needed while for others, you need to go with a higher dosage.

Interestingly, a 2012 study by the University of Reading determined that “in many cases a probiotic mixture is more effective at inhibiting pathogens than its component species when tested at approximately equal concentrations of biomass.”

In other words, strains work better in combination!

Best Sources of Multi-Strain Probiotics

Dietary probiotic sources are plentiful, encompassing foods positively brimming with “live” cultures.

The best examples are yogurt, kefir, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi, traditional buttermilk, kombucha, miso, natto, aged cheese, brine-cured olives, and dill pickles.

OK, so for the most part, these foods are somewhat obscure. Shopping for gut health is a little more challenging than, say, shopping to lose weight.

But adhering to a gut-healthy diet is incredibly rewarding, with noted benefits for immune health, digestion, and even body composition.

As well as eating a range of probiotic-rich foods, it’s a good idea to eat prebiotic foods. Prebiotics are indigestible fibres that function as “good” for the good bacteria growing in our gut.

Thankfully, prebiotic food sources are easier to come by. They include garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, barley, apples, burdock root, flaxseeds and seaweed.

Of course, if you’re keen to shake up your system with some impactful, high-strength probiotic supplements, a multi-strain formulation is the way to go. We recommend the Progurt brand.

Progurt Probiotics offer by far the highest dose on the market, at a cool 1 trillion beneficial bacteria in each sachet. What’s more, the bacteria is human-derived – meaning it’s intuitive to the human gut. Simply disperse a sachet in a glass of water and drink.

RelatedBest Form of Probiotics – Food, Drink, Tablets or Powder?

Conclusion

Maintaining a diverse microbiome is absolutely critical to ensuring proper gut health. But it’s about more than eating probiotic and prebiotic foods.

To quote from one of our previous blogs, “The gut is a garden – and it’s our role to provide the water, soil, sunlight and nutrients needed to make sure it blossoms.”

Sunlight (vitamin D), water (mineral-rich, contaminant-free), nutrients (probiotics, prebiotics, omega-3, polyphenols, fibre) and soil (avoiding antibiotic overuse, getting plenty of rest).

On top of which, you should strive to maintain a sound level of fitness. Not least because there are distinct, health-promoting bacteria associated with physical fitness. 

Because the microbial benefits of exercise are thought to be transient, it’s important to maintain good physical fitness to keep the microbiome primed.

Well, there you have it. With a little application, you can ensure peak gut health for years to come. And remember, multi-strain is the way to go.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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Why Gut Health is Vital for Immunity: A Comprehensive Guide

Why Gut Health is Vital for Immunity: A Comprhensive Guide

Your gut lining, from head to tail, contributes to a whopping 70-80% of your immune system. So, one of the most important things you can do to power your immunity and maintain a healthy body and mind is to look after your digestive health.

You have a collection of gut microbiota as unique to you as your fingerprints. It includes at least 1,000 different species of bacteria, good and bad, with more than 3 million genes, weighing up to 2kg. And some experts now consider this colony of microbiota to be an organ in its own right.

As well as safeguarding immunity, these fantastic microorganisms perform many functions that are crucial to your health like aiding digestion, absorbing nutrients, vitamin production, protection from harmful microbes and maintaining gut integrity.

Healthy microbiota isn't just about balanced gut bacteria; our digestive tract houses fungi and viruses too. When balanced correctly, they all help to protect you from acute illness and chronic disease. It doesn't take much to upset the balance either, so it's essential to be aware of how you are feeding and fertilising your gut bacteria.

A wholesome, fresh food diet and other healthy lifestyle activities cultivate fertile soil for your gut bacteria to thrive. Poor food and lifestyle choices have the opposite effect leading to digestive issues, toxicity, inflammation and illness. Without gut homeostasis, more harmful microbial strains increase, creating a two-fold problem.

Firstly, your gut health suffers, impeding digestion, increasing toxins, causing intestinal inflammation and malabsorption of nutrients – not good for your immunity and wellbeing.

Secondly, this causes weakening of the mucosal lining and tight junctions of the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract), allowing toxic compounds to leak into your bloodstream and body where they are not supposed to be. The result is systemic inflammation.

All this leaves you more susceptible to bacterial and viral infection, and at an increased risk of allergies, arthritis, autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto's and chronic fatigue, mood disorders, dementia and Alzheimer's. It can also lead to obesity and other chronic diseases, including diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Never underestimate the importance of your gut health. Look after it, and it will look after you!

Communication between your gut and immune cells


70–80% of your immunity stems from your gut which houses immune cells. Your intestinal microbiota assimilates anything that comes into your digestive tract, working mutually with your immune system to modify your metabolism, immunity and infection response. 

From the moment you are born, your innate immune system and microbiota work synergistically and develop together, promoting a finely tuned immune response that builds your resilience to pathogens, protecting you from infection and disease

Metabolites are small molecules that drive significant biological activities like energy conversion, cell signalling and oxygenation. Gut microbiota generates a considerable amount of these.

Your immune system monitors these metabolites and adjusts physiological processes accordingly. 

Things start to unravel when the delicate microbial balance is disrupted, for example via poor diet or medication, causing an overgrowth of harmful microbes (known as dysbiosis).

This disturbs metabolite production, and significantly impacts immune cell signalling and messaging to tissues and organs. 

Furthermore, dysbiosis can lead to a weakening of the gut wall, allowing harmful endotoxins and foreign compounds to leak into your bloodstream, causing disease.

As time goes on, you might experience weak immunity, increased susceptibility to infection, systemic inflammation, obesity, chronic illness and disease and organ dysfunction.

Leaky gut and inflammation


Persistent low-level systemic inflammation is linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and depression. 

As mentioned above, disruption to the intricate balance of healthy microbiota can lead to impaired immune signalling and cause a weakening of the tight junctions in the gut lining (known as leaky gut).

These junctions are essential for controlling what is allowed into your bloodstream (nutrients) and what is not (toxins). If these junctions loosen up, it opens the flood gates for harmful compounds to leak out of your gut and into your body.

Once toxins start circulating, it triggers an immune response causing inflammation. Acute inflammation is a natural immune response designed to control infection.

But if nothing is done to fix the problem, the immune system keeps the inflammation going and it becomes chronic. Consequently, serious health issues develop over time.

Autoimmunity is when your immune system becomes confused and mistakenly attacks your body. Leaky gut can also be a precursor to autoimmune diseases including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and Hashimoto’s.

Poor gut health and malnutrition

A healthy gut ensures you get maximum nutrient absorption from your diet, keeping your body functioning optimally and your immunity strong. Research shows that poor nourishment and deficiencies in B vitamins, vitamins A, C, D and E as well as zinc, selenium iron, copper and folate can impair the immune response.

Without the antioxidants and nutritional value they provide, you’re more susceptible to infection of all kinds.

Malabsorption leads to malnutrition, and it’s not uncommon for someone suffering from obesity to be malnourished. Without the right balance of gut microbes, you can feel fatigued as you are unable to get enough energy from your food.

Immune activities require a lot of energy; without enough, your immunity suffers.

The gut-brain connection


Prolonged stress and depression can weaken your immune system, making you more prone to acute illness like colds and coughs and also chronic disease. 

Unlike any other organs in your body, both your brain and gut have their own nervous system, and the gut is often referred to as the second brain or gut-brain axis.

Your microbiota produces neurotransmitters and hormones associated with mood and stress, much more than your brain. For example, around 90% of your serotonin production, the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter and chemical messenger associated with depression, occurs in your gut. 

Your brain and gut use the vagus nerve to communicate with each other and send signals. Dysbiosis, leaky gut, IBS, IBD and other digestive disturbance can reduce vagus nerve function

It can turn into a vicious cycle as gut inflammation leads to stress, anxiety and depression, and these conditions cause an overgrowth of more harmful bacteria (dysbiosis). 

So, as well as managing stress levels and looking after your mental health directly, your gut must be balanced for a happy brain.

Gut health and Covid-19


Although less is known about it, there is also talk of a gut-lung axis (GLA) and how the crosstalk between your gut and lungs can maintain and shape your immune response, changing the course of respiratory diseases. 

Like the gut-brain axis, one affects the other, with viral respiratory infections disturbing the gut microbiota and vice versa.

Researchers acknowledge that balanced bacteria are essential to maintain the intense dialogue between the gut and lungs, improving resilience to acute lung infections (Covid), COPD, asthma and cystic fibrosis. 

Researchers also recognise that gut microbiota diversity and the role it plays in immunity can diminish in old age and that the elderly are more susceptible to Covid-19 fatality.

Eating to improve this is essential as part of a Covid-19 prevention plan, certainly in older and immune-compromised people.

However, considering how prevalent impaired gut function is (ask a nutritional therapist), it seems like this is a good action plan for anyone wishing to protect themselves against coronavirus.

7 ways to protect and strengthen your gut

 

1) Diet

A poor diet, low in nutrients and high in processed foods causes inflammation as junk foods contain trans fats, sugar, unhealthy oils, excessive salt, refined carbohydrates and other harmful ingredients. Eating like this is damaging to your gut microbiota. 

So, there’s no getting around it – if you want to be well and encourage good gut health, you have to nourish yourself with proper nutrition.

Sure, we all like to enjoy life and do a little bit of what’s not good for us now and then – but the trick is to strike a balance and eat real, nutritious, non processed, non-junk, non-pre-prepared, non-takeaway food most of the time. 

Think of it in terms of percentage – for at least 80% of the time, eat wholesome, nutritious foods. Your brain, body, mind and gut eat up all the good stuff and love it.

The best diet for you and your gut health is a fibre-rich and diverse array of brightly coloured and green vegetables and fruit. The more varied, the more you encourage a thriving assortment of gut microbiota.

Added to this, eat whole grains (brown bread, pasta, rice as opposed to white – non-gluten if you prefer), healthy protein (beans, legumes, fish, lean meat), healthy fats (avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil), and plenty of fresh herbs and spices.

Avoid sugar as much as possible, and stay hydrated. This will provide a solid foundation for all your gut microbiota to thrive.

It’s also essential to include pre and probiotic foods daily which encourages new gut bacteria and fortifies the good stuff that’s already there.

It’s fair to say that once you start eating in this way for the majority of the time, you’ll begin to crave more of what’s right for you and less of what’s bad. It may be hard to imagine, but you’d be surprised at how your taste buds and needs will naturally change over time.

2) Take supplements to nurture a healthy gut environment

It’s not always appropriate to take probiotics, as depending on the gut issues you have, they may need to be addressed first and to rest and repair before the probiotics can have any real impact.

Probiotics can also exacerbate some gut conditions, so if you have a significant problem, it’s best to seek the advice of a nutritional therapist, naturopath or functional medicine practitioner to find out what’s really going on and take the best course of action. 

That said, for the rest of us, taking probiotics can be very beneficial for improving gut health. But it’s not just about taking probiotics; there are other aspects to maintaining the right environment for a healthy balance of microbiota.

Progurt is a supplement range that covers many of these, from cultivating a healthy PH and electrolyte balance to improving nutrient flow. 

To find out more about creating the right gut environment and other useful supplements, read this

3) Taking care of your mental wellbeing

Poor mental health takes its toll on your gut health and immunity. As previously mentioned, you must have a healthy balance of gut microbiota for your gut-brain axis to work effectively. Added to which, stress, anxiety and depression can negatively affect this, so it’s a double-edged sword. 

Taking the time to focus on your mental and emotional wellbeing is essential for the health of both your body and brain.

Research supports the use of stress-reducing interventions for improving gastrointestinal symptoms, including IBS. These include the practice of mindfulness, meditation and yoga as well as hypnosis, cognitive behavioural therapy and relaxation techniques like deep breathing

If you regularly struggle with stress or anxiety, find ways to alleviate the strain. This could be any of the above or simple things like being in nature, spending quality time with friends and loved ones, journaling or writing a daily gratitude diary, finding a hobby, getting involved in your community, and exercising. 

The list goes on, but find the most effective forms of stress relief for you. This article might help

4) Sleep 

There is also a sleep-gut connection, and one affects the other. When your circadian rhythm becomes disrupted through poor sleep, it can disturb your gut microbiota.

Aim for seven to eight hours of undisturbed sleep per night and if you suffer from sleep issues.

5) Drink plenty of water

We literally can’t survive without water, and our bodies need it for every single thing from cell, organ and brain function, to joint lubrication and oxygen transportation. 

Your gut also needs adequate hydration to move food through your intestines easily. Without it, you can become constipated, food and toxins build-up in your GI tract, and your delicate microbial balance suffers.

Water helps food breakdown, creates saliva which aids digestion, hydrates the mucosal lining of your gut and softens stools making them easier to pass. 

Make sure you stay hydrated, preferably with water but herbal teas also count. Read here for some helpful hydration tips. 

6) Don’t take unnecessary medication

If you want your gut microbiota to thrive, it’s vital to swerve non-prescription medication as much as possible and seek natural alternatives. Any drugs can significantly affect your gut health.

For example, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Nurofen and ibuprofen, are known to impact the diversity of gut microbiome severely. They can cause leaky gut and are responsible for over 50% of bleeding stomach ulcers. 

Antibiotics are also well known for destroying healthy gut bacteria, inhibiting our immunity and ability to fight infection. Even for a healthy person, it can also take up to a year for gut microbiome to recover post-antibiotic use.

Researchers fear that some of these harmful changes could be permanent.

7) Exercise

Too much vigorous exercise can be harmful to your gut microbes, but regular moderate exercise and movement can help to shift undigested food through your GI tract.

Make sure you get up and move at frequent intervals throughout your day.

Conclusion

As you can see, your gut health impacts your immunity in several ways. If you want to stay as healthy as possible, reducing your risk of acute infections and chronic disease, you have to nurture and cultivate a diverse and robust range of gut microbiota.

It isn’t just about gut bacteria – a finely-tuned balance of bacteria, viruses and fungi are what’s needed, and they all need to be protected. 

Have you been living with digestive issues for some time, or are you concerned that you have serious gut health issues? An accredited nutritional therapist, naturopath or functional medicine practitioner can give you the best advice and create an achievable, tailor-made plan to suit your needs.

If necessary, they can also provide the most up to date and accurate testing to help decipher what is really going on with you. 

Written by Rebecca Rychlik, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

 

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Could Probiotics Help to Provide Relief for Infantile Colic?

Could Probiotics Help to Provide Relief for Infantile Colic?

If you're worried about your baby's colic, you're not alone.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, 20-25% of babies meet the definition of 'colic' as defined by Wessel's criteria (sudden and extreme outbursts of fussing and crying for three hours or more per day, three days a week). It's also the cause of 10-20% of early paediatrician visits.

Colic can be a common cause for early cessation of breastfeeding and a considerable contributor to postnatal depression. Caring for a baby who constantly cries and cannot be soothed is stressful, tiring and can be downright depressing. It's incredibly upsetting when you're not sure what's going on, or how to help your baby.

Read on to learn about natural solutions that may help.

Colic Symptoms


The new Rome IV criteria define colic as ‘recurrent and prolonged periods of infant crying, fussing or irritability reported by caregivers that occur without obvious cause and cannot be prevented or resolved’.

Symptoms are as follows:

  • Colic can start from a few weeks old and is often over by six months.
  • The APA state that colic ends for 50% of cases around three months, and in 90% of cases by nine months of age.
  • Restless, irritated and hard to comfort and soothe.
  • Going red in the face, looking paler around the mouth or clenching fists while crying.
  • Excessive fussiness, even when not crying.
  • Tension in the body, a tense abdomen, arching of the back, extending of legs or bringing the knees towards the tummy.
  • Loud tummy rumbles and wind.
  • Baby cries more often in the afternoon or evening.
  • It seems like your baby is in pain.

Potential causes and triggers of colic

We are all unique, and often it’s difficult to know what the exact cause is. It may be better to describe colic as ‘colic like symptoms’ as there may be causes with very similar symptoms such as reflux. 

1) Temperament

Sometimes, it can be down to your baby’s personality or sensitivity. La Leche League state that “Some babies are more sensitive than others and need more comforting. It’s not unusual for a baby to cluster feed in the evening both for comfort and to increase milk production, and crying which is labelled as “colic” may simply mean that the baby needs to nurse again.” Sometimes, a baby may still be experiencing discomfort from the birth process. They could also be more sensitive to stimulation.

2) Digestion

Your baby may be struggling to digest food. They could be suffering from wind, find it hard to burp, have acid reflux, or an oversupply of milk. 

3) Gut bacteria

Your baby may have unbalanced gut bacteria. Babies delivered by C-section can be deficient in crucial gut microbes as they have not passed through the birth canal. They can also harbour harmful microbes that are common in hospitals.

A small study supports ‘swabbing’ your baby immediately after C-section with bodily fluids from your birth canal to expose them to all the beneficial microbes. This is still controversial in the medical profession, and further studies are underway.

4) Allergies

Your baby might have food allergies. Milk allergies and lactose intolerance can have similar symptoms to colic. It could also be something that you are eating that your baby is sensitive to. Bottle-fed babies may be intolerant to proteins in their cow’s milk formula. 

5) Nervous system

While their nervous system is still forming, some babies may find it harder to soothe and calm themselves. This should improve once they get a bit older.

6) Underfeeding

Your baby could simply be hungry.

7) Early migraines

Frequent, unexplained crying may be a sign of migraines. One study showed that women with a history of migraines were 2.6 times more likely to have babies with ‘colic’. It could be that a genetic predisposition to migraines may present as colic in infants.

8) Smoking

Babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy and post-delivery are at a higher risk of colic.

Coping strategies and tips on how to calm your baby 

Firstly, let’s look at some coping strategies and tips for parents:

Get support

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your parents, family or friends. You can also speak to your health visitor, call NHS 111 or seek advice from your GP.

Share the load

Share the burden and take turns holding the baby with your partner or a family member.

Meal plan and batch cook

It’s essential to eat well, especially during this time. You need to keep your energy and strength up and immunity strong. Planning your meals and batch-cooking stews, soups and casseroles, portioning them up and freezing them for a later date, can be invaluable when time is short and things are tough.

If you’re not preparing meals during the evening when your baby is more likely to be struggling, you can spend more time with them. If you’re too busy to prepare meals yourself, get help from family members and friends.

Parents’ support groups

 La Leche League is a great option. If you like to do things as naturally as possible, Arnica UK Parents’ Support Network is also a group you could try.

Take a break and breathe 

It’s stressful and hard to keep your cool when you’re at the end of your tether. Take a break whenever you can. If the crying is too overwhelming, pop your baby down somewhere safe, take a beat, walk away for a minute or two and breathe.

