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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 Key to Having Healthy Vitamin B12 Levels

Why Gut Health is Key to Having Healthy Vitamin B12 Levels

Not getting enough vitamin B12?

Look after your gut. If you’re feeling fatigued, have weak muscles, aching joints, numbness or tingling in your hands and feet, insomnia, depression, trouble concentrating, forgetfulness or inflammatory gut disorders, you could be lacking in vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a precious B vitamin, essential for healthy red blood cell production and a host of functions from supporting immunity and promoting healthy digestion to maintaining normal energy levels.

Sadly, vitamin B12 insufficiency or deficiency is not uncommon. As it is found in animal foods, if you are vegetarian and particularly vegan, you are more at risk of B12 deficiency. Poor gut health can also radically impair your vitamin B12 absorption, so regardless

of whether you’re vegan or not, if you have digestive issues of any kind, this could also increase your chances of having subpar vitamin B12 levels.

10 health benefits of vitamin B12

1) Digestive health

Cobalamin contributes to the shaping, structure and function of human gut microbial communities, helping to maintain your gut mucosa and encouraging a healthy balance of gut bacteria.

It promotes healthy digestion and reduced inflammation in the gut, helping to prevent conditions like leaky gut and other inflammatory digestive disorders.

2) Child development

It is vital for the healthy growth of the peripheral and central nervous systems, bone marrow, skin, mucous membranes, bones and vessels in children.

3) Maintenance of healthy cells

Vitamin B12 is needed to regulate the growth and repair of cells. These processes ensure your cells work efficiently, keeping you less vulnerable to illness and disease.

4) Supporting brain function

Adequate B12 levels help to maintain mental alertness, concentration and cognitive function. It protects against neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Studies also suggest an association between low vitamin B12 and cognitive decline, and some researchers think that vitamin B12 deficiency might even be responsible for a reversible form of dementia. Moreover, there could also be a link between vitamin B12 deficiency and brain shrinkage. 

5) Numbness, tingling and back pain

Because it promotes healthy neurological activity, vitamin B12 deficiency has the potential to cause nerve conduction issues or damage. One of the symptoms is numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.

Researchers in Palermo, Sicily ran a trial on 60 patients with lower back pain and sciatica where they injected vitamin B12 intramuscularly. The results were favourable, with a sharp decrease in pain and disability more significant than those in the placebo group. No side effects were experienced, and even patients who didn’t have low vitamin B12 levels benefitted from the treatment.

According to the research team, various studies on the clinical effects of vitamin B12 on painful vertebral syndromes have indicated that it can contribute to shortening the treatment time and reducing daily NSAID dosage (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

Related: How Eggshell Membrane Benefits Arthritis and Joint Pain

6) Depression and anxiety

Along with folate, B12 aids in the functioning of your nervous system. Low B12 is linked to mood disorders, including depression. One longitudinal study lasting three years showed that depressed men with a higher intake of vitamin B12 from food had a reduced risk of depression.

Research shows that depressed patients can commonly have decreased blood serum levels of B6 and B12. It may also help to ease stress.

7) Sleep

A healthy balance of vitamin B12 can help to regulate your circadian rhythms and sleep/wake cycle, improving sleep quality.

8) Heart health

B12 helps regulate homocysteine levels, improving cardiac function.

9) Energy levels

A healthy balance of all minerals and vitamins helps to maintain energy levels. B12 is essential for cellular energy production and also plays a significant part in the conversion of carbohydrates to glucose, your body’s go-to energy source. It also helps to convert fatty acids into energy. 

10) Encourages healthy skin, hair and nails

Cobalamin has an affinity for the skin. If there are insufficient levels (or excessive ones), it can lead to dermatological changes. If you have a deficiency of B12, you might experience changes to your nails and hair, skin hyperpigmentation, and oral symptoms and conditions such as glossitis, recurring mouth ulcers and canker sores.

Other skin conditions associated with vitamin B12 irregularity include vitiligo, atopic dermatitis and acne rosacea.