Getting outside in the fresh air for a moment is always good. When you can, ask others to look after your baby and take some time for yourself – have a snooze, take a walk, go shopping. Your mental health, and not feeling too overloaded, is crucial during this time.

If you’re worried that you’re going to harm yourself or your baby, immediately ask for help.

Sleep

Sleep deprivation is the worst, and you need to get as much rest as possible. Try sleeping when your baby sleeps, so you are more able to cope when your baby is awake and struggling.

And here are some tips pertaining to the baby.

Cuddles and love

Stay close to your baby and nurse them whenever they need. Offering the breast will often calm them, especially if there have been prolonged intervals between feeds for whatever reason. Hold them, even in quieter phases. You could try carrying them in a sling while you go about your everyday activities.

Don’t worry about cuddling them too much, it won’t make them more clingy – and they need you to comfort them while they’re going through this. For more detailed information on tried and tested calming techniques visit La Leche League GB.

Feeding and digestion

Your baby could be gulping and taking in too much air while feeding. A shallow latch or tongue-tie could be the reason why. They may also be guzzling at the breast and eating too fast if they are hungry. Sit or hold your baby upright to help stop them from swallowing air or change bottles and bottle teats. Feed them more frequently if they are hungry.

You can find helpful information on La Leche League about positioning and attachment and tongue-tie. Be sure to wind them properly. You could also try gently rubbing their tummy and moving their legs to encourage digestive flow.

Allergies

If you’re worried that your baby might be intolerant to the proteins in their formula, talk to your GP and seek out an alternative. A breastfeeding mother should be able to eat what she wants, but some have noticed a positive change when they cut suspected allergens out of their diet.

If you have a history of allergies in your family, this may be more likely. If so, you may notice that when you eat a particular food, your baby’s colic-like symptoms are worse. Perhaps they are also suffering from hives, eczema, a rash, sore bottom, dry skin, wheezing, coughing, congestion, cold-like symptoms, irritated, itchy eyes, ear infections or diarrhoea.

Common allergens include wheat, dairy, soy, nuts, eggs and peanuts. If you are concerned and would like to try eliminating certain foods from your diet, seek the advice of your GP, a health professional or nutritional therapist first. You want to ensure that you are still eating a balanced diet for both you and your baby. 

Dietary stimulants

Some mothers have also had success cutting stimulants like caffeine, chocolate and spices out of their diet.

Other forms of comfort

Take your baby for a walk in the pram or a drive, play some quiet, soothing music, sing to them, rock them over your shoulder. Gently sway them in the pram or their basket, try bathing them in a warm bath.

Some gentle white noise in the background might also help (if you don’t have a white noise machine, try leaving the hoover or clothes dryer on, you could also try the radio or TV on low). Some parents find that using a pacifier helps. Try laying them on their tummy and gently rub their back.

Progurt Probiotics have had success with colicky babies

Colic is generally harmless with no long-term health problems. But some researchers have found that, for some children, colic might be an early expression of common childhood disorders including ‘recurrent abdominal pain, allergic and psychological disorders’.

There may also be a link between crying beyond the usual colic period, and later sleep and behavioural problems and allergies.  

This is interesting, as compromised microbiome and poor gut health have strong links with inflammation and allergies, digestive disorders, sleep disruption, and mood

According to Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, founder of the GAPS diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome), improving gut health can also help to alleviate symptoms of autism, ADHD, ADD and Dyslexia. Although there are many sceptics out there, her book has helped countless parents to help relieve their children’s symptoms.

In terms of colic, creating the right gut environment could be the key to relieving your baby’s symptoms. Probiotics may be a way to achieve this, and Progurt has had some success with colicky babies. 

What’s special about Progurt is that they have a unique, cutting-edge range of effective gut care supplements designed to restore and maintain a healthy and balanced gut environment. For an optimally functioning gut, it’s not just about probiotics but also the right pH and electrolyte balance, temperature, oxygenation and circulation.

Most probiotics on the market come from bovine strains which are not indigenous to humans. Progurt probiotics are more specific to us than those derived from an animal source, as they use Human Probiotic Isolates, identical to those found in a healthy human gut from birth. Perfect for your little one should they lack any essential gut bacteria.

These are among the most advanced probiotics you’ll find. They are clinically tested and have an exceptionally high strength of one-trillion colony-forming units to populate your gut. Most off-the-shelf probiotics contain a mere fraction of that figure.

The beauty of taking these human strains is that once your baby’s gut has populated effectively, they should remain established, and you don’t have to keep supplementing. However, should their healthy gut environment be disrupted due to ill health or the need for medication, for example, they may require a maintenance dose to re-colonise.

**Progurt Probiotic Sachets are suitable for use by children 12 months and over. For those under 12 months, Progurt recommends that the mother takes them, and the baby receives the benefits through natural breastfeeding. If your baby is on formula, put a little bit of the probiotic powder on your finger and let your baby suck it. They are also safe to take during pregnancy

You can find out more about the rest of the Progurt range here

Conclusion

Generally speaking, colic starts when a baby is a few weeks old and stops around six months of age. The cause is not well understood, and other conditions like reflux can manifest with similar symptoms and be mistaken for colic. Depending on your baby, there could be various reasons why they are experiencing colic-like symptoms. 

There are different caring techniques you can use to console and calm your baby; it’s a case of trying things out to see what the most effective ones are. Websites like La Leche League have lots of helpful information. You can also consider and address potential causes too. Remember to seek advice from a health professional, and if you are at all worried about your baby’s symptoms, contact your GP or call NHS 111.

It can be beyond stressful to care for your baby when they are in such distress, so it’s just as important to look after your health and wellbeing during this time. Don’t underestimate what you’re going through. For a mother, tending to a colicky baby can lead to postnatal depression, so don’t try to be supermum or be afraid to ask for help. Be sure to gather up support, get your partner, family or friends to pitch in whenever possible and try to eat and sleep well. Take regular breaks and remember to breathe.

Probiotics may help to relieve your little one’s colicky symptoms, and Progurt probiotics have had some success in this area, so it may be worth giving them a try.

Written by Rebecca Rychlik, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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Travel Supplement Essentials: 6 Natural Products to Take on Holiday

Travel Supplement Essentials: 6 Natural Products to Take on Holiday

What do you pack when going on holiday? Clothes, sure: attire appropriate for the climate of the country (or countries!) you’re visiting. Sunglasses, toiletries, headphones, perhaps a book or magazine. Some pack heavy, some pack light, but precious few of us venture to the airport with just the clothes on our back.

Just as we stow suncream in our suitcase to stop us burning in the heat, many people pack a modest supply of travel-friendly supplements. Air travel can put a strain on the system, and some of the best travel supplements specifically address the unwanted consequences of travelling at 30,000 feet – bloating, constipation, motion sickness to name a few. The oscillation of an aircraft can also play havoc with our sensory system.

In this article, we’re going to look at some dietary supplements you might consider taking immediately before, during and, in some cases, after you board. Because the last thing you need when going on holiday is to feel under the weather!

The Value of 'Strategic' Supplements


Supplements aside, there are many straightforward things you can do to stay healthy while travelling – like avoiding tap water, for instance, or washing your hands frequently. Getting plenty of rest after a long day’s exploring (or carousing) is also smart.

But there’s no doubt about it, strategic supplements can help protect you from more insidious harms, whether it be air pollution, digestive discomfort as a result of a dodgy meal, fatigue or general jet lag, or compromised immunity.

Below we have summarised our recommended travel supplements, with details on when you should take them. Trust us, you won’t regret adding these to your carry-on bag.

1. Oxyrev


Oxyrev is a special supplement which gently increases blood oxygen levels. It is especially useful to take on planes, due to the marked difference in air pressure.

Most of us know that cabins have lower oxygen levels than we’re accustomed to, but we don’t tend to give a lot of thought to the effect all that compressed, filtered air is having on our body.

Reduced blood oxygen saturation, which can fall by as much as 10%, can leave us feeling depleted, even confused – not an ideal scenario when we’re heading on vacation.

What’s more, because we’re seat-belted to a chair for extended periods, our body can struggle to circulate and oxygenate the blood, which starts to pool in legs and feet.

Oxyrev helps to solve these problems, supplying an oxygen concentration of over 50,000 ppm. The diatomic oxygen is in a base of de-ionised Grander Living Water and unrefined Atlantic sea salt. Just be aware that Oxyrev is over 100ml, so you’ll need to decant into a travel-sized bottle before you fly.

2. Probiotics


Your general health is inherently linked to your gut. In other words, the balance of bacteria in your stomach has a large part to play in maintaining your wellbeing. Believe it or not, 70% of your immune system resides in the gut.

A compromised gut, or dysbiosis, can stem from many things: poor food choices, environmental pollution, stress, alcohol intake, nutritional deficiencies, genes, poor dental hygiene and pharmaceutical drugs (especially antibiotics).

An upset tummy is probably the most common travel-related complaint, so taking a good-quality probiotic when on the road makes a lot of sense.

Progurt’s travel-safe probiotics fit the bill. Not only are they very potent, with one trillion beneficial isolates per serving, but you can keep a sachet or two in your purse or pocket for whenever you might need it.

Of course, it’s sensible to take a course of probiotics every once in a while, so you might elect to take a few sachets in the week leading up to your holiday. That way, you’ll prime your gut for any eventualities which may pose challenges when abroad.

3. Meal replacement bars/sachets


It’s become a running joke how plastic and lacking in nutrition on-board food can be. To be fair to airlines, they have improved in recent years and now make better options available – this is particularly true of the bigger carriers. But there’s definitely still room for improvement.

Meal replacement sachets or bars can be very useful to take away with you, whether for eating on buses, trains, planes or indeed as a snack at any time of the day.

After all, unless you’re incredibly dedicated, you’re unlikely to eat highly nutritious food during your break. Most of us go overboard on the sugar and carbs, favouring rich treats over green veggies.

Packing a few meal replacement sachets or bars is wise, as it’ll help you get all the nutrients you need. Of course, they won’t undo the dietary excesses – but going on holiday is about cutting loose, too. Don’t beat yourself up too much.

4. Digestive enzymes


Why is it that your digestive system is the thing that becomes swamped when you go on holiday? Well, it probably has something to do with the richness of the food you’re eating, and the usage of unfamiliar local ingredients.

If you have food intolerances, you may also struggle to find gluten or dairy-free, or you might let you guard down from time to time.

Packing some digestive enzymes is a no-brainer, and definitely the best way of avoiding post-prandial discomfort. Sightseeing with a bloated, painful belly is no-one’s idea of fun.

Take your enzymes before a major meal, and your system will be better equipped to break down all those carbs, fats and proteins.

5. Multivitamin


The best food supplements cannot guarantee 100% of your RDA for all the nutrients your body needs. But some are better than others, and taking a good-quality multivitamin every day (or every other day) is a wise move if you want to maintain adequate nutrient levels.

While this is by no means a necessity – and you can (and probably should) achieve your RDA by eating clean, wholesome food – packing a multivitamin is a good way of having your cake and eating it, too.

Our recommendation is Revitacell Mega Multi, a vegan multivitamin and mineral complex with fulvic and humic trace minerals to aid absorption and for detoxification

Hey presto, you just achieved your recommended intake of some seriously valuable nutrients.

6. Fish oil

Fish oils are great for your brain and heart, but why should you go out of your way to take them on holiday, you might wonder. Well, there are a couple of reasons.

Number one, omega-3 oils are beneficial for joints, which can come under strain during those endless holiday walks or especially after you’ve been being crammed into a seat on a long plane or bus ride. Number two, they can help you maintain healthy skin which may become damaged from the sun.

More importantly, perhaps, fish oil can offset the damage caused by air pollution, delivering a 30-50% reduction in harm. This will be of interest if you’re visiting a particularly busy, polluted city.

And if you are, we recommend reading 13 Tips for Reducing the Health Effects of Air Pollution.

UnoCardio 1000 is classed as the world’s best-quality fish oil by independent aggregator Labdoor, and has held the top spot since 2015. Made from sustainably-sourced fish harvested from clean waters, it combines high levels of EPA (675mg) and DHA (460g) with vitamin D3 (1,000 IU).

Conclusion

Hopefully these suggestions help you stay healthy as you jet off to your dream destination, or load the car or caravan for a week on the road.

Remember, it’s not necessary to take all of the aforementioned supplements – especially if you’re eating good-quality food on holiday, getting plenty of rest, going easy on the alcohol etc. But they can definitely help, particularly #2, #3 and #4. And we would always recommend Oxyrev to anyone taking a long-haul flight.

What supplements do you swear by? Is it best to take them before, during or after your trip? We’ve love to hear your thoughts, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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Probiotics for Women Benefits: Hormone Balance, Menopause, UTIs

Probiotics for Women Benefits: Hormone Balance, Menopause, UTIs

These days, it's relatively common knowledge that probiotics can be beneficial for us, playing a significant part in nurturing gut health with is vital for a healthy immune system, mental and emotional wellbeing, reduced inflammation, protection from allergies and healthy skin. 

But did you know that good gut health is connected to hormone balance, and probiotics can also play a significant role when it comes to women's health? 

Here are six ways that probiotics can positively impact female health.

1) Hormone balance


We need friendly gut bacteria to recycle and metabolise our hormones, including thyroid hormones, oestrogen and phytoestrogens.

This encourages hormone balance, leading to a potentially decreased risk of conditions such as weight gain, polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, fibroids, infertility and breast cancer.

It can positively impact the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, while also decreasing your chances of developing cardiovascular disease.

We also need a healthy gut microbiome to modulate valuable hormones that permanently live in our gut.

Regulatory hormones in the small intestines may help to regulate hormones such as cortisol and insulin, where chronic imbalance can lead to type 2 diabetes.

Other hormones such as serotonin also reside in the GI tract, aiding in gut motility, speeding up digestion and the expulsion of waste. Altered levels are associated with digestive disorders including constipation, diarrhoea and IBS. They have also been linked to low mood and depression.

Hormone imbalance both in and outside the gut can lead to inflammation and probiotics can help to restore beneficial intestinal bacteria, a lack of which can lead to increased inflammation, contributing to illness and chronic disease.

2) Breast cancer


Dysbiosis (impaired gut microbiota) negatively impacts the recycling of oestrogens causing oestrogen dominance, a leading cause of breast cancer.

Developing research points towards the potential for probiotics to inhibit breast tumour growth and induce apoptosis (cell death). In a promising animal study, probiotics reduced tumour size in mice, while also displaying an ability to modulate immunity, cut off the tumour’s blood supply and prevent metastasis.

Although study results are mixed, there is also some potential for probiotics to help reduce the side effects associated with breast cancer chemotherapy treatment.

More research is needed overall, but the news so far is encouraging.

3) Vaginal infections


The vagina has its own finely tuned ecosystem of microbiota which is unique to each and every woman.

Lactobacilli bacteria dominate a healthy vagina, keeping it nice and acidic, protecting it from unwanted bacteria, yeast and viruses.  

This delicate balance can be disrupted by antibiotics, spermicides, IUDs, diaphragms, birth control pills, tampons, sexual activity and even menstruation.

Probiotic foods and supplements can cultivate a healthy gut microbiome which can, in turn, nurture and improve your vaginal microbiome.

A small study dating back to 1996 found that women who ate yogurt containing live L acidophilus showed increased levels in their vaginas and rectums.

A study published in 2015 gave groups of women with either bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection a probiotic containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri plus an antibiotic or antifungal for 28 days.

At the end of the trial results were positive, with increased levels of innate lactobacilli strains in the women taking the probiotics versus those just taking conventional medication.

In this instance, it seems this was an effective way of balancing the fragile microbiota while taking conventional medication, which can upset the balance. Vaginal pessaries containing Lactobacillus acidophilus can also be effective.

Positive results with the same strains have also been found in perimenopausal women with bacterial vaginosis.

Although the research is mixed and needs more investigation, a growing body of research supports the use of probiotics for the treatment of bacterial vaginosis (BV), a mild infection that can cause itching, pain and odorous discharge.

In separate trials, probiotics achieved cure of BV, or reduced the occurrence of, or restored a healthy vaginal microbiota more frequently than placebo.

The specific strains were Lactobacillus acidophilus inserted into the vagina for 6–12 days, or oral administration of L. acidophilus or Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus fermentum for two months.

4. Urinary tract infections

A urinary tract infection can affect any part of your urinary system, i.e. your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. It can be excruciating and uncomfortable, becoming more severe if it spreads to the kidneys.

Overall, it appears that women with recurring UTIs have reduced healthy urinary microbiota.

There have been a considerable amount of favourable studies supporting the use of probiotics for the prevention of UTIs, with the most effective strains once again being Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri.

Further studies performed on larger groups is needed, but probiotics present a safer solution to antibiotics and antifungals without any drug side effects. Researchers recognise the positive signs that probiotics could be the initial step in regulating ‘good’ urinary bacteria, in the hope that it will prevent recurring infections.

5. Menopause

It’s not uncommon for postmenopausal women to develop low levels of healthy vaginal bacteria due to a decrease in oestrogen levels, and they may have a higher prevalence of bacterial vaginosis that increases with age.  

Research shows that probiotics, either alone or in conjunction with antibiotics, can be very effective for repopulating the vagina with healthy microbiota, helping to prevent vaginal infections post menopause.

During menopause, the drop in oestrogen levels can result in osteoporosis, the loss of bone density that weakens them, causing fragility.

In an animal study published in 2016, mice with oestrogen loss were given a probiotic blend containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and VSL#3. The results were very positive.

After one month, the mice on probiotics maintained the bone density they had before oestrogen loss, compared to the placebo group who lost half their bone density during that time.

The researchers put this down to the probiotics tightening the intestinal barrier as lack of oestrogen can lead to gut permeability, prompting osteoporosis.

Although more trials are needed, this shows great promise for postmenopausal women.

Probiotics may also help to balance mood, improving the anxiety and depression experienced by many women during menopause.

Harvard Medical School published a paper in 2014 discussing the benefits of probiotics for increasing mood-enhancing neurotransmitters such as GABA, serotonin and dopamine.

6) Pregnancy

Again, more research is required, but there is supporting evidence for the use of probiotics to help encourage a healthy pregnancy, while also affecting the long-term health of both mother and child.

According to observational research which appeared in the journal BMJ Open in 2018, consuming probiotics during pregnancy reduced the risk of both pre-eclampsia (wherein the mother’s body suffers from an aggressive inflammatory response) and premature birth.

A positive link was also found between probiotic intake during early pregnancy and risk of premature birth: mothers who took probiotics early benefited from an 11% lower risk of premature birth. The figure also rose to 27% for preterm birth late in the pregnancy.

You can read an in-depth article about probiotics during pregnancy here.

Conclusion

If you are experiencing any of the health concerns listed in this article, supplementing with probiotics may be beneficial for you.

Remember to do your own research to determine which strains would be most effective for you, or seek the advice of a nutritional therapist or naturopath.

To find out more about our premium range of Progurt probiotics, click here.

*Always check with your GP before taking any supplements if you are suffering from significant health issues, chronic disease or are taking any prescribed medication.

Written by Rebecca Rychlik, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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Best Form of Probiotics: Food, Drink, Tablets or Powders?

Probiotic has become more than just a buzzword in the last few years, with countless books, articles, research papers and TV shows putting the microbiome under the microscope.

This article won’t painstakingly document everything you need to know about gut health. Instead, we want to ask which is the best form of probiotic to take, insofar as such a question – simple on the face of it – can be answered.

Should those looking to boost gut health pop a probiotic pill, binge on sauerkraut or guzzle kombucha? What about probiotic yogurt, probiotic water or probiotic powder?

There is no shortage of probiotic options out there, but which is the best? Which contains the most ‘friendly’ probiotic bacteria, and which are healthiest to take on a regular basis? Read on to find out.

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Man sneezing against a backdrop of trees

Probiotics Can Protect Against Hay Fever, Curb Symptoms

Probiotics Can Protect Against Hay Fever, Curb Symptoms

Are you someone whose hay fever starts to kick in as early as March? It’s not that uncommon.

Whether it catches you early or not, if you suffer from hay fever it won’t be long until you begin to feel some of those dreaded symptoms like being full of catarrh and sneezing and feeling painfully itchy and irritated.

Perhaps you suffer from other allergies too, and conditions such as asthma; these also become aggravated during spring and summer.

If you want to nip ghastly hay fever in the bud, you could try taking a daily probiotic, but you’ll need to start now.

What is Hay Fever?


Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, develops when the immune system becomes overly sensitive to pollen and overreacts to it.

Hay fever season usually runs from March to September, and symptom severity varies between people. If you suffer from hay fever you may have a runny or blocked nose, sneeze and cough, have sore, itchy and watery eyes, an itchy throat or mouth, headaches, earache and fatigue.

If you also have asthma, you may experience shortness of breath, wheezing and a tight chest.

Probiotics for Hay Fever

A more recent pilot study performed in 2018 in Queensland showed significantly positive results for adults with hay fever who took a probiotic supplement.   

44 adults with severe or moderate hay fever were given a probiotic twice daily for eight weeks. They were then asked to report on their medication use, symptoms and quality of life.

63% of the participants had a substantial improvement in their quality of life, their symptoms also improved, and they decreased their conventional medication.

Lead researcher Dr Nic West suspects that the probiotics suppress the inflammatory response, increasing tolerance levels to pollen.

A larger study carried out at the University of Florida and published in 2017, also found that a specific combination of probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and B. longum MM-2) improved quality of life and hay fever symptoms.

173 adults with seasonal allergies received either a probiotic or placebo twice daily over eight weeks at the height of the spring allergy season. Each week, the participants filled in an online survey to measure the intensity of their symptoms.

Overall, there was a greater improvement of symptoms (particularly nasal) in the probiotic group, and they were able to carry out daily tasks more efficiently.

Stool samples in the probiotic group also showed a beneficial shift in gut bacteria.

Researchers noted that although the study was carried out on hay fever sufferers with less extreme symptoms, and the improvements overall were relatively modest, they were clinically relevant and more research is needed.

It’s also important to mention that the study was meant to commence before the start of the hay fever season but instead started at its height when the severity of symptoms were at their greatest and already entrenched.

In theory, this indicates that the probiotics would have to work harder to cause an effect.

The researchers also cite that probiotics could have the most beneficial effect in infancy when the immune system is forming.

Conclusion

These are just three of many studies looking into the benefits of probiotics for reducing hay fever symptoms. Reports are mixed, and more research is needed, but there is some persuasive evidence out there which suggests it’s worth giving them a try.

It would be interesting to see studies using different combinations of probiotics in varying amounts to see if they have stronger effects.

If you have hay fever, are not already taking probiotics and would like to see if they make a difference, start now. In the future, it would be advisable to start taking them a few months before the hay fever season begins.

We recommend Progurt Probiotics, an immensely powerful and advanced probiotic containing one trillion beneficial bacteria that reach the gut alive. What makes them so effective and unique is the fact that the probiotic strains are Human Probiotic Isolates, identical to those found in the human gut at birth.

As they are native to the human digestive tract, Progurt Probiotics work synergistically with you to attain a more naturally balanced microbiome. If you do take them, and you notice an improvement, it would be great to hear your story, so let us know.

Written by Rebecca Rychlik, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.

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Doctor supports a graphic of a human colon in his hands

3 Key Factors You Must Consider When Trying to Improve Gut Health

3 Key Factors You Must Consider When Trying to Improve Gut Health

It is no longer controversial to state that our gut bacteria – at least to a large extent – determine our health destiny.

When you do not have the correct balance in your body, it can set the stage for countless health problems, from short-term inconveniences like bloating, constipation or diarrhoea to more serious conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, depression, anxiety, autoimmune disorders and obesity.

With a wealth of scientific data continuing to show that changes in our microbiome play a critical role in the regulation of various biological processes, there’s never been a better time to nurture diversity among the tens of trillions of bacteria living within us.

In fact, we should probably think of the microbiome as another organ entirely: one whose influence on our overall wellbeing is unparalleled.

In this article, we intend to look at the whole picture: what constitutes good gut health; which factors influence diversity among the trillions of microbes in your gut, known as the microbiota; which symptoms highlight an imbalance of such organisms; and which critical factors are consistently overlooked by the majority of voices on this topic.

The Gut is a Garden


It is easy to view the gut as a garden, and to correspondingly see oneself as a gardener whose role it is to provide the water, soil, sunlight and nutrients needed to make sure it blossoms.

While pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics and even non-antibiotic drugs negatively affect the soil, consumption of probiotic foods can lead to a diverse bacterial community (‘microbiome’) with an important array of functions: or, to extend the analogy further, to a well-nourished garden teeming with colourful flora.

Like an avid horticulturalist, it is our job to “weed out” the harmful elements in our garden, in this case excessive bad bacteria, and strive for an optimal balance. (More scientific study is needed, but the ratio most often quoted in the literature is 85% so-called ‘good’ bacteria to 15% bad.)

We must also ensure the conditions are right within the gut to stimulate the proliferation of friendly bacteria when we feed and fertilise the soil. After all, you wouldn’t expect plants to grow without light – would you?

Because so many elements of modern living hurt our microbiomes – elements we intend to summarise in this article – our gardens are increasingly besieged by weeds and bugs. The benefits of encouraging good microorganisms to flourish, and thereby crowd out those competitive bugs and restore harmony, are obvious.

Bacteria Help to Ensure Smooth Digestion & Reduce Bloating


Over 1,000 species of gut bacteria line the digestive system, pocketed throughout the stomach, small intestine and large intestine. They are not distributed evenly, however, with the latter containing around 10,000 times more bacteria per teaspoon than the small intestine.

One of the many important duties of this voluminous population is to help digest food. As outlined in a 2018 paper in the BMJ, this includes providing “essential capacities for the fermentation of non-digestible substrates like dietary fibres and endogenous intestinal mucus. This fermentation supports the growth of specialist microbes that produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and gases.”

In many cases, if we don’t have enough good bacteria chomping their way through those indigestible fibres, the consequence is bloating, gas and post-prandial discomfort. The way bacterial enzymes feast upon complex and branched sugars found in vegetables and fruit is but one of many fascinating processes of the digestive system.

Time and time again, digestive complaints such as Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) have been linked with gut barrier dysfunction and alterations in the microbiome. The same applies to Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and other chronic digestive orders. Is it any wonder given the important functions these bacteria perform?

Nurture the Mind-Gut Connection to Improve Mood & Sleep

Because of how predictive it is of other processes in the body, the gut is often described as a Second Brain. It’s not hard to see why: the Enteric Nervous System exists in every part of your gut, and neurotransmitters – identical to those in the brain – are continually relaying chemical signals from one quadrant of the gut to another. This includes intelligence on hostile intruders like bacteria, viruses or toxins from contaminated food.

We have come to realise that ‘gut feeling’ is more than just a well-worn expression: it describes a complex mind-gut connection which is rooted in reality and keenly perceived by each of us.

The communicative flow of neurons, chemicals and hormones linking the brain and gut relays information about our mood, hunger, stress levels and more.

In fact, just about everything you think or feel manifests itself in the pit of your stomach, and this sensory network is distributed over the entire surface area of the gut – a space 200 times larger than the surface area of our skin.

| “Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, our GI tract, enteric nervous system, and brain are in constant communication. And this communication network may be more important for your overall health and well-being than you ever could have imagined.” – Emeran Mayer, The Mind-Gut Connection |

Did you know that the gut microbiota actually regulates serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps with sleeping, eating, digestion and feelings of happiness?

Much of what we have learned about the mind-gut axis comes from studies on microbe-free mice, which show not only that germ-free mice exhibit reckless behaviour but also poor memories. Further studies show that when certain microbes are implanted, the characteristics of the mice change; in one way or another, the microbiota affects levels of chemical messengers in the brain, which in turn alters the behaviour of the host organism.

The term “psychobiotics” was coined by Dinan et al (2013) to suggest the potential of live bacteria in mental disorder therapy, and indeed scientific studies have identified psychobiotics which provide appreciable antidepressant, anti-anxiety and anti-autism effects.

More placebo-controlled trials are needed in this area, particular to pinpoint optimum strains, dosage and treatment period, but preliminary evidence is promising.

How Does the Microbiome ‘Prime’ Your Immune System?


Did you know that the gut is home to 70 percent of the body’s immune cells? In this context, immune response is completely tied to goings-on in the gastrointestinal tract.

As well as enabling immune tolerance of dietary and environmental antigens, the bacterial population ‘primes’ the immune system to protect against invading pathogens (bacteria, fungi, protozoa, viruses etc) which can enter the body via food, drink, eyes, ears, mouth, nose and open wounds.

Diverse gut flora early in life also teaches cells of the immune system to differentiate between good and bad bacteria. After all, in order to turn its powers on the correct targets, it must be capable of identifying friend from foe.

This is a big part of the reason why children delivered via Caesarian section – i.e. those who miss out on microbes in the birth canal – are at greater risk of obesity, asthma and diabetes.

Faecal transplantation in colitis patients, and probiotic supplementation more generally, has shown huge benefit in a number of clinical trials. The correlation between certain gut bacteria and immune response was highlighted in one University of Chicago study in 2018, which demonstrated that specific bacteria in the intestine could improve the response rate to immunotherapy for patients being treated for advanced melanoma.

The bacteria in question appeared to “enhance T-cell infiltration into the tumour microenvironment and augment T-cell killing of cancer cells, increasing the odds of a vigorous and durable response.”

Thomas Gajewski, MD, Professor of Cancer Immunotherapy at the University, was quoted as saying: “The gut microbiota has a more profound effect than we previously imagined.”

The fact that cancer patients who benefited from a higher ratio of ‘good’ bacteria to ‘bad’ bacteria consistently showed a clinical response (i.e. a reduction in tumour size) certainly underscores the value of maintaining a healthy balance.

I Heart Gut Bacteria: The Effect on Heart Health

Although it is too early to draw firm conclusions about the specific link between bacterial composition and heart health, several human and animal studies have suggested that an altered microbiota influences the pathogenetic mechanisms driving cardiovascular disease.

Or to put it another way, animals with hypertension exhibit reduced bacterial diversity, with decreased quantities of acetate and butyrate. The latter are short-chain fatty acids which exert numerous beneficial effects on energy metabolism, increasing fatty acid oxidation in multiple tissues and reducing fat storage in white adipose tissue.

| “There’s a complex interplay between the microbes in our intestines and most of the systems in our bodies, including the vascular, nervous, endocrine and immune systems. All of these relationships are highly relevant to cardiovascular health.” – Dr. JoAnn Manson, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School |

Our microbial make-up can also affect the levels of LDL cholesterol in our blood and even our blood pressure – which is perhaps why high-strength probiotic consumption has been shown to lower blood pressure.

Bacteria’s contributory role in the development of other cardiometabolic disorders such as obesity and type 2 diabetes continues to be investigated, and though we can speculate that imbalanced gut bacteria counts as a risk factor for heart disease, pinning down a ‘treatment’ is trickier.

That said, few would argue that building a healthier microbiome will have anything but a positive effect on your cardiovascular system.

Focus On Your Gut for Clear, Radiant Skin


It mightn’t receive as much attention as the gut-brain axis, but the interplay between gut and skin is a fascinating and growing area of research. Not that it’s in any way new: a link was first suggested almost 90 years ago.

Just like the intestinal tract, the planes, folds and crannies of the skin are home to microbes. So, too, are sweat glands, hair follicles and nasal passages (yes, you’re discharging microbes when you sneeze!). When you think about it, the gut and skin are similar in function since both act as as ‘interfaces’ with the external environment.

What does all this mean? In essence, it means that by focusing on your gut, eliminating pro-inflammatory foods and addressing underlying gut pathologies, you might be able to reverse inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, acne and psoriasis. Certain strains of bacteria have also been shown to improve skin hydration and elasticity.

Clinical studies highlight a significant correlation between gut pathologies and skin conditions, for example between celiac disease and psoriasis or rosacea and SIBO. Gut barrier dysfunction can also burden the skin with endotoxins, and the microbiome has even been shown to support the restoration of skin homeostasis after ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure.

Diet, as we know, can influence the appearance of skin; while metabolites of green tea catechins and polyphenols from fruit can be incorporated into the skin and reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines, gluten and dairy can trigger flare-ups like eczema and acne.

Incidentally, many have enjoyed success in clearing up skin trouble by switching to a Paleo diet, which is built largely around meat, vegetables and bone broth, although also allowing for some nuts, seeds and fruit.

Future research will be dedicated to enhancing our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the gut-skin axis, and assessing the therapeutic potential of fine-tuning the gut environment via lifestyle and diet.

How Friendly Flora Can Help You Stay Lean

According to a new study by researchers at Sweden’s Lund University, certain metabolites in our blood are connected to both obesity and the composition of our gut microbiome.

After analysing blood plasma and stool samples from 674 respondents, the researchers noted 19 separate metabolites which could reliably be tied to the person’s BMI, including glutamate and and BCAA (branched-chain and aromatic amino acids). These obesity-linked metabolites were also linked to four types of intestinal bacteria.

In simple terms, our intestinal flora seems to correlate with our obesity risk. And this is far from novel: when scientists transferred bacteria from naturally obese mice to germ-free mice, the latter gained weight; but when gut bacteria was transferred from naturally lean mice, they stayed lean.

| “In the future, the nutritional value and effects of food will involve significant consideration of our microbiota, and developing healthy, nutritious foods will be done from the inside out, not just the outside in.” – Jeffrey Gordon |

Furthermore, studies show that the microbial population of obese people is far less diverse than their lean counterparts. This might explain why some dieters watch the pounds melt off while others struggle.

According to Dr. Purna Kashyap, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, “gut bacteria are likely an important determinant of the degree of weight loss attained following lifestyle and dietary intervention.”

Dr. Kashyap was commenting on the results of a 2018 study which found that an increased ability to use certain carbohydrates correlated with a failure to lose as much weight.

The doctor even suggested that in future, weight-loss plans should be based on an individual’s gut bacteria; and that modifying the makeup of bacteria using probiotics should be the first priority, before commencing a diet or exercise program.

Strong Gut, Healthy Bones: Assessing the Gut-Bone Axis


A new frontier of research is focusing on the links between intestinal flora and skeletal health.

According to a 2017 review paper, “findings from preclinical studies support that gut microbes positively impact bone mineral density and strength parameters. Moreover, administration of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in preclinical models has demonstrated higher bone mineralization and greater bone strength.”

The genus which has repeatedly exhibited beneficial effects for bone health is Lactobacillus, and because the health of the skeletal system is largely determined by early life development, its effectiveness is dependent on early administration.

It is not a question, of course, of plying youngsters with probiotic supplements but rather ensuring a healthy and diverse microbiome from the get-go. Children born via natural birth benefit most from Lactibacilli, as explained in Martin J Blaser’s book Missing Microbes:

“Whether the birth is fast or slow, the formerly germ-free baby soon comes into contact with the lactobacilli. The baby’s skin is a sponge, taking up the vaginal microbes rubbing against it… The first fluids a baby sucks in contain its mother’s microbes…

“Once born, the baby instinctively reaches his mouth, now full of lactobacilli, toward his mother’s nipple and begins to suck. The birth process introduces lactobacilli to the first milk that goes into the baby. This interaction could not be more perfect.

The lactobacilli become the earliest organisms to dominate the infant’s formerly sterile gastrointestinal tract; they are the foundation of the microbial populations that succeed them. The baby now has everything it needs to begin independent life.”

A number of exciting human studies are on the horizon, with the aim of identifying how the gut microbiota may be influenced to preserve bone health and cut the risk of osteoporosis. In the UK, the cost of treating all osteoporotic fractures in just postmenopausal women is predicted to hit more than £2 billion by 2020.

As demonstrated, the effects of gut bacteria on our hearts, brains, digestive and immune systems, skeletons and skin are truly profound. The influence on our collective obesity risk is also considerable.

We are probably just scratching the surface as to the foundational importance of gut health on our overall wellbeing.

Dysbiosis: What Is It, What Are the Symptoms?

When the amount of friendly bacteria living in our gut is insufficient, it disrupts intestinal homeostasis and leaves room for harmful bacteria and micro-organisms to flourish.

This imbalance – commonly known as dysbiosis – is linked with the pathogenesis of both intestinal and extra-intestinal disorders, including but not limited to inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), asthma, metabolic syndrome, leaky gut, diverticulitis, colon cancer, Crohn’s disease and cardiovascular disease.

Alterations in our gut bacteria which decrease biodiversity and species richness can stem from exposure to multiple environmental factors such as: diet, toxins (i.e. pesticides on unwashed fruit), alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs and pathogens.

Poor dental hygiene and elevated stress levels are two more triggers. In the next section, we’ll touch upon a range of factors which impact the gut microbiota.