Causes of vitamin B12 insufficiency and deficiency

• Poor gut health and conditions such as celiac, Crohn’s disease or IBS. Conditions that slow the movement of food through the digestive tract (e.g. diabetes, scleroderma or diverticulitis) can cause an unhealthy balance of gut bacteria to overgrow in the upper part of the small intestine. Vitamin B12 is very valuable to these bacteria which keep it for themselves, while you become depleted. Other conditions with malabsorption such as MS or HIV can also be a cause.

• If you are vegetarian or vegan, you are at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency because only animal-based foods naturally contain it. You can get B12 into your diet by taking a supplement. You can also eat nutritional yeast and other foods fortified with vitamin B12. If you are vegetarian, eggs and dairy products also contain it.

• If you have had bariatric surgery, this interferes with your absorption of B12.

• If you are elderly, you have a higher risk as your stomach acid depletes with age, which affects digestion and absorption of nutrients, including vitamin B12.

• The use of drugs for heartburn and stomach ulcers as well as metformin, antibiotics and anti-seizure medications.

• If you are a smoker, suffer from pernicious anaemia or excessively drink alcohol, it will affect B12 absorption.

Symptoms of B12 deficiency 


These can be hard to spot as some of them are very common and can be associated with other ailments. They can include:


  • Fatigue 
  • Poor sleep or insomnia
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands, legs or feet.
  • Memory loss or difficulty thinking and concentrating.
  • Pernicious anaemia
  • Weakness, muscle aches, joint and back pain.
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Moodiness, depression, anxiety.
  • Digestive problems
  • Poor oral health, including a swollen inflamed tongue, recurring ulcers, and bleeding gums.
  • Palpitations
  • Poor appetite

Gut health is essential for adequate B12 levels


According to current research, particular microbial strains in the gut produce cobalamin along with other B vitamins. You can find a list of the predicted specific gut bacteria here.

Some animals, e.g. cows and fish, are capable of producing and absorbing enough B12 via gut bacteria production that they need little or none added to their diet. But, while more studies are required in order to determine this fully, some researchers currently feel that homegrown human cobalamin is produced in such small amounts and is so valuable to the gut microbes that it is unlikely to impact our vitamin B12 levels significantly.

Added to which, most of the cobalamin is produced in the colon where no receptors absorb it (these are found in the small intestine).

As previously mentioned, vitamin B12 helps to maintain your gut mucosa and nourishes gut microbiota, aiding digestion. It looks like any produced in the gut is used to enhance microbial activity. 

By getting enough vitamin B12, either through food or supplementing, a healthy person can maintain adequate levels which improve gut bacteria and overall digestive function. In response, good gut health will increase your ability to absorb B12, allowing you to reap all the other health benefits. 

Without a healthy digestive system, malabsorption of vitamin B12 occurs, which negatively affects your gut, further impeding your B12 absorption – a vicious cycle. Even minor gut inflammation can cause problems, so you can see why you must get your gut health in order

By enhancing gut health, vitamin B12 aids overall immunity. It also helps to improve inflammation not just in your gut but also your body, helping to ward off chronic illness and disease. 

Aside from eating a diverse, natural, whole-food diet rich in nutrients and regularly including pre and probiotic foods in your diet, you might want to consider taking some probiotics.

Progurt supply an entire range of supplements aimed at providing the right environment for optimal gut health.

Supplementation of vitamin B12


If you suspect your vitamin B12 levels are low, speak to your GP or therapist of choice about getting them tested. 

If you are vegan/vegetarian, an older adult or are vulnerable to B12 insufficiency or deficiency for any other reason, you can take a supplement. If you have a chronic condition that requires medication, speak to your doctor before taking any supplements.

The natural form of vitamin B12, known as methylcobalamin, is the best one to choose as research shows that it stays in your system for longer. When taking a supplement as opposed to injections (customarily administered to treat deficiency), sublingual (under the tongue) drops, sprays or tablets are the most effective as they are absorbed rapidly and directly into the bloodstream. 

B12 food sources

Good sources include seafood and fish, especially clams, oysters, muscles, crab, crayfish, shrimps, lobster, tuna, herring, mackerel and sardines.

Animal liver, kidneys and meat – particularly beef and chicken breast – are also adequate sources, and so too are eggs, dairy products, and fortified foods, including plant milks and nutritional yeast.