Symptoms of microbial dysbiosis are virtually countless and include:

• Stomach upset (gas, bloating, cramping, constipation, diarrhoea etc)

• Brain fog

• Heightened food sensitivity

• Fatigue

• Halitosis (chronic bad breath)

• Sinus congestion

• Anxiety

• Chest pain

• Depression

Because symptoms of dysbiosis are often vague, it is not uncommon for them to go unnoticed and undiagnosed. Even worse, they can be misdiagnosed by health care clinicians who overlook the gut entirely.

Practitioners in the know, however, will consider the possibility of dysbiosis and commission comprehensive digestive stool analysis or an organic acid test to determine whether gut bacteria is imbalanced.

They may then assess your diet and lifestyle and tailor a nutrition plan to correct the dysbiosis by repopulating your colony of friendly bacteria.

Which Factors Affect the Wellbeing of Your Gut?


The composition of intestinal microbiota is influenced by a whole raft of factors over the course of one’s lifetime, and the microbial make-up of your gut is every bit as unique as a fingerprint.

In this section, we’ll give a summary of the various factors which affect on your gut diversity, and we’ll do so with reference to the most credible scientific literature.

• Age


There are substantial age-related changes in the composition of gut bacteria. Indeed, our microbiome undergoes its most pronounced transformations during infancy and old age, and our immune systems are also at their least stable during these two critical junctures of life.

What is not yet well understood is whether changes to the complex community of microorganisms within us are the cause or consequence of the ageing process.

After all, alterations in the microbiomes of elderly people may be linked with lifestyle factors (sedentariness contributes to slower gut motility, for example), diet, increased intake of medications including anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics etc.

Whatever the cause, it is increasingly believed that disruptions in the microbiome contribute to age-related health conditions such as bowel disorders, Alzheimer’s and hypertension.

Observations indicate that the intestinal bacteria commonly found to be reduced in the elderly is the type which helps to maintain immune tolerance in the gut, specifically bifidobacteria, lactobacilli and bacteriodes.

Conversely, opportunistic bacteria which provoke intestinal inflammation are often elevated.

As well as reduced diversity, elderly people suffer from diminished microbiota-related metabolic capacity such as lower short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) levels of butyrate, propionate and acetate.

These essential SCFAs have numerous functions including the regulation of mucus production, supporting gut barrier integrity and providing an energy source for colonic epithelium.

Incidentally, the consumption of dietary fibre is correlated with greater SCFA production and less gut inflammation in the elderly.

• Sex


Males and females are known to exhibit gender-specific differences in both their gut microbiota composition and also their immune system.

These can largely be attributed to different concentrations of sex steroids such as testosterone and progesterone, and explain why disease risks vary between men and women.

Tests on mice suggest that sex differences in the microbiome emerge during puberty and continue to diverge into adulthood.

One particular research paper published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology concluded by saying that “microbiota-independent gender immune differences contribute to the selection of a gender-specific gut microbiota composition, which in turn further drives gender immune differences. Therefore, gender should be considered in the development of strategies to target the gut microbiota in different disorders.”

In plain English, the gut is but another area where men and women differ.

Another recent trial on humans assessed the effect of anti-inflammatory medication on men and women. After a course of the drugs, females were shown to have a stronger intestinal barrier and greater diversity of gut microbes.

• Diet: Sugar, Gluten and Dairy Can Damage Your Gut

Eating for the gut entails its fair share of do’s and don’ts. While sugar and artificial sweeteners are toxic to beneficial bacteria and thus best avoided, fibre is vitally important in that it provides food for microbes. Fat – which has long been unfairly demonised – is essential for gut health as it is required for proper nutrient absorption and can relieve constipation.

Make sure your diet includes core microbiota-supporting nutrients such as B vitamins, folate, zinc, vitamins C and D, magnesium, calcium and manganese. Broadly speaking, these will help to regulate inflammation and markers of chronic disease.

Dark, leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, seeds and lean, responsibly-sourced grass-fed meat should be staples.

| “When you look at populations that eat real food that’s high in fibre, and more plant-based foods, you’re going to see they have a more robust microbiota, with more genetic diversity, healthier species and fewer pathogenic bacteria living in the gut.” – Meghan Jardine |

It would be remiss not to mention gluten or dairy, both of which we touched upon in the Gut-Skin Axis section.

The damaging effects of gluten on the microbiome are well documented, and not just for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity; for everyone.

Gluten obstructs the proper breakdown and absorption of nutrients, which can serve to effectively turn the dial on inflammation, damaging tissues and even leading to cases of leaky gut. This is a condition characterised by alterations in ‘bowel wall permeability’ which allow toxins, bacteria and undigested food particles to spill from the intestines and move through the body via the bloodstream.

Gluten also appears to have a pro-diabetogenic effect, as outlined in a 2013 Mayo Clinic mice study, specifically by altering the gut microbiome.

As for dairy, we know that some people are more sensitive than others. But we must all exercise caution. Studies on children show that dairy is negatively associated with species richness and diversity.

What’s more, modern farming means dairy products can contain traces of hormones and antibiotics, both of which have a significant adverse effect on your microbiome.

We should be careful with wheat, too, due to the presence of glyphosate residues. Glyphosate – the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup – has been proven to disrupt gut bacteria in animals, killing beneficial forms and setting the stage for an overgrowth of pathogens. It is also a likely cause of leaky gut, since it compromises the tight junctions of the intestines.

Body weight is, of course, closely associated with diet – research suggests that BMI correlates with certain bacterial strains.

In a 2016 study of 39 men and 36 post-menopausal women, “after correcting for age and sex, 66 bacterial taxa at the genus level were found to be associated with BMI and plasma lipids.”

The results indicated not only that gut microbiota differed between sexes, but that differences were often influenced by the grade of obesity.

Maintaining a gut-friendly diet while keeping your BMI in check, therefore, appears to be the best course of action.

• Method of Birth & Breastfeeding

Cesarian delivery compromises the natural microbial handoff from mother to child, depriving the baby of beneficial lactobacilli and bacteroides.

For this reason the founding microbial populations present in infants delivered via C-section are not those determined by millennia of human evolution, and epidemiological evidence has frequently shown a link between this method of delivery and outcomes such as obesity, celiac disease and type 1 diabetes.

In England, 11.5% of expectant mothers have an elective caesarean (up from 4% in 1980) and 15.6% have an unplanned caesarean (up from 5%).

In the U.S., more than a third of deliveries are by C-section. A great many infants are thus deprived of microbes specific to their mother, a form of natural bacterial inoculation which helps educate the developing immune system and keep inflammation in check.

Studies show that babies born by Cesarian delivery exhibit particularly low bacterial richness and diversity.

Breastfeeding, too, has a huge influence on short- and long-term gut health; individuals who were breastfed as infants generally have a decreased risk of diabetes, obesity, gastroenteritis, pneumonia and diarrhoea-related diseases.

| “Mother’s milk shepherds her child’s microbiota assembly to ensure that the most beneficial community possible takes up residence.” – The Good Gut |

Breast milk provides complete nutrition for the baby, not only by delivering appreciable carbohydrates, fat and protein but countless health-promoting and bioactive compounds such as Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) which nourish bacteria in the baby’s gut.

As is the case for children delivered via C-section, babies who are not breastfed exhibit a lower diversity of microbes. They also exhibit a smaller thymus – a lymphoid organ which produces T-lymphocytes for the immune system – than their breastfed counterparts.

For this reason and others, the World Health Organisation recommends providing breast milk for infants for up to two years and beyond.

Of course, irrespective of birth method and breastfeeding, your mother’s microbiome will influence your own. According to a 2018 study by the University of Virginia, the health of the mother’s gut is a key contributor to the child’s autism risk.

• Medication: How Pharmaceutical Drugs Hurt Your Microbiome


Broad-spectrum antibiotics are indiscriminate killers: while they wipe out harmful bacteria, they also decimate the good bugs.

In his book Missing Microbes, Martin Blaser, MD, describes the problem thus: “It is like carpet bombing when a laserlike strike is needed.”

And it’s not just your own antibiotic usage; if your mother used antibiotics, it will have influenced your resident microbes when you were born. The closer the antibiotic administration to birth, the greater the likelihood of reduced bacterial richness in the infant gut, decreased levels of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, and a heightened risk of childhood obesity.

Antibiotics are far from the only problem. According to 2018 research from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Germany, almost one-quarter of 1,000 non-antibiotic drugs tested hampered the growth of at least one bacterial species, and in some cases a handful.

The researchers looked at an extensive range of drugs from cancer therapies to antipsychotics, and noted that many of them had antibiotic-like side effects such as gastrointestinal complaints.

Amazingly, 40 drugs designed to target human cells rather than bacteria hindered 10 or more species of gut bacteria!

• Underlying Medical Conditions

Most medical conditions are, by definition, treated with some form of medication; however, alterations in intestinal microbiota occur even when no medication is taken.

You see, our gut influences our health but the connection is bi-directional because our health also influences our gut. Chronic diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and cancer, as well as obesity and autism, alter the composition of microbes just as microbes influence those conditions in numerous ways.

| “While life has always been a struggle for gut microbes, never has this been more the case than today, given what they are facing in the Western world.” – The Good Gut |

Take stress as just one example: psychological strain can actually increase the permeability of the gastrointestinal lining, leading to leaky gut.

Studies on students during exam time showed that high stress levels resulted in a depletion of friendly bacteria including Lactobacilli.

In addition to some of the factors we list in this article, the authors of a 2015 research paper entitled ‘Impacts of Gut Bacteria on Human Health and Disease’ contend that illness and host secretions (e.g., gastric acid, bile, digestive enzymes and mucus) play a role in determining the state of gut bacteria.

• Food Supplements: Which Products Support Diversity?


Don’t discount the effect of dietary supplements on gut health. Let’s take two of the most popular daily supplements: vitamin D and omega-3.

Vitamin D helps in several important ways. For one, it facilitates the production of antimicrobial peptides in the oral cavity which enables a healthier oral microbiome.

Vitamin D deficiency also decreases the production of defensins, anti-microbial molecules which are key to the maintenance of healthy gut flora.

In a 2016 study on mice, an insufficient supply of vitamin D was shown to aggravate gut flora imbalance, contributing to full-scale fatty liver and metabolic syndrome.

Another study from the same year, this time on humans, found that vitamin D deficiency alters the intestinal microbiome, reducing B vitamin production in the gut and adversely affecting the immune system.

At this stage, it is abundantly clear that achieving an adequate vitamin D status is beneficial for gut health. Given our climate, vitamin D supplements are a necessity rather than a luxury.

The effect of omega-3 on gut flora is similarly significant, as studies show that a higher intake of Essential Fatty Acids corresponds with greater microbial diversity, irrespective of fibre intake.

Omega-3s also appear to support Lachnospiraceae, a type of bacteria which helps protect against colon cancer.

• External Environment

Our obsessive pursuit of cleanliness is yet another facet of modern life which reduces microbial health. This is just one reason why the foraging Hazda tribe benefits from far superior gut diversity than typical Westerners.

From over-clean, sterilised homes to the widespread use of hand sanitisers, our commitment to achieving high standards of hygiene serves to disrupt our microbial make-up.

In contrast, bacteria-rich environments such as traditional farms can have protective health effects and lay the groundwork for species diversity (Mosca et al., 2016).

| “Bacteria come at us from all directions: other people, food, furniture, clothing, cars, buildings, trees, pets, even the air we breathe.” – Michael Specter |

Even the small matter of whether or not you own a pet can alter gut microbiota: in one 2017 study, early-life exposure to household pets enriched the abundance of Oscillospira and/or Ruminococcus, microbes associated with lower risks of allergic disease and obesity.

Additional external factors such as geography (urban vs rural) and pollution should not be overlooked. Just as microbiota are sensitive to diet, drugs and lifestyle, they are also sensitive to environmental pollutants such as heavy metals, pesticides, nanomaterials etc.

In several studies, increased air pollution exposure has been shown to correlate with reduced gut microbial taxa as well as increased blood cholesterol and the subsequent formation of arterial plaque.

• Exercise and Fitness: How Physical Activity Powers Up the Microbiome


Given the multitude of physiological benefits which stem from physical activity, it seems simplistic to even state them.

However, maintaining a good level of cardiorespiratory fitness is absolutely key to nurturing a healthy microbiome.

Physical activity corresponds favourably with health-promoting bacteria, particularly Akkermansia and Bifidobacterium, with one 2014 study identifying 22 distinct bacteria associated with professional sportsmen.

Higher fitness levels are also linked with improved butyrate production. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid which provides energy to colon cells and acts as a cellular mediator to regulate gut cell function.

The microbial benefits of exercise are believed to be transient, meaning exercise needs to be done consistently or the microbiome will revert to type.

• Circadian Rhythm


Circadian rhythm is a term used to describe various biochemical processes which follow a 24-hour cycle, what we commonly refer to as our body clock.

It is important to consider body clock in relation to gut health, and this is yet another bi-directional association: factors that affect the integrity of the microbiome influence our circadian rhythms and vice versa.

Disturbances in our circadian rhythm provoked by irregular sleep patterns or increased energy expenditure at unusual times of day increase the vulnerability of intestinal cells to injury.

Believe it or not, our intestinal bacteria actually have their own circadian rhythms, phases of rest and activity which affect the balance and types of microbes occupying in the GI tract.

The most recent research suggests that microbes depend on three primary factors to determine their rhythms: your diet, the time you eat and your sleep-wake cycle.

Eating late at night can disrupt the intestinal colony’s circadian rhythm and set the stage for obesity – a topic we covered earlier.

Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and eating the right foods at sensible intervals, is the way forward.

• pH and Electrolyte Balance


Bacterial balance is intimately connected to your body’s pH. If you fail to maintain a healthy pH in the gastrointestinal tract, and make the mistake of eating an overly acidic diet, you will be unable to sustain the necessary equilibrium of enzymes and microbes needed to keep your digestive system working.

The fact that 70% of the immune system resides in the gut should underline the importance of maintaining acid-alkaline harmony.

There are, of course, various healthy pH ranges for different components of the body, from your mouth to your blood to your gut.

When pH levels get out of balance, gut-reliant processes such as digestion and nutrient absorption suffer.

One of the benefits of both pro and prebiotics is that they help to lower intestinal pH, ensuring an environment hospitable to friendly flora and inhospitable to harmful flora.

Electrolytes – essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, chloride and sodium – also play a role, since dysbiosis causes impaired electrolyte absorption. This can lead to dangerously low stomach acid, another well-known cause of leaky gut.

Without sufficient electrolytes we will never achieve proper hydration of the gut, which is critically important for bowel function.

An electrolyte supplement such as Progurt Chloride can help. The liquid mineral formula contains four highly absorbable mineral chlorides, comprising magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium. The electrolytes are provided in proper ratios to ensure optimal replenishment.

• Body Temperature

The link between between large-scale geography and human gut microbial composition was examined in a 2014 study, and climate was suggested as one reason why the ratio of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes varied widely between populations.

Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes, incidentally, represent 99% of bacteria in the gut.

| “Firmicutes are notoriously good at helping the body extract more calories from food and aiding in the uptake of fats, hence their association with weight gain when they dominate in the gut.” – Dr. David Perlmutter |

“Bacteroidetes, on the other hand, don’t have this same capacity,” adds Dr. Perlmutter, in his book Brain Maker. “So the pattern of higher levels of Firmicutes and lower levels of Baceroidetes is associated with a greater risk of obesity.”

In simple terms, people who live in colder climates exhibit different microbial compositions to those in sunnier climes. This may be partly explained by the groups’ dietary habits, but the weather – which has a big impact on body temperature – is a key factor.

In a separate study on mice by Mirko Trajkovski of the University of Geneva, gut bacteria were shown to respond to the cold by making intestines better able to absorb nutrients.

Indeed, mice exposed to the cold became 50% more efficient at absorbing nutrients from food than mice living in warm conditions. However, after burning stored fat reserves in order to stay warm, the mice actually began to gain weight, with researchers finding a lack of bacteria in their guts consistent with obese people.

Thermoregulation, in other words, is closely associated with resident microbes. Spending time outdoors will help to increase microbial diversity by exposing you to various species, reducing your stress levels and – when the sun is out – contributing to body temperature.

While body temperature varies by person, age, activity etc, and microbial species proliferate over a wide range, bacteria from the human gut are said to grow well at the ideal core body temperature of 37 C.

This is one problem with ingesting probiotic bacteria harvested from bovine sources (i.e. cows): bovine animals have a body temperature a few degrees higher than humans, and thus their native bacteria intuitively thrives at a different temperature.

To add another layer of complexity, a 2016 research paper published in the journal Gut Microbes estimated that “microbial metabolism in the human gut produces 61 kcal/h, which corresponds to approximately 70% of the total heat production of an average person at rest.”

In other words, while body temperature influences gut microbes, gut microbes help the body generate heat. The bi-directional relationship once again rears its head.

• Alcohol and Tobacco: How Bad Habits Inflame the Gut


Of all the lifestyle factors that affect the balance of flora in your gut, two of the worst – habits that can have a seriously detrimental impact – are alcohol and tobacco.

Alcohol has been shown to decrease beneficial gut bacteria, and binge drinking in particular promotes a rapid increase in bacteria toxins within the cell.

According to a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, alcohol induces gut inflammation through multiple pathways “which in turn promotes broad-spectrum pathologies both inside and outside the GI tract.

“In fact, many alcohol-related disorders, including cancers, liver disease, and neurological pathologies, may be exacerbated or directly affected by this alcohol-induced gut inflammation.”

It’s worth stating that red wine in moderation can actually promote Bacteroides due to its polyphenol content.

As for smoking, it goes without saying that tobacco’s cancer-causing chemicals wreak havoc on the bowel. It’s also true that smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to develop Crohn’s disease.

Unsurprisingly, smoking-induced alterations to the microbiome have been widely observed and the mechanisms underpinning this connection continue to be studied.

Other Factors and How to Positively Influence the Microbiome


These are not the only factors which affect gut health, incidentally: nutrient flow, blood parameters, body type, oxygenation, hydration (water keeps intestines smooth and flexible), ethnicity and genetics also play a part, to some degree.

Clearly the decisions we make on a daily basis play a significant role in determining the status of our microbiome. Think about these factors the next time you’re suffering from bloating or gas, or sensing a disruption at gut level.

As for how you nurture a healthier gut, take each of the above bullet points in turn and ask what you can do to improve.

Of course, you can do nothing about the method of your birth or whether or not you were breastfed; but you can address factors such as diet, fitness, oxygenation, body pH, temperature and alcohol intake.

There are so many modes of behaviour which will have a positive effect on your gut, and consequently your overall health.

For example, an acute change in your diet — such as adopting plant-based – can alter your microbial composition within just 24 hours. Species that thrive on the food we eat can proliferate extremely quickly.

As indicated by the 2018 Cell study, “humans feature a person-specific gut mucosal colonization resistance to probiotics.”

In other words, once you get the conditions right, the efficacy of probiotics will be maximised.

How Can Probiotics Help You Maintain or Regain Health?


As we know, probiotics are ‘live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host’ and whether in the form of food or supplements, they have a great many duties in keeping us healthy.

Not only do probiotics encourage healthy digestion and absorption, including by facilitating the breakdown of indigestible complex polysaccharides, but they also produce B vitamins and certain enzymes.

What’s more, probiotics are essential to the production of nutritional components such as vitamin K, which is responsible for blood clotting, bone health and vitamin D utilisation, and essential amino acids.

Microbes also generate valuable metabolic byproducts from dietary components left undigested by the small intestine, and they even catabolise dietary carcinogens.

Other key functions of ‘beneficial’ bacteria include suppressing harmful bacteria, breaking down environmental toxins and pharmaceuticals, preventing your gut wall from becoming leaky, supporting enteric nerve function and priming the immune system to recognise self (body cells) versus non-self (foreign materials/antigens).

Prebiotics: Beneficial for Both Young People and Old

Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients which help to promote existing good bacteria by feeding and enriching beneficial microbes within the colon.

Prebiotics go a long way towards maintaining the homeostasis of the gut ecosystem and generally comprise complex carbohydrates such as galacto- and fructo-oligosaccharides, and inulin.

| “Almost nothing influences our gut bacteria as much as the food we eat. Prebiotics are the most powerful tool at our disposal if we want to support our good bacteria.” – Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ |

As well as helping to reduce bacterial translocation (the passage of viable bacteria from the GI tract to the liver, kidney, blood etc) and improve gut mucosal immune responses, prebiotics have been shown to help prevent the development of atopic dermatitis in children and positively modulate the immune systems of elderly people.

According to one study from Japan, relatively small doses of prebiotics could increase our production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) by ‘switching on’ the metabolism of colonic microbiota.

One of the best-known forms of prebiotic is the aforementioned Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs).

Taken together, probiotics and prebiotics are known as ‘synbiotics’. While you can enjoy benefit from taking one or the other, it is considered optimal to ensure a ready supply of both.

Prebiotics actually help probiotic microorganisms “acquire higher tolerance to environmental conditions, including oxygenation, pH, and temperature in the intestine of a particular organism” according to a 2017 study in the journal Nutrients.

By keeping your friendly bacteria well-fed, you’ll better enable them to perform their useful functions.

The Role of Lactoferrin, a Natural Immune Modulator


Synbiotics aren’t the only form of gut health supplement. Another is lactoferrin.

Found in mammalian breast milk and amniotic fluid, this iron-binding glycoprotein protects us from harmful microbes.

One of the ways it does so is by limiting the availability of iron to pathogenic bacteria, which crave an iron-rich environment to proliferate.

At the same time, lactoferrin helps the body better absorb iron from food – hence why medicinal lactoferrin is commonly recommended to correct iron deficiency.

Antifungal, antiparasitic and antiviral, lactoferrin is one of the essential components of colostrum (the ‘first milk’) and is critical to supporting the intestines of infants at birth.

In fact, lactoferrin in colostrum is around seven times as abundant as that found in milk produced later.

By supporting the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria, and exerting changes on white blood cells by increasing macrophage activity, lactoferrin helps to immunise breast-fed babies against bacterial infections and viruses.

It also acts as a bone growth regulator in the initial stages of skeletal development. As if that wasn’t enough, lactoferrin has antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties.

Lactoferrin supplementation is best combined with high-quality probiotics, as the pair work very much in synergy.

Both bovine and human lactoferrin have been shown to stop the growth of fungi in human cell cultures, and in fact bovine lactoferrin proved more efficient than human lactoferrin in halting the herpes virus in human cell culture.

Progurt’s Immuno Protein contains colostrum sourced from Australian and New Zealand dairy milk, protected by a vegetarian-friendly enteric coating. Effective for reducing skin conditions, the natural prebiotic agent is a great addition your gut-care regime.

What Should I Eat for a Healthy Gut?

We touched previously on the role of fibre, and certainly fibre is something you want to prioritise if you’re interested in nurturing your intestinal bacteria.

The insoluble fibre your gut bugs love comes from foods such as nuts, kidney beans and cauliflower and whole-wheat flour.

If you want to swap out the latter, you can replace with coconut flour or ground almonds/flaxseeds.

Fermented foods are also very beneficial, as they are brimming with live cultures. From kombucha, kefir and kimchi to live-cultured yogurt, tempeh and sauerkraut, these are worth consuming on a regular basis.

Be aware, however, that some options in the supermarket come with an array of added ingredients including preservatives and sugar. Some store-bought sauerkrauts are also pasteurised, and the heat kills off the probiotics.

| “Eat the rainbow. Remember, each plant food contains varying fibres that support different microbes, so getting a variety can help support a healthier gut microbiota.” – Hannah D. Holscher |

As mentioned earlier, you’ll want to avoid sugar altogether if you can; add pro-inflammatory processed vegetable oils to the Banned list and reduce your intake of grains and carbohydrates, many of which are high in microbiome-damaging gluten. Cook with butter, extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil.

Eating a high-fibre diet replete with seasonable vegetables and fruits, plus sensibly reared meat, is the best thing you can do. Going entirely plant-based can also work, so long as you’re taking care to get the nutrients you miss out on.

Broccoli, dandelion greens and Jerusalem artichoke are some of the most gut-friendly foods on Earth.

Factors You Must Consider When Trying to Improve Gut Health

The gut is part of a complex and integrated system, in which microorganisms affect metabolism, immunity, skin, bones and stress.

Modify the bacterial population and the effects predictably ripple outward, but in order to successfully ensure that change takes place, we must provide a proper environment for the probiotic bacteria to survive and thrive.

So what’s missing from the current approach to gut health?

For one, many probiotic supplement manufacturers underestimate the sheer difficulty live bacteria face when they’re ingested.

As explained in The Good Gut, “The life of a microbe is not easy. First they need to withstand the acid bath that is our stomach and then ultimately find shelter in the dark, damp cavern of the colon, which is inhabited by more than a thousand different species.

“While food periodically arrives in the cave, competition for resources within the gut is fierce and survival depends on snatching what you can before others get their microbial hands on it.”

Given this inhospitable environment, there are three primary probiotic considerations worth making.

• Strength of Probiotics: Yes, Stronger Really is Better

It’s worth restating that probiotic definition: probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.

That middle section – when administered in adequate amounts – is an instructive caveat. It’s certainly one with which we wholeheartedly agree.

In order for live bacteria to confer a benefit, they must be suitably powerful. Powerful enough to withstand the aforementioned ‘acid bath’ of our stomach and gain a foothold in the intestinal tract.

Most probiotic supplements do not provide adequate amounts; on the contrary, they represent a drop in the ocean. What is one or ten billion Colony-Forming Units of live bacteria likely to achieve in the face of tens of trillions of highly competitive resident bacteria?

The introduced microbes will almost certainly be swamped. No foothold. No colonisation. No long or perhaps even short-term benefit.

If you are severely dehydrated, you do not drink a thimbleful of water. The same principle applies to correcting gut dysbiosis. A significant volume of probiotic bacteria is required to stimulate meaningful changes to the microbiome and restore harmony.

This was born out by the 2018 Israeli study, which showed that after administration with a daily probiotic containing 5 billion Colony-Forming Units, the microbes either passed right through the volunteers or briefly lingered before being crowded out by highly competitive existing microbes.

2019 study comparing the efficacy of a 7 billion CFU probiotic versus a 70 billion probiotic showed a similar result:  participants who ingested the higher dose enjoyed “higher, earlier and longer recovery of the probiotics in their feces.”

• Source: Choose Human Bacteria, Not Bovine

As mentioned earlier, the overwhelming majority of probiotic supplements contain bacteria harvested from cows, which have a different body temperature from humans. Some also contain bacteria from soil. Needless to say, neither is intuitive to the human gut.

Although a number of non-human probiotic strains have proven effective in clinical trials, supplementing with human bacteria which are capable of surviving stomach acid, and are intuitive to the gut lining and human body temperature, is clearly the best and most natural course of action.

• Gut Environment: Set the Stage for Effective Colonisation

The gut environment is dependent upon all of the aforementioned factors: method of birth, diet, hydration level, exercise status, antibiotic usage etc.

Based on these factors, the environment will be receptive or resistant to the colonisation of bacteria introduced via supplements. (It might also be somewhere in between.)

As mentioned, there are many steps you can take to improve gut environment and increase the likelihood of probiotic colonisation.

As noted in the 2018 study, “gut mucosal colonisation is highly dependent on the capacity of probiotics to interact with locally-entrenched microbiome niches.”

High Strength, Human Probiotics from Progurt

With these three factors in mind, Progurt is the supplement you want to be looking at. Not only does it contain an enormous quantity of beneficial bacteria, but just as important, the bacteria is entirely human-derived.

That is to say, 100% native and natural to the human gut, having co-evolved with us over millennia. While even probiotics marketed as high-strength provide 50 or 100 billion live bacteria, Progurt supplies a cool one trillion. It is the only probiotic currently on the market to offer such a powerful dose.

Bacterial species, meanwhile, comprise multiple synergistic strains which are commonly missing and fragile in the population. These include Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Bifidus and Streptococcus Thermophilus.

All strains were identified, isolated and ‘banked’ in the recent past, at a time when they were much more plentiful than they are now. Again, these are native strains derived from a healthy human source.

| “What we’re talking about is replacing gut bacteria you were born with, that have either been missing from your gut or suppressed or diminished, and trying to restore the colonisation of those strains.” – Robert Beson, Progurt Founder |

Unlike most probiotics, Progurt does not come in a capsule form with enteric coating but as a freeze-dried powder; simply disperse the sachet in water then drink: the beneficial bacteria will begin to replicate in the mouth and migrate between the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract.

It is the temperature of the human body which activates the freeze-dried dormant bacteria, bringing it to life the same way an incubator activates bacteria in milk.

To be clear, you cannot find this blend of strains in any other probiotic supplement. It’s little wonder Progurt has garnered hundreds of five-star customer reviews, with users reporting a major difference not only for gut health but numerous other body systems.

Boost Your Gut and Change Your Life

Hopefully we have demonstrated that the maintenance of a healthy gut microbiome is absolutely critical to human health, and that the integrated picture is much more complex than many suppose.

That the gut is increasingly viewed as the true seat of health is unsurprising in light of the growing evidence. If you were born via C-section, fed infant formula instead of breastmilk, have consumed antibiotics, eat a nutrient-starved diet or have been exposed to persistent stress, getting your gut right is one of the best things you can do.

Use this article as a guide and make the necessary changes: you’ll be stunned by how much better you feel after correcting dysbiosis and restoring harmony.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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Probiotics Branded ‘Useless’: But What’s the Truth?

Probiotics Branded 'Useless': But What's the Truth?

In a widely-shared news story published on 6 September, a group of Israeli scientists found no long-term benefit to probiotic consumption.

Researchers had studied samples surgically extracted from multiple sites in volunteers’ stomach and intestines. These samples were taken after the volunteers consumed a probiotic cocktail containing 11 strains of ‘good bacteria’.

There are two key points worth making. Number one: the response to the story has been overblown, and many outlets have failed to conceal their glee in dishonestly reporting that probiotics are – to incompletely quote the study’s lead author – ‘quite useless.’

Number two: the news itself is unsurprising and probably quite correct.

Although the results have stunned many, we were not unduly surprised given the nature of probiotic bacteria commonly found on the market. Most probiotics are wholly ineffective as far as meaningful, long-term intestinal colonisation is concerned, and we’ll explain why.

‘The Probiotics Don’t Work’: The 2018 Study


One of the main questions surrounding probiotics is: what really reaches the gut?

It’s fairly simple to determine how much probiotic bacteria is in a food or supplement (at least at the time of manufacture), but how many microbes take hold in the gut and become part of the microbiome?

Immunologist Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute of Science attempted to find this out. He did so by directly sampling volunteers’ microbiome using endoscopies and colonoscopies.

As part of the study, 15 healthy volunteers were selected and chosen to receive either a commercially-available supplement or a placebo for a period of four weeks.

The supplement’s 11 strains comprised the four major Gram-positive bacterial genera typically used in off-the-shelf probiotics: namely Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Lactococcus and Streptococcus. The supplement contained 5 billion Colony-Forming Units.

In half of the probiotic group, the supplemental bacteria was shown to basically pass right through them: going in one end and out the other.

In the remainder, the bacteria lingered before eventually being crowded out by highly competitive existing microbes. This according to colonoscopy and enteroscopy analysis conducted weeks after the introduction of probiotic consumption.

As well as humans, the researchers tested the effect of probiotic supplements on the intestines of mice. Interestingly, they found that “gut probiotics colonisation in supplemented GF (germ-free) mice increased by 10-fold, 5-fold, 20-fold, and 50-fold in the UGI lumen, UGI mucosa, LGI mucosa and LGI lumen.”

Valid Talking Points from the Probiotic Study


Several very important points were made by the researchers, but for the most part they were not faithfully reproduced in the clickbait articles.

• “Significant inter-individual human microbiome variability mediated by factors such as age, diet, antibiotic usage, food supplements, underlying medical conditions, and patterns of circadian activity can impact effects of probiotics.”

• “Humans display considerable person-to-person variation in gut microbiome composition, which may be more permissive to colonisation with exogenous probiotics bacteria.”

• “We observed a significant inverse correlation between initial levels of a given probiotics species in a given GI region and its fold change, i.e., low abundant species were more likely to expand than those already present in high loads.”

• “Gut mucosal colonisation may be highly dependent on the capacity of probiotics to interact with locally-entrenched microbiome niches, which vary in their physiological properties along the GI tract.”

• “When all probiotics-consumers were considered together, probiotics consumption led to transcriptional changes in the ileum, with 19 down-regulated and 194 up-regulated genes noted, many of which related to the immune system including B cells.”

Something else that wasn’t reported in the juicy ‘Probiotics Are Useless’ story was that the results weren’t quite as terrible as they seemed on first glance. To quote from the study, “some participants featured significant gut mucosal association of probiotics as compared to others.”

Probiotics were described for two participants in particular as “very significantly colonising” and four more subjects were identified as “permissive”. Permissive is a term used to describe “individuals with a significant elevation in the absolute abundance of probiotic strains in their GI mucosa.”

Among permissive participants, total bacterial load remained higher than baseline even a month after the cessation of probiotics, and following supplementation “descending colons of permissive individuals became enriched for three pathways associated with humoral immune response and cytokine-mediated signalling.”

“Taken together, these findings point out that human consumption of the examined 11 probiotic strains results in universal shedding in stool but with highly individualised lower gastrointestinal mucosa colonisation patterns.”

Lastly, “it is important to note that the conclusions reached in our study are based on the use of one multi-strain probiotic preparation by healthy adults.”

The wording is important here. One multi-strain probiotic preparation. Extrapolating these results to say “all probiotics are useless” is rather ludicrous.

Why Most Probiotics Don’t Colonise the Gut

What the study seemed to show is that most forms of exogenous bacteria are unable colonise and provide long-term benefits. We do not disagree.

One of the main reasons probiotics don’t work is that our microbial community is too inhospitable, too competitive. We are home to tens of trillions of microbial cells, and this ecosystem operates much like a jungle, with fierce competition between microbes serving to maintain a degree of stability.

Believe it or not, our microbial cells outnumber our human cells. As outlined in a 2016 review of four decades’ research into the human microbiome, the average man (weighing 70kg and aged 20-30) harbours 39 trillion bacterial cells compared to 30 trillion human cells.

It is foolish to think that consuming 5 billion microbes will have a meaningful long-term effect. 5 billion is a drop in the ocean when you consider how much resistance those microbes are going to meet from entrenched resident bacteria.

For every microbe introduced via supplement in the Weizmann Institute study, there would have been approximately 7,800 resident microbes waiting to crowd it out.

Most probiotics on the market contain one, five or ten billion Colony-Forming Units, and therein lies the problem. Even those marketed as high-strength contain 50 or 100 billion, with just a handful boasting a CFU count upward of 100 billion.

Although some will argue that strength doesn’t matter, supplements containing more viable live bacteria are clearly more likely to overcome the competition problem.

This was demonstrated by a previous study which assessed the merits of using probiotics for lowering blood pressure. Researchers found that the magnitude of improvement was greater “when daily dose of probiotics exceeded 100 billion.”

There are other factors to consider when assessing the effectiveness of gut-health supplements. One concerns the source of the probiotics.

You might wonder where manufacturers derive their microbes. The truth is that almost all of them use bacteria cultivated from the digestive tracts of animals (usually cows) or from plants/soil.

Naturally, the effectiveness of probiotic supplements can depend on the quality of this source, as well as the number of strains present. Bacteria which intuitively lives within plants or cows is not optimised for the human gut.

Important Considerations When Choosing a Probiotic

The way we see it, there are three factors to consider when contemplating whether a probiotic will work.

• Source of probiotic bacteria

• Probiotic potency

• Gut environment

We discussed the first two in the previous section. But what about gut environment?

As was clear from the study, results were highly individualised from person to person. Factors such as age, diet, antibiotic usage, food supplements, underlying medical conditions and patterns of circadian activity determined the extent to which colonisation occurred.

We would suggest that other factors include pH and electrolyte balance, body temperature (since gut microorganisms thrive in incubation, warm is better), circulation, nutrient flow, vitamin D levels and omega-3 status.

With so many aspects to consider, it’s little wonder some volunteers responded better to probiotics than others.

With all these factors in mind, we consider Progurt to be the best probiotic supplement currently available. Progurt contains multiple human-derived bacterial strains, including broad-spectrum strains commonly fragile or missing in a large percentage of the population.

Progurt also contains an unprecedented 1 trillion Colony-Forming Units per serving. That’s ten times as much as most high-strength supplements, and 200 times more live bacteria than the supplement used in the 2018 study.

Unlike most products which come in capsule form, Progurt is available as a powder; just disperse a sachet in water and drink. Progurt has received over 600 positive reviews from customers throughout the world and is recommended by a number of clinicians.

Because it contains entirely human-derived probiotics, Progurt gives you a chance to replenish the gut with intuitive microbes as mother nature designed.

What to Take Away from the 2018 Study

• The idea that everyone can benefit from a universal probiotic bought from the supermarket or chemist is wrong. Probiotic colonisation patterns are dependant on both the individual and the supplement used.

• Dr. Elinav did not brand probiotics useless. His exact quote was that “buying probiotics at the supermarket without any tailoring, without any adjustment to the host, at least in part of the population, is quite useless.”

Conclusion

In closing, let us not forget that there have been several studies which stressed the benefit of probiotics. A review of 313 randomised controlled trials published earlier this year in the British Medical Journal, for example, found that taking probiotics helped to prevent diarrhoea, bronchitis and eczema.

The studies further highlighted improvements in heart disease risk and inflammation markers in the blood.

As with other sensationalist news stories, it is worth digging deeper to uncover the truth.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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What’s the Strongest and Best Probiotic Supplement?

What’s the Strongest and Best Probiotic Supplement?

Health-conscious consumers interested in boosting their gut health may wonder how to choose the best probiotic supplement.

Which source of beneficial bacteria is best? Which species provide the most benefit? Are synbiotics (a combination of pro- and prebiotics) more important? How much good bacteria is enough, and what probiotics are best for good health?

One of the most common queries made by people wondering which probiotics to take is, what’s the strongest supplement on the market?

Perhaps these people appreciate that a high-strength probiotic is needed to exert the desired effects in the gut.

But is the strength the main aspect we should be considering?

With this article, we shall attempt to demystify the buying process for consumers, and advise them on the best probiotic to take for their health.

We will also provide information on the strongest probiotic supplement currently available.

How to Choose the Best Probiotic Supplement

So, what should you look for in a probiotic supplement? There are probably a few key criteria:

• Strength (number of beneficial live bacteria)

• Origin (where the bacteria came from)

• Number of probiotic strains (bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, etc)

• Form (probiotic powder, pill, liquid, etc)

Are Strong Probiotics Better Probiotics?

Strength may not be the only consideration, but along with origin, it’s probably the main differentiator between the best probiotic supplement and the worst.

After all, the definition of probiotics is “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”

That caveat is worth stressing: when administered in adequate amounts.

Essentially, probiotics must be high-strength in order to take root in the intensely competitive gut environment, which is home to tens of trillions of native bacteria.

While there is no firm consensus on the best number of live bacteria to introduce via food and/or supplements, a significant number is needed due to the inhospitably acidic environment through which probiotics must pass to do their good work.

Stomach acid, for example, kills swathes of beneficial bacteria as outlined in a 2018 paper by the American Chemical Society.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of probiotic supplements are not capable of surviving this perilous journey through the body due to their comparatively low number of Colony-Forming Units (CFU).

Indeed, most probiotics offer just 5, 10 or 20 billion live bacteria.

Even if a respectable number of them were to survive our stomach acid, they are unlikely to become entrenched when faced with tens of trillions of highly competitive resident bacteria.

Probiotic Strains, Origin and Type

What about the origin of the probiotic bacteria? And do different strains of probiotics make a meaningful difference?

Live cultures contained in supplements tend to derive from animals (typically cows) or soil. However, there are novel origins in use. More on that later.

As far as probiotic strains are concerned, specific strains and strain combinations continue to be the subject of research around the world. 

Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) and bifidobacteria are perhaps the best-known and most commonly featured microorganisms in commercial nutritional supplements due to their long history of application and effectiveness.

While some strains of probiotic bacteria have been shown to improve skin hydration and elasticity, others have different effects such as synthesising vitamins, reinforcing the gut barrier, neutralising toxins and enhancing digestion.

Ostensibly, different types of probiotics have their own unique benefits. Thus, the best probiotics for inflammation might not necessarily be the best probiotics for immune support.

A good rule of thumb when considering which probiotic to take is to ask yourself whether it is both sufficiently powerful and featuring clinically-studied strains.

As mentioned, there are different types of probiotic supplement, from liquid formulas and tablets to powders and freeze-dried capsules.

Some products contain a single strain, others a combination, and others still combine probiotics with added ingredients such as prebiotics, protein, vitamins, even herbs.

Broadly speaking, the delivery mechanism is unimportant.

The important thing isn’t whether the probiotics are embedded in a pill or liquid – but that they can balance gastrointestinal flora, inhibit gut pathogens and, importantly, survive their passage through the body to provide a beneficial effect.

Why We Recommend Progurt


It is not only a question of potency. We recommend Progurt because its strains naturally support the growth and proliferation of other innate beneficial bacteria.

Of course, that is not to say you might not enjoy some transient benefit from another quality supplement.

We would, for the most part, advise against single-strain probiotics. Human beings harbour upwards of 500 probiotic strains in the body, so flooding our system with a single strain has the potential to create an unwanted imbalance.

It is vital to use synergistic strains which work together.

Truth be told, there is still a lot to learn about gut health: the research area is continually expanding, and is certainly more complicated than first supposed.

We have attempted to make sense of the research in two long-form articles on the subject: How to Restore Gut Health by Nourishing Your Microbiome and 3 Factors You Must Consider When Trying to Improve Gut Health. Although the microbiome is a complex topic, we have endeavoured to communicate the information in a way which can be easily understood by the layperson.

Why Progurt is the Best Live Probiotic

Now you have a better idea of what to look for in a good probiotic, you’ll understand why we consider Progurt the best. 

Developed by the International Probiotics Institute based in Australia, these high grade probiotics are unlike anything else on the market.

While most probiotics exist as capsules, Progurt comes in sachet form; just disperse in pure, non-fluoridated water, stir and drink. You can also use it to make your own probiotic yogurt.

As for the six million dollar question, exactly how potent is Progurt? You’ll find the answer on every palm-sized box of Progurt sachets: 1 trillion Colony-Forming Units.

Progurt is the only supplement that offers a 1 trillion megadose in every serving.

Indeed, competitors generally offer between 1-30 billion active cultures per tablet/capsule – although there are a handful of supplements that supply between 100 and 500 billion CFU.

The supplement market has grown in size in recent years, so there is still plenty of misinformation out there concerning probiotics.

For example, we have found examples of products marketed as ‘mega-potency’ or ‘super-strength’ which contain just two or three billion active cultures.

In no way could such a dosage be described as high-strength. As humans, our native microbiomes are teeming with trillions of native bacteria: each of us is home to around 39 trillion bacterial cells and 30 trillion human cells.

Introducing a few billion active cultures into such a frenzied, competitive environment is not likely to produce meaningful, long-lasting results. A glass of water spilled into the ocean does not, after all, generate a wave!

Although there are no hard and fast rules about what constitutes a strong probiotic, given the resistance that meets bacteria introduced to the digestive system, a figure of 100 billion + seems more accurate.

Back to Progurt, then. Progurt is unique for a number of reasons.

Not only is it the strongest probiotic on the market, and available as sachets rather than capsules, but it is also a multi-strain probiotic that contains entirely human-derived bacteria.

In other words, the live cultures in Progurt were isolated and cultured from native human bacteria. This is quite atypical, since the vast majority of manufacturers, as mentioned earlier, obtain their strains from cows or soil.

The reasoning is simple: native human bacteria is much more likely to replicate/colonise than bacteria more attuned to other environments.

The native intestinal strains included in Progurt work synergistically and include:

• Lactobacillus Acidophilus

• Lactobacillus Bifidus

• S. Thermophilus

Whether you’re considering taking a probiotic for general digestive health, immunity, antibiotic recovery, IBS relief, dysbiosis or some other reason, Progurt’s intuitive strains make it the perfect choice – even setting aside the therapeutic dosage and unique delivery system.

Importantly, the aforementioned bacterial strains are the ones commonly fragile or missing due to a combination of Caesarian birth, antibiotic exposure and the typical Western diet and lifestyle.

It is not only a question of potency.

We recommend Progurt because its strains naturally support the growth and proliferation of other innate beneficial bacteria.

Of course, that is not to say you might not enjoy some transient benefit from another quality supplement.

We would, for the most part, advise against single-strain probiotics. Human beings harbour upwards of 500 probiotic strains in the body, so flooding our system with a single strain has the potential to create an unwanted imbalance.

It is vital to use synergistic strains that work together.

Truth be told, there is still a lot to learn about gut health: the research area is continually expanding, and is certainly more complicated than first supposed.

We have attempted to make sense of the research in two long-form articles on the subject: How to Restore Gut Health by Nourishing Your Microbiome and 3 Factors You Must Consider When Trying to Improve Gut Health.

Although the microbiome is a complex topic, we have endeavoured to communicate the information in a way that can be easily understood by the layperson.

Conclusion

So, what is the best probiotic supplement to buy? We think we’ve answered that question. 

Whether you use Progurt or another product, though, it’s wise to regulate lifestyle factors (emotional stress, medication, alcohol consumption, sleeping habits, etc) if you want to positively influence your microbiome.

These are all factors which affect probiotic colonisation and gut health more generally.

Remember that ‘gut feeling’ is much more than a stock phrase: it describes a complex mind-gut connection deeply rooted in reality and keenly perceived by each of us. 

Trust your gut and make the changes necessary to enjoy better health.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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bowl of wheat bran cereal

How to Relieve Constipation Quickly and Naturally

How to Relieve Constipation Quickly and Naturally

No-one is in a hurry to talk about constipation – except us if this blog is anything to go by. Nonetheless, it’s a much more common problem than many assume.

A condition which affects people of all ages, constipation is sometimes linked with stomach ache and bloating, making it one of many gastrointestinal symptoms typically associated with dysbiosis or a lack of dietary fibre.

Unlike some illnesses, it is generally accepted that constipation can be treated by making simple changes to your lifestyle and diet.

In this article, we’re going to detail what causes constipation and how to get rid of constipation naturally via diet and supplementation.

Causes of Constipation


Those who live a hectic lifestyle can sometimes fail to recognise signs of constipation.

But if you do not consistently empty your bowels at least three times a week, you’re likely suffering from constipation. If you feel bloated often, you are probably constipated.

Because there are many possible underlying causes (irritable bowel syndrome, dietary deficiencies, etc) it can be difficult to say with certainty how constipation comes about.

Common causes, however, include not eating enough fibre, dehydration, a lack of exercise, medication, hormonal imbalances and disease.

High levels of stress and depression can also contribute.

Sometimes, though, it’s a question of routine or a lack thereof – making an effort to schedule regular bathroom breaks can often solve a bout of constipation.

Thankfully, there are many things you can do to treat constipation and promote healthier bowel movements.

How to Relieve Constipation with Natural Remedies

So, to the $6 million question: how do you get rid of constipation?

Is polyethylene glycol (osmotic laxatives) the answer, since it helps make stools softer and easier to pass? Or is preventing constipation happening in the first place the best option?

We’re assuming if you’ve landed on this blog, that ship has sailed.

Whether you’ve already tried fibre supplements, correctol dulcolax or some other remedy, or are experiencing constipation for the first time, we’ve got you covered.

Probiotics for Constipation

As mentioned, an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut is a frequently cited cause of constipation.

As such, the best thing for constipation is to top up the beneficial bugs in your gastrointestinal tract to keep things in good working order.

There are many studies illustrating the positive effects of probiotics on constipation symptoms, and in 2017 a meta analysis of the available data was published in the journal Annals of Gastroenterology.

Looking at stool frequency and intestinal transit time, the researchers pooled data from 21 studies comprising 2,656 test subjects.

The most commonly used probiotics in the study were Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species, which makes sense since they are natively present in large numbers within the human gut.

The meta-analysis showed that probiotic consumption resulted in a mean increase in weekly stool frequency of 0.83. What’s more, probiotics improved intestinal transit time (SMD=0.65, 95%CI 0.33-0.97, P<0.001).

No wonder many a doctor recommends probiotics for better bowel movements!

Make sure to eat plenty of probiotic foods (sauerkraut, Greek yogurt, kombucha, kefir et al) and consider using a high-strength probiotic now and then.

Progurt is the world’s strongest, boasting 1 trillion Colony-Forming Units from human-derived bacterial strains. Most supplements contain 5-10% as much friendly bacteria. 

What’s more, the strains include Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Lactobacillus Bifidus – both of which were extensively used in the aforementioned trials.

Fibre for Constipation

Eating fibre-rich foods, including fibre-rich vegetables, is a great way of addressing chronic constipation.

In fact, it’s possibly the first thing you should look to do, before resorting to supplementation.

Dietary fibre is the name for the edible parts of plant foods, the likes of vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes.

While insoluble fibre adds bulk to your stool and helps it transit more swiftly through the intestines, soluble fibre helps the body absorb nutrients

Both, therefore, perform vital roles as far as constipation is concerned.

Foods you should prioritise for constipation include wheat bran, prunes, kiwi fruit, broccoli, sweet potato, kefir and flaxseeds. 

Aiming for 10 portions of fruit and veg per day is a good way of getting all the dietary fibre you need.

When eating a higher fibre diet, it’s vital to maintain your hydration to ensure proper elimination: fibre needs water to carry waste out of your body!

As such, it might be a good idea to combine water and vegetables in a green smoothie.

Too much hassle? Then try Green Vibrance Powder, which has the benefit of added probiotics! Each serving is nutritionally equivalent to 4.5 servings of fruit and vegetables.

Liquid Chlorophyll for Constipation

Chlorophyll – so-called ‘plant blood’ – is typically associated with detox protocols in the form of liquid chlorophyll.

If you’re unfamiliar with the supplement, it’s essentially plant-derived chlorophyll formulated with pure water.

And how does it help with constipation, you might wonder. Well, because chlorophyll is a potent detoxifier, it gets to work on the toxic food products which are backed up in the intestines and likely causing a blockage.

Taking a half teaspoon of liquid chlorophyll every couple of hours is a good idea. Repeat for 3-4 days and monitor the results. We recommend the Juara brand.

Fish Oil for Constipation

Fish oil is a surprisingly effective tool for relieving constipation. 

The benefits probably stem from the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3, which serves to reduce inflammation in the intestines and colon: noted causes of constipation.

Fish oil, like most dietary oil, is also an excellent lubricant which has been known to assure smooth elimination.

In a 2012 study, the use of suppositories containing 30% free fatty acid extract from omega-3 fish oil proved to be a powerful laxative.

Thirty volunteers were divided into two groups, one of which was given a fatty acid extract while the other was given a placebo. 

Among the former, 93% reported the urge to defecate after administration while only 37% reported the same from the placebo group.

Thereafter, 90% of the study group had a bowel movement compared to just 33% of the control group.

If you want to give fish oil a shot, try UnoCardio 1000. Not only does it provide a therapeutic dose of EPA and DHA, the most well-studied marine omega-3s, but it also contains 1,000 IU of vitamin D.

This is relevant, since 82% of IBS sufferers are said to be vitamin D deficient.

RelatedThe Health Benefits of Combining Omega-3 and Vitamin D

Conclusion

Hopefully this article demonstrates that constipation need not be suffered in the long-term. 

Natural remedies for constipation are plentiful: it’s just a case of eating the right foods and cutting down on those that can cause constipation in the first place – processed grains, fried or fast food, gluten-containing foods to name a few.

Hopefully we’ve demonstrated that a laxative isn’t the only solution when you’re suffering from bloating and constipation; high-fibre foods, probiotics, prune juice, fish oil and chlorophyll can work just as well.

If chronic constipation persists despite your best efforts, it is of course wise to consult your medical practitioner to get to the bottom of the issue.

Written by best-selling author and integrative nutrition health coach Rowanna Watson, who has a passion for natural health. Rowanna is an expert in all areas of holistic health, plant-based nutrition, detoxification and personal development.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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Probiotic word cloud on grey background

How to Restore Gut Health by Nourishing Your Microbiome

How to Restore Gut Health by Nourishing Your Microbiome

Gut health isn’t just about taking probiotics. It’s about creating the right environment for your microbiota to thrive.

Did you know that you have a collection of gut microbiota as unique to you as your fingerprints?

Did you also know that this includes at least 1,000 different species of bacteria, good and bad, with more than 3 million genes, weighing up to 2kg?

Some experts now consider this colony of microbiota to be an organ in its own right – and for good reason.

If you want to feel good, and keep your gut health and immunity tip-top, read on.

The duties of gut microbes

The fantastic microorganisms to which we refer perform many functions that are crucial to your health such as aiding digestion, vitamin production, offering protection from harmful microbes, maintaining gut integrity and safeguarding immunity.

Although research is continually changing, experts are confident there are particular species, and combinations of species, found in healthy people.

What constitutes a healthy gut environment?


To be healthy, we need a diverse range of microbiota. How we look after ourselves and what we eat has an enormous influence on that.

For these microorganisms to flourish, we must prime the gut, creating and maintaining the correct climate.

There are seven areas we feel are critical when it comes to nurturing the perfect environment for your healthy gut bacteria to thrive.

These are PH balance, electrolyte balance, body temperature, circulation and oxygenation, nutrient flow, vitamin D level and omega-3 status.

1) PH balance

 

Many healthcare practitioners acknowledge the importance of having an acid/alkaline balance in the blood. In the absence of too much acidity, disease is less able to take hold and thrive.

Poor gut health contributes to excessive acidity, and when you consider that over 70% of our immune system resides in our digestive tract, it is easy to see the importance of looking after gut integrity.

However, it’s not just about PH levels in the blood. It is equally important to maintain a healthy PH throughout your GI tract. Without this, you cannot sustain the delicate equilibrium of digestive enzymes and microbiota needed to keep your digestive system working, and keep you healthy.

As ever, balance is crucial. It’s important to note that not only is too much acidity detrimental to overall health and gut integrity but if your GI tract is too alkaline, you are unable to break down and digest your food adequately.

You are also less able to absorb all the valuable nutrients from your diet. Without maintaining acid/alkaline harmony, compromised gut integrity leads to chronic inflammation, reduced immunity and increased susceptibility to illness and disease.

• So how can you nurture a healthy acid/alkaline balance in your gut?

Many factors can contribute to a lack of PH balance such as stress, lack of movement and exercise, exposure to environmental toxins, and taking unnecessary medications. Therefore, finding ways to manage these sufficiently is essential as part of your health regime.

What you eat is also vital when it comes to maintaining healthy gut balance, and you need to ensure a varied, anti-inflammatory diet with a focus on alkaline foods.

Include an abundant and diverse range of bright, rainbow coloured vegetables, and a little fruit (not too much because of the fructose which our bodies read as sugar).

Eat whole foods, with a healthy mixture of both raw and cooked vegetables. Consume lots of dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, other healthy fats, and fresh juices and smoothies.

Also include healthy oils such as organic cold-pressed olive oil, coconut, avocado and linseed oil. Only cook with oils that can tolerate high smoke points such as coconut and avocado oil, and leave the others for drizzling over salads and cooked vegetables.

Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine, as well as processed, junk, pre-prepared and high sugar foods. Eat healthy plant protein foods, and only eat organic, free-range, grass-fed meat. For some, avoiding dairy can also be beneficial.

Green food supplement containing alkalising superfoods such as spirulina, chlorella, sprouts, and grasses can also promote acid/alkaline balance in both your GI tract and blood.

You can also take other PH balancing supplements to help optimise stomach acid/alkaline levels, and promote gut balance. A natural one containing electrolytes can be particularly useful if you have been struggling to absorb minerals such as calcium and magnesium from your food due to compromised gut function.

2) Electrolyte balance

 

Maintaining a healthy electrolyte balance is essential for our health and performance.

Electrolytes are chemical elements or minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphate, chloride and sodium.

They have a slight electrical charge, power our cells and are imperative for a whole host of physiological processes that allow our bodies to function.

The GI tract and electrolytes work symbiotically, needing each other to perform. Poor gut health results in impaired absorption of electrolytes and insufficient electrolytes contribute to low stomach acid (HCL).

Reduced stomach acid is not strong enough to efficiently break down your food, or kill any harmful bacteria it may have brought with it.

Impaired digestion creates adverse conditions for our microbiota, and they are unable to thrive, resulting in gut disorders and lowered immunity.

• How do I replenish and maintain my electrolyte stores?

Avoid unnecessary medications and antibiotics. Be sure to replenish electrolytes after bouts of illness, or heavy exercise.  

Eat a diet rich in whole foods including rich electrolyte sources such as bone broth, broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens including spinach, swiss chard and lettuce, celery, watercress, cucumber, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, avocados, bell peppers, carrots, kiwi, watermelon and bananas.

Drink coconut water, and season your food with Himalayan salt which has a comprehensive electrolyte profile.

Avoid processed foods that are high in sodium but low in other electrolytes, causing an imbalance. Reduce your consumption of pre-packaged meals, takeaways, junk food and restaurant dinners, preparing food at home.

You could also consider taking an electrolyte supplement to ensure adequate levels.

3) Body temperature

 

Did you know that your gut microbes need a ‘normal’ body temperature to grow well and maintain a healthy balance?

In an interview published in Everyday Health in 2013, Mark Mattar MD, a gastroenterologist at The Georgetown University Medical Centre, discussed how optimal digestion occurs at the ideal core body temperature (between 97° to 99° depending on the person).

Mattar suggests that warm is better, stating how gut microorganisms thrive in incubation. However, if it becomes too hot, your gut microbes will suffer, so your body will always strive to regulate your body temperature.

A study conducted in 2016 monitored the effect of exercise on leaky gut symptoms. It showed that it causes several physiological changes including an increase of leaky gut and body temperature.

Additional in vitro studies demonstrated that increasing the temperature by just 2° reduced epithelial resistance. In other words, it weakened gut tissue. This suggests that raised body temperature plays a significant role in our gut integrity and can contribute to a leaky gut.

Research in mice has also shown that some gut bacteria flourish more than others depending on the external temperature. A hypothesis is that this is done to affect thermoregulation and our gut microbes play a vital role in this.

Therefore, it could be argued that if you are less tolerant to the cold, your gut microbes could be deficient and less able to adapt to differing temperatures.

• I am sensitive to the cold and worried it’s linked to my gut health. How can I improve this?

If this is a significant concern, it may be beneficial to seek the help of a nutritional therapist, naturopath or functional medicine practitioner.

If you have any digestive issues, be aware of what foods aggravate your symptoms and avoid them. Also eliminate inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy and grains and see if this makes a difference to your symptoms.

Cut out processed, sugary foods and focus on eating a wide range of fruit and vegetables to encourage gut biodiversity.

Eat plenty of prebiotic and probiotic foods. Include raw fermented foods daily such as sauerkraut, raw fermented gherkins, kimchi, kefir or kombucha. Eat lots of garlic and leeks (including raw), onions (raw and cooked), cabbage, asparagus, sweet potatoes and yams, beans and pulses, oats, Jerusalem artichokes, apples and the odd banana (slightly under-ripe).

You can also try taking a high-strength probiotic supplement such as this one made from innate human probiotic isolates identical to those found in the human gut since birth.

4) Circulation and oxygenation

Circulation is one of our most vital functions and needed for all manner of physical processes. It carries oxygen to all our cells and organs, making our bodies work. It is also crucial for temperature control, the importance of which has already been mentioned in this article.

The circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems all work cohesively together, relying on each other.

Respiration brings oxygen into your lungs. Your blood then carries that oxygen to where it is needed.

An efficient circulatory system delivers this oxygen to your GI tract, feeding your gastrointestinal tissue.

Your digestive system needs this oxygen to function correctly and contract muscles to break down food. Your blood then sweeps up any waste for excretion.

Respiration needs a fully functioning digestive system to obtain the nutrients it needs to run efficiently. It also relies on a healthy circulatory system to supply these via the blood.

Without this constant cycle, your gut simply cannot function efficiently. So you can see how lack of circulation to, and oxygenation of the gut causes intestinal distress, slowing and inhibiting digestive processes.

Over time this weakens your microbiota and gut. It also impacts on your overall health and immunity as a compromised digestive system cannot adequately absorb all the vital nutrients needed to keep your body running.

• How can I improve my circulation and look after my respiratory system?

You need to move as exercise gets the blood pumping, reduces stagnation and improves oxygenation.

Managing stress is also essential as increased stress hormones pull on your oxygen bank. It can also inhibit circulation. Try to find ways to cope with anxiety and stress effectively. Consider mindfulness, or try yoga or walking in nature while breathing deeply.

Reduce your exposure to toxins and consider taking a supplement to help you eliminate them while boosting your immune system.

Eat a balanced whole food diet including vitamin B12, iron and folate-rich foods such as mackerel, organic, free range, grass-fed beef, organic grass-fed liver and kidneys, eggs, sardines, fortified nutritional yeast, wild salmon and trout, lentils, asparagus, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, avocados, mangos, sweetcorn, beans, dried unsulphured apricots, quinoa, mushrooms, and pumpkin seeds.

You could also try taking some proteolytic enzymes.

5) Nutrient flow

 

For healthy gut bacteria, we need our food to flow through our digestive tract efficiently (hence the need for circulation and oxygenation, aiding peristalsis).

If you suffer from a sluggish digestive system, or constipation, the transit time of your food will be slow. Your gut health will be affected as unprocessed food sits in your GI tract spawning a toxic environment.

A hostile terrain not only destroys healthy microbiota and encourages unhealthy bacteria to thrive, but you become less able to get decent nutritional value from your food. Compromised gut health impacts on your body’s ability to function, creating a vicious cycle.

• What can I do to improve my sluggish digestion and constipation?

There are several things you can do to improve your digestion.

In a nutshell, reduce stress and work on any emotional trauma, eat a balanced whole food diet with lots of fibre, avoid processed and sugar-laden foods, ensure you are drinking adequate amounts of water, exercise, and eat lots of prebiotic and probiotic foods.

Also, consider taking supplements to encourage the growth of healthy gut flora. A high-quality prebiotic is a wise choice.

6) Vitamin D

 

Vitamin D has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory properties and a positive effect on the gut.

According to the Vitamin D Council, recent research supports the fact that vitamin D supplementation regulates our gut microbiome in the upper gastrointestinal tract.

Ongoing research is linking healthy vitamin D levels with a reduction of the symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Studies have also shown that IBD sufferers with insufficient Vitamin D have a higher risk of disease complications and more adverse symptoms.

There is even a link between vitamin D supplementation and a decreased duration of the commonly used anti-TNF treatment for IBD, with a higher chance of remission.

• How do I get enough vitamin D?

During the summer months, you need to ensure adequate skin and sun exposure at the right times of the day. For further information, visit the Vitamin D Council.

From autumn onwards in the UK, we cannot get what we need from the sun, and it is essential to supplement. Public Health England recommends adults and children over the age of one take over 10mcg of vitamin D.

The Vitamin D Council recommends a supplement of 5000iu daily. Always take a supplement in the form of D3, which is the preferred form.

7) Omega-3 fatty acids

 

These essential fatty acids are well known for their vast anti-inflammatory health benefits. Lately, new research has strongly associated DHA (a form of omega-3) and raised omega-3 levels with microbiota diversity and proliferation of healthy gut bacteria.

Interestingly, this research also noted a correlation between people with higher levels of omega-3 and increased anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity bacteria strains.

Further inspection also found that high omega-3 corresponded with a substance called N-carbamylglutamate (NCG) in the gut.

According to the author of the study, Dr Cristina Menni, NCG in animals is associated with lowered oxidative stress in the GI tract.

She hypothesises that somehow, omega-3 encourages our gut bacteria to produce it.

• How can I ensure healthy levels of omega-3 fatty acids?

This study focused on DHA, most readily absorbed from fish. To maintain healthy levels, you can eat oily fish twice to three times a week (sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, herring), or take a daily, supremely high-quality fish oil supplement. If you are vegan or vegetarian, opt for marine algae.

Other foods that can provide you with omega-3 oils (although less of the EPA/DHA supplied by fish oils) are walnuts, linseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, egg yolks and dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach.

Progurt Probiotics for gut health and immunity


We believe that the most advanced probiotic on the market today is Progurt.

This clinically tested super-strength supplement delivers an unprecedented 1 trillion CFU (colony forming units) to aid digestive health and rebalance gut microflora.

Not only that, but the Progurt probiotic strains have been proven to reach where they are needed alive, in the small intestine and colon.  

We like Progurt because they consider the gut environment as a whole and have produced a holistic supplement range focusing on PH and electrolyte balance, immunity and digestive support.

And there’s something else that makes Progurt Probiotics special.

Most probiotics on the market come from bovine strains which are not indigenous to humans. Progurt uses human probiotic isolates (HPI) instead, which they believe are more intuitive and better for us.

The reason for this is the fact that they are identical to the microflora found in the human intestinal tract itself, and therefore Progurt supplements are more specific to us than those derived from an animal source.

Bovine probiotics also tend to be more transient (don’t stay in the gut), whereas human probiotics remain, as our body responds to them more instinctively.

The beauty of taking the HPI strains is that once you have populated your gut effectively, they remain established, and you don’t have to keep supplementing.

However, should your healthy gut environment be disrupted due to ill health and the need for medication, for example, you will require a maintenance dose to re-colonise.

Each Progurt probiotic sachet contains HPI identical to the strains found in a healthy gut from birth. Innate and non-transient, the human strains in Progurt feature a unique combination and ratio that have been specially chosen to colonise in your GI tract and replicate.

They include missing, colonising, upper and lower gut, fragile, synergistic, replicating, migrating, and birth strains.

Wow. Pretty good, right? We think so. 100% natural, super strength, and innate.

It can even be used to make your own probiotic yogurt.

Conclusion


If you’ve gotten to the end of this rather lengthy peroration, congratulations! We hope you find the information valuable, and that you’re now better aware of the myriad factors influencing gut health.

You can find more information about the Progurt range here. And remember, maintaining a healthy gut is all about nourishing the proper environment.

Use this article as a guide, look after your GI tract and it’ll look after you. 

This article was written by Rebecca Rychlik-Cunning, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium: @rebeccabitesback.

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What are Prebiotic Supplements?

Prebiotic Supplements: What Are They and Who Needs Them?

Prebiotic Supplements: What Are They and Who Needs Them?

‘Probiotic’ has been the buzzword in natural health circles for the past few years, but as interest in gut health expands, more attention is being paid to the role of prebiotics.

If you’re interested in nourishing a well-balanced microbiome, read on to learn how prebiotic food and prebiotic supplements can help your friendly microbes flourish.

Prebiotic Definition


Prebiotic is the umbrella term for types of dietary fibre which act as food for the so-called good bacteria in our gut.

In other words, while probiotics replenish the live bacteria that make up our microbiome, prebiotics sustain them and facilitate their proliferation.

The most widely-studied prebiotics include inulin, fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS) and galacto-oligosaccharides.

Prebiotics are non-digestible for humans, but our resident bacteria eat them up just fine. Ensuring an adequate supply of prebiotics to the friendly microbial critters living in our guts is like providing valuable resources to a team of builders carrying out work.

By keeping the good bacteria well-fed, we can better enable them to:

• Protect us from damaging bacteria, fungi and pathogens

• Strengthen our immune system

• Enhance digestion

• Tamp down inflammation

• Regulate our mood

• Reduce blood pressure

There are, needless to say, many more benefits associated with resident good bacteria – some observed anecdotally, others highlighted in large-scale clinical trials.

In a way, the benefits of prebiotics are identical to those of probiotics: for without proper nourishment, probiotic bacteria cannot perform their duties efficiently.

That said, only certain combinations of prebiotics are known to enhance probiotic survival and growth.

What Are Synbiotics?


Incidentally, the combined intake of probiotics and prebiotics has its own term – ‘synbiotics.’ An increasing number of naturopathic practitioners suggest synbiotics – rather than probiotics or prebiotics – hold the most promise.

They point to the net health benefit of utilising these synergistic ingredients to enhance our wellbeing. In one interesting study from 2016, the use of synbiotics led to an improved serum lipid profile in patients with type 2 diabetes.

It is not just that prebiotics can help beneficial bacteria to multiply; prebiotic fibre also stimulates the release of metabolic byproducts which could have a positive impact on our cognitive health.

In early 2018, one market research firm estimated the global prebiotic market at $5.5 billion – and it’s set to grow.

Although it is important to consume both probiotics and prebiotics, prebiotics have been associated with their own unique benefits.

Prebiotics and Sleep


The sleep-promoting effects of prebiotics is said to stem from their ability to buffer the physiological impact of stress.

Although this area of research is relatively new, it is very promising. The first study suggesting a link between prebiotics and sleep quality came from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2017.

Researchers discovered that dietary prebiotics improved non-REM and REM sleep in rats following a stressful event.

Further trials are currently in the works to stress-test the effect of prebiotics in regulating sleep quality.

Based solely on their study, the UCB researchers say “a diet rich in prebiotics started in early life could improve sleep, support the gut microbiota and promote optimal brain health.”

Dr. Michael Mosley, intrigued by the findings, performed his own experiment with a prebiotic supplement containing galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). Dr Mosley went from spending 79% of his time in bed asleep to 92%, just five days after taking the formula.

Prebiotics and SCFAs


According to a Japanese study, comparatively small doses of prebiotics could increase our production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) by ‘turning on’ the metabolism of colonic microbiota.

Short-chain fatty acids are known as key players in the microbiome, though the anti-inflammatory molecular messengers are involved in interactions beyond the gut too – helping us to regulate water and absorb minerals, for example.

Their main responsibility, however, is to serve as an energy source for cells within the colon.

The Japanese study learned that consuming 0.2%/6g of daily prebiotics could ramp up SCFA production while also lowering colonic pH to assist with the growth of probiotic strains.

While there is no firm scientific consensus on how much prebiotic fibre we should consume on a daily basis, 6g is considered an achievable – even modest – intake.

Analysis of fossilised dung suggests our hunter-forager ancestors were consuming 135g per day of prebiotics in the form of inulin! Due to the typical modern diet, most of us are lucky if we manage 4 or 5 grams.

Prebiotics for IBS


Prebiotics are sometimes suggested for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the world’s most common – and perhaps least well understood – gastrointestinal disorder. Symptoms of IBS include stomach cramps, diarrhoea, flatulence and bloating.

The problem is that fibre in itself can cause similar symptoms, and so there is a risk of prebiotics having a counterproductive effect – particularly when consumed in high doses.

Most of the prebiotic studies to date have been conducted on healthy people rather than those with conditions such as Crohn’s, IBS etc, so there is an element of guesswork involved.

Perhaps the best thing to do if you suffer from IBS is consume prebiotics in moderation and assess your tolerance. This applies to both prebiotic foods and supplements. You will soon learn whether the net effect is positive or negative.

Interestingly, a 2018 study by the University of Memphis found that daily supplementation of 15g of oligofructose – a prebiotic fibre from chicory roots – provided a laxative benefit to adults aged between 18 and 65. And none of the participants noted any gastrointestinal distress.

As well as experimenting with prebiotics, those keen to combat IBS might also consider upping their vitamin D intake.

Prebiotics for Infants

Perhaps the bulk of the research into prebiotics concerns their usage among the younger population – infants and toddlers specifically.

There was the Italian study from earlier this year which illustrated how a prebiotic formula blend offered protection against respiratory infections.

The combination of galacto-oligosaccharide and polydextrose reduced the incidence of respiratory infections compared to infants receiving a regular formula. The rate of atopic dermatitis was also reduced by 35% in the study group.

What’s more, the prebiotics stimulated beneficial Bifidobacteria and Clostridium microbes in the gut.

And it’s not the only study showing the benefits of prebiotics for infants. Another, published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience, indicated that formula milk enriched with prebiotics might boost brain development.

Although the research was on piglets rather than humans, the same combination prebiotic was used: galacto-oligosaccharide and polydextrose.

Supplemented pigs exhibited better object recognition (i.e. more curiosity) and more exploratory behaviour, as observed by scientists at the University of Illinois, Urbana.

Apparently piglets were selected because of the close similarities to humans in terms of digestive systems, brain development and nutritional requirements. Who knew?

Of course, babies who are breastfed already receive an incredibly valuable prebiotic in the form of Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs), of which there are some 200 individual types.

Like other prebiotics, HMOs help to ensure a desirable balance of wholesome bacteria in the baby’s gut, as well as helping to build up their still-developing immune system.

Some baby formulas are fortified with prebiotics, although natural is definitely bestCountless studies have proven that breastfed infants are better protected against infection than formula-fed infants.

Naturally it is always wise to consult your doctor about giving prebiotics (or indeed probiotics) to your little one.

Food Sources of Prebiotics


There is no shortage of prebiotic-rich foods for you to enjoy, and the best part is most of them are incredibly nutritious – rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Examples of prebiotic foods include: butter beans, artichokes, onions, chicory root, barley, chickpeas and hummus, lentils, asparagus, dandelion greens, under-ripe bananas, raw garlic, whole oats, soybeans and seaweed.

With so much choice, there really is no excuse to avoid prebiotic foods. Most of the foods listed above contain inulin, although some also contain fructo-oligosaccharide.

Again, with reference to those suffering from IBS, it is worth experimenting with prebiotics to assess your tolerance; in certain cases, some types of fibre may exacerbate symptoms.

Are Prebiotic Supplements Necessary?

With so many prebiotic foods to choose from, you may wonder whether it is worth stocking up on a dedicated prebiotic supplement.

Most supplements contain one or more isolated prebiotic fibre sources and are a good alternative for those who wish to up their intake of specific strains.

Supplements may also be required to obtain the therapeutic doses used in several of the aforementioned studies. That is, unless you are eating around 10 portions of vegetables and fruit per day, including at least 3 prebiotic-rich foods.

One group who may not require supplements are raw dieters, since raw foods tend to contain much more prebiotic fibre than cooked ones. A raw dieter eating 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables will likely consume all the prebiotic fibre they need. Ditto those consuming raw food supplements.

Progurt Prebiotic: A Natural Sweetener


Prebiotic supplements come in many forms, including liquid form. The prebiotic manufactured by Progurt – makers of the world’s strongest probiotic – is worth looking at.

Described as a probiotic-stimulating syrup and made entirely from natural ingredients, Progurt Prebiotic contains three well-studied fibres: galacto-oligosaccharides, gluco-oligosaccharides and fructo-oligosaccharides.

You can use Progurt Prebiotic to add taste to your Progurt probiotic yogurt, bowl of oats, smoothie or cottage cheese. You can also add to water and drink, or eat directly off the spoon.

The prebiotic is formulated to promote the growth of healthy Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria within the gut. It is vegan-friendly and contains no milk, egg, wheat, soy or gluten.

Whether you opt for a supplement or not, prebiotics offer plenty of promise as far as gut health is concerned.

Maintaining the natural balance of your microbiome will help with sleep, stress, energy, immunity and much more besides. Prioritise both pre and probiotics and your body will thank you.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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Progurt probiotic reviews

Progurt Reviews: Hot Takes on the World’s Strongest Probiotic

Since we introduced Progurt to the UK market last year, we have had great feedback from our clients – many of whom have thanked us for making the world’s strongest probiotic available to them.

Because we only recently integrated Feefo Customer Reviews into our website, however, there aren’t yet many on our main product page at this time (a good deal of feedback has come to us via good old fashioned telephone).

That said, the Progurt international portal lists verified customer reviews, with the current total standing at 600. In addition, there have been a number of reviews published in recent years.

Progurt Testimonials: What Customers Say


The Progurt international site has been up and running a lot longer than our product pages, since we only introduced the probiotic to the British market last summer following lengthy discussions with the International Probiotics Institute (the team behind Progurt).

As such, you won’t have to look hard to find hundreds of customer reviews, comprising Progurt probiotic reviews and critiques of the other ancillary gut health products: Prebiotics, Alkaline Salt pH Capsules, Chloride and the special Progurt Yogurt Incubator.

We felt it would be a good idea to extract some reviews from the international website which speak to the product’s five-star rating. In our view, they give a good idea of how customers feel about Progurt, and with so much interest in gut health nowadays, there’s never been a better time to consider the potential of probiotics.

That being said, there are many factors which influence the microbiome and the performance of probiotics. These include diet, hydration, vitamin D levels, stress levels, body temperature, pH, oxygen flow and nutrient flow.

In other words, the conditions must be correct for proper colonisation of probiotic bacteria to occur.

Without further ado then, here is a snapshot of recent Progurt probiotic reviews (2018). If you wish to read more customer reviews, click here to scroll through 600.

“Progurt is the highest quality line of products I have found. Their probiotic powder is very gentle and has made a real difference in my life and those of my family. I highly recommend their products.” – Kim, 4/15/18, *****

“My gut is moving much better already after just 10 days use.” – Rosemary, 4/11/18, *****

“After taking 5 sachets of the Progurt, one each day for 5 days…my gut is so much better. No more pain, no more gas and bloating. Progurt is my new probiotic. And they are so easy to take with a little water. I’m not big on swallowing pills so the sachets work great for me. Thank you Progurt for giving me a normal belly again.” – Veronica, 4/9/18, *****

“A probiotic yogurt that has the diversity to be made with either dairy or coconut milk that can transform gut imbalances and boost your immune system. And so delicious with fruit or smoothies, it’s food as medicine.” – Lyn, 3/30/18, *****

“I have been using Progurt products – IncubatorChlorideProbiotics and Prebiotics – since February 2018. They are the most effective products I have used to help restore my gut health… Progurt products will continue to be a staple in my regime.” – Christine, 3/27/18

“I first got introduced to the Progurt products to assist with helping my son’s gut dysbiosis. He has been on the products (both in drink and yogurt form) for 3 months now and I have seen a notable change in him already.” – Charmaine, 3/23/18, *****

"If He Forgets to Take Progurt, His Stomach Issues Come Back"


“My husband had stomach issues for a few months now. He tried a few different probiotics but none of them seem to help him. I came across Progurt and decided to purchase it for him.

“After just one sachet, my husband felt no stomach issues for few days. Now we have purchased the Progurt incubator and make yogurt which he consumes every day and his stomach problems are gone. If he forgets to take Progurt yogurt then his stomach issues come back again.

“This product really works. Yes, it is expensive but unlike other probiotics out there, this one actually works.” – Nina, 3/23/18, *****

“Easiest to use and best probiotic on the market.” – Frenchs, 3/16/18, *****

“This is a high-quality probiotic, ideal for replenishing the gut following an illness or medical treatments. It has successfully pulled me out of a sensitive place (Candida flare) on a number of occasions – restoring my digestive system and giving me back my energy and vitality. There’s no other product around like it.” – Lily, 3/16/18, *****

“Progurt played a huge part in eliminating my chronic joint pains and other chronic fatigue type symptoms associated with poor gut health. I literally felt the benefits of Progurt after enjoying the first litre of incubated yogurt.” – Louise, 3/14/18, *****

“It’s a bit pricey but a great probiotic. Almost the instant feel of higher energy and great digestion.” – Brianna, 3/8/18, *****

“Have autoimmune inflammation diseases, took a course of Progurt over a 6 week period. It was amazing to see the results, of course a diet that supported my probiotics was essential in achieving the best results. Highly recommend to anyone with autoimmune issues.” – Billie-Jean, 2/25/18, *****

“Progurt has made a huge difference in the healing of my leaky gut and my overall digestion. It was a noticeable shift when my Dr prescribed this and I took my first dosage. It calmed everything down and kept everything moving.” – Stacey, 2/19/18, *****

“A simply impressive product with immediately noticeable results with better digestive function.” – David, 2/6/18, *****

“So easy to use. If you’re travelling you can add the probiotic in water or juice to drink.” – Sue, 1/24/18, *****

“I am a dietitian and select every food and supplement with care. I discovered this product at a food show and was extremely impressed with the quality and the benefits.” – Betsy, 1/12/18, *****

Progurt Reviews: What Reviewers Say

In addition to amassing many positive testimonials, Progurt has been well-received by reviewers.

In a write-up by Supplement Police, Progurt’s super-strength formula and high-quality ingredients are praised, with the reviewer correctly noting that “there are no additives, fillers, chemicals, synthetic substances or other harmful compounds in the formula that can cause one’s health to deteriorate.”

A separate review by My Wellbeing Journal points out that “Progurt is all-natural, with the strains specifically chosen for their high potency. The formula is exemplary when compared with others in the market as the isolates are attuned to natural gut flora rather than plant or animal-based isolates in other probiotics.”

In Naturally Healthy Parenting, the writer remarks that the Progurt range is “a quantum leap in probiotic use and offers huge potential benefits for many people, and in particular for the health of mothers and their children.”

A further review focused on Progurt consumed as yogurt (using the incubator). Health and wellness blogger Bei mentions familiar benefits for bloating and also, perhaps surprisingly, for skin.

“I found that eating Progurt over the course of a week, I was feeling less bloated and not in so much pain after eating a meal, I also noticed that I didn’t break out in spots like I usually do around the time of my monthly which was a plus, and my bowel movements were on point.”

Progurt Probiotic Uses

As with any probiotic, Progurt can be used for many things. Some of the most common goals include:

• Rebalancing/rebuilding gut flora (e.g. after antibiotics)

• Improving digestion

• Combating bloating

• Enhancing nutrient absorption

• Strengthening immunity

• Assisting with food intolerances

• Increasing nutrient production (vitamins, short-chain fatty acids)

• Tamping down inflammation

• Weight loss

• Nurturing the gut-brain link

• Assisting with blood pressure reduction

Research in the probiotic/gut health area is continually expanding and gaining momentum. There is plenty that we don’t yet understand about the microbiome, and it seems unlikely that we’ll have a clear picture for many years yet.

What has been demonstrated, through clinical trials and customer testimony, however, is that probiotics can have a tangible effect on your wellbeing. Supporting the healthy balance of microbes in the gut is of vital importance, particularly given that we are more microbe than human.

Why is Progurt So Expensive?


It is a logical question to ask: why is Progurt so expensive? There are two main reasons but let’s take just one of them:

• Progurt is the world’s strongest probiotic

It is beyond dispute that Progurt is stronger than any other probiotic. Its one trillion megadose is unprecedented in the field of probiotic supplementation.

To give you an idea, most products contain just 5, 10 or 20 billion Colony-Forming Units per serving. As such, a single sachet of Progurt contains more good bacteria than you’ll find in a month’s supply of the typical probiotic.

When you compare a 20 billion probiotic to Progurt, therefore, you are not comparing like-for-like. You are comparing two products that are completely and irrefutably different. Should it really be a surprise, therefore, that a two-pack of Progurt retails for £38.75?

A customer may reply that, at £19 a pop, they cannot afford to consume Progurt probiotics on a daily basis. However, Progurt needn’t necessarily be consumed on a daily basis.

It can be taken as and when you need to build up your microflora. It can be taken once every few days or once a week; it can be taken to settle the stomach or strengthen immunity while you’re abroad. It can be taken intensively for a week or two after a course of powerful antibiotics.

These various protocols are possible because of the mammoth Progurt dosage.

The supplement can also be taken in yogurt form. One sachet gives about five days’ worth of Progurt yogurt if consuming 200ml per day. In this context, Progurt doesn’t seem expensive at all: a £19 sachet will provide a 200 billion hit of probiotics, every day, for five days.

£3.80 for a probiotic yogurt is not so outlandish. Indeed, you might pay the same for a fancy bottle of kefir from your local Whole Foods.

We can think of no other probiotic supplement on the market today which offers a 200 billion dose for just £3.80 As mentioned, most supplements contain just 10 or 20 billion good bacteria per serving. You might get more than 200 billion in a month’s supply, but you won’t get anywhere near as much in a daily serving.

What is Progurt Made From?


Another reason for the perceived expensiveness of Progurt is its unique composition. Progurt sachets contain entirely human-derived bacteria: in other words, probiotic bacteria isolated and cultured from healthy humans. The International Probiotics Institute call it ‘the divine gift of nature’.

When you realise that 99% of probiotic manufacturers get their bacteria from either bovine sources or plant matter (soil), you come to realise that Progurt is a completely different proposition.

It stands to reason that human bacteria will better colonise the human gastrointestinal tract than that which is cultured from a non-human source. Colonisation that is fast, effective and natural. When you take Progurt, your body is not encountering unfamiliar bacteria. These are native strains which, for many reasons, may be missing or undernourished in your GIT.

Again, comparing Progurt to other supplements is not comparing like-for-like. Progurt has innovation at its heart.

How to Buy Progurt

 

Eager to get started? You can purchase Progurt, with free shipping, direct from our store. As ever, we encourage you to leave feedback detailing your own experiences.

Remember, Progurt can be consumed as a drink by dispersing a sachet in pure water, or as a yogurt, using the incubator.

It can and has made a difference to many and we are proud to represent the brand in the UK.

Conclusion

Research in the probiotic/gut health area is continually expanding and gaining momentum. There is plenty that we don’t yet understand about the microbiome, and it seems unlikely that we’ll have a clear picture for many years yet.

What has been demonstrated, through clinical trials and customer testimony, however, is that probiotics can have a tangible effect on your wellbeing.

Supporting the healthy balance of microbes in the gut is of vital importance, particularly given that we are more microbe than human.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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Probiotics for Blood Pressure: A Novel Solution?

Probiotics for Blood Pressure: A Novel Solution?

As we begin to appreciate the synergy between gut health and overall wellness, and the role of probiotics in building up good microflora, novel new uses of gastro-therapy are coming to light.

While probiotics are commonly touted for their benefits to immune health and indigestion, new research suggests they could also be used as an adjunct for blood pressure regulation.

Intrigued? You ought to be. Read on to find out more about this fascinating new study.

Probiotics for Blood Pressure – What the Study Says


Probiotics are being investigated ever more rigorously than before, but the new study linking them specifically to blood pressure is making waves in the scientific community.

Published in the American Heart Association’s peer-reviewed journal Hypertension, the study found that probiotic consumption lowered systolic blood pressure by an average 3.56mm of mercury (mm Hg), as compared to a non-probiotic group.

Systolic blood pressure, of course, is the blood pressure in the arteries when the heart beats.

Probiotic use also lowered diastolic blood pressure by an average of 2.38mm Hg.

The beneficial effects on diastolic blood pressure were greatest in those with blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85, which is considered elevated.

Diastolic represents the blood pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.

The results were based on systemic analysis of nine separate randomised controlled trials, considered the gold standard in evidence-based medicine.

Altogether, the RCTs involved 543 adults with both normal and elevated blood pressure.

Although more research is needed before doctors can confidently prescribe probiotics as part of a programme to control high blood pressure, many who already consume live bacteria (to enhance immunity, alleviate allergy symptoms, improve sleep, etc) will be pleased to know that those multitudinous microbes are doing more good than initially thought.

A few things to note: stronger was deemed better, in that only probiotics with a minimum daily bacteria volume of 1 billion improved blood pressure, and the greatest benefits were experienced with considerably more.

Supplements containing multiple strains also lowered blood pressure more than those with just a single species.

Although many reports claimed the benefit would come only from an eight-week probiotic protocol, this was not entirely accurate.

In the analysis itself, the authors concluded that “probiotic consumption with daily doses from 1 billion to 1 trillion CFU for a duration of 3 to 9 weeks may improve BP. The magnitude of improvement is greater among those with elevated BP, when daily dose of probiotics exceeds 100 billion and when intervention lasts over 8 weeks.”

Thus, to have the best chance of replicating the blood pressure-lowering effects of probiotics, or of replicating (or even improving upon) the aforementioned results, it is advised to consume probiotics with a bacteria count of 100 billion and continue doing so for eight weeks.

Of course, some probiotics colonise better than others, and thus it is difficult to say with certainty how long one should consume them.

For example, taking a single dose of 1 trillion – and repeating the feat ten days later – may be as beneficial as taking 100 billion probiotics each day for 10 days. Particularly if they contain a more effective blend of strains.

The final word on the study, though, should go to its lead author, Jing Sun, PhD: “We believe probiotics might help lower blood pressure by having other positive effects on health, including improving total cholesterol and Low-Density Lipoprotein cholesterol; reducing blood glucose and insulin resistance; and helping to regulate the hormone system that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance.”

The Importance of Controlling Blood Pressure


In simple terms, hypertension – defined as systolic blood pressure above 140mm Hg and diastolic BP above 90mm Hg – is a key risk factor for both coronary heart disease and cardiac failure.

It’s also associated with a number of chronic diseases including kidney disease, and is one of the nation’s most common long-term conditions.

Thankfully, hypertension is controllable through diet and lifestyle interventions: cutting out or severely reducing industrially-processed foods, the kind high in added sugars, is the first thing you can do.

Shedding excess weight by exercising regularly (at least 30 minutes, most days of the week) will also help bring BP down.

Although reducing salt is generally recommended for hypertension, there is a school of thought that salt intake is not as important an etiologic factor as dietary sugar.

Indeed, some contend that low-salt diets are actually harmful, predisposing a person to calcium and magnesium deficiencies, risk factors for hypertension in their own right. We recommend reading The Salt Fix: A Summary of the Book That Busted the Low-Salt Myth.

In addition to probiotics, top nutrients for lowering blood pressure include Vitamins C, E and D, potassium, iron, iodine and Coenzyme Q10.

In most cases you should be able to obtain all you need from your diet, providing it is appropriately nutritious. A daily Vitamin D supplement, however, is required during autumn and winter.

If you are concerned about your blood pressure, you can keep tabs on your levels using a home monitor. Checking in regularly with your doctor is also advised.

Probiotics: A Valid Hypertension Treatment Option

Clearly probiotics – either in the form of food or supplements – have a number of strongly-supported benefits.

As far as blood pressure is concerned, it seems accurate to say that probiotics can help reduce both SBP and DBP if consumed in adequate quantities and over an appropriate time period.

What’s more, a number of studies show that live bacteria are capable of reducing fibrinogen and Low-Density Lipoprotein cholesterol, with lactic acid bacteria deemed “able to metabolise complex milk protein and aid in the release of short bioactive peptides which have an ACE-inhibitory activity, thereby contributing to the modulation of hypertension.”

Which probiotic is best? Well, given the meta-analysis showed the greatest benefit came from supplements containing at least 100 billion good bacteria, we can rule out 95% of supplements on the shelf!

Only a handful offer a daily dose in excess of 100 billion, and only one offers a bacteria count 10 times as high. Progurt, a unique human-derived probiotic from Australia, provides 1 trillion Colony-Forming Units (CFU) per serving.

Unlike with other supplements, you don’t have to pop 10 or 12 capsules a day. On the contrary, you need only disperse a sachet of the probiotic powder in water or freshly-pressed juice and drink in one sitting.

If you prefer, you can also use with the Progurt incubator to make your very own probiotic-rich yogurt. It couldn’t be easier.

Because of Progurt’s high-strength, it’s doubtful that you would have to take it every day to ensure the antihypertensive effects; try one sachet a week and monitor your blood pressure after a month or two.

Considering the average reductions noted in the study, which used daily doses ranging from 1 billion to 1 trillion, it is not far-fetched to imagine that Progurt could lower one’s blood pressure even more.

Incidentally, Progurt is composed of lactic acid bacteria, including beneficial strains of L. acidophilus, S. thermophilus and L. bifidus. The two former strains were used extensively in the meta-analysis, suggesting results could be easily replicated.

Conclusion

With all that being said, the best thing you can do for hypertension in the short term is sort out your diet and get moving.

Cut the pro-inflammatory foods, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and up the exercise. Eliminate stress from your life, prioritise good sleep, consume alcohol in moderation if at all.

Your cardiovascular health will benefit from doing the simple things, and in all likelihood, your mood and sleep patterns will enjoy a boon, too.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

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