Pulling it all together

Cobalamin or vitamin B12 is essential for a multitude of physiological functions, including the formation of red blood cells. It helps to produce the myelin sheath, which forms around the nerves of the brain and spinal cord, allowing electrical impulses to transmit quickly and effectively along the nerve cells. Vitamin B12 also helps with hormonal, DNA and RNA synthesis. 

We have listed ten significant health benefits in this article, but there are many more. 

Gut health plays a principal role when it comes to your ability to absorb B12, added to which, vitamin B12 helps to maintain your gut mucosa and nourishes gut microbiota, aiding digestion. Inadequate levels of the vitamin can lead to gut inflammation and conditions like leaky gut or irritable bowel disease.

Even minor inflammation can cause malabsorption of not just vitamin B12 but other vital nutrients as well. So, it’s crucial to keep your digestive system healthy.

If you want to enhance your B12 absorption, focus on maintaining a healthy gut! Eating a varied, natural, whole-food diet encourages a diverse range of gut bacteria. Consume plenty of vegetables and fruits, beans, legumes, whole grains, and healthy fats to provide gut feeding nutrients and plenty of fibre.

Include pre and probiotic foods in your diet daily. If you want to take probiotics or any other gut supplements, Progurt has an entire range aimed at providing the right environment for optimal gut health, including prebiotics.

Aside from eating a balanced diet, you can include foods rich in vitamin B12, or even take a supplement – particularly if you are vegan, vegetarian, an older or elderly adult or anyone with an increased risk of deficiency.

If you are displaying any deficiency symptoms or are worried your levels are low, ask your doctor to test your blood levels of vitamin B12. If you have a chronic condition requiring medication, speak to your GP before taking any supplements.

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

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Microbiome Health: The Right Environment, The Right Microbial Strains

Microbiome Health: The Right Environment, The Right Microbial Strains

With over 70% of your immune system living in your gut, you can see how a healthy digestive system is core when it comes to good health. An unhealthy gut is strongly linked to inflammation, illness and chronic disease, and many of us suffer from some kind of gut imbalance. It's far more common than you might think.

Anyone aware of the importance of gut health knows the advantages of taking probiotic supplements to promote healthy gut microbiota. But it's not necessarily that straightforward.

Creating the right environment is essential if you want to maintain a healthy gut and encourage the right microbial strains to thrive. And while they are a valuable asset, this involves so much more than just taking probiotics.

A unique collection of gut bacteria for a very unique you


Your gut microbiota is as unique to you as your fingerprint. You have a mixture of good and bad gut bacteria, including over 1,000 different species with more than three million genes. Being at such an epic level, many experts regard this exceptional colony an organ in its own right.

It appears that healthy people do have particular species and combinations of them in common. If you wish to protect your immunity, prevent disease and maintain healthy digestion, your one-of-a-kind collection of gut microbiota must be a healthy one.

What's a healthy gut environment?


To create and maintain a diverse range of microbiota, you must eat well. Consume a wide range of fruits and vegetables, making sure you eat several different colours every day.

Add pre and probiotic foods to your diet on a regular basis and ensure you’re getting adequate amounts of healthy omega-3 fats, nuts and seeds, pulses and legumes. Fibre is also essential for encouraging healthy gut bacteria.

Other pillars of good gut health and ways to encourage the right gut environment are electrolyte balance, a healthy gut pH, circulation, oxygenation and nutrient flow, and the right body temperature.

When choosing a probiotic, you need to get a premium quality supplement with the right microbial strains that cultivate within your gut and take root.

Here are six ways to create the right environment for a healthy gut.

1) Look after your electrolytes


Electrolytes are essential for maintaining normal body function and are critical to your overall health and wellbeing. They are minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium and chloride, that carry a slight electrical charge and power your cells.

If your electrolytes are low, you may experience symptoms like muscle weakness and cramping, anxiety, swelling, joint aches and pains, fatigue, dehydration, sleep problems, headaches, tingling and numbness

If you have an electrolyte imbalance, you may also develop digestive issues.

Poor electrolyte levels can lead to reduced stomach acid (otherwise known as hydrochloric acid or HCL). Without sufficient levels, you’re more susceptible to any harmful bacteria you might ingest, and you’re also less able to break down, digest and absorb nutrients from your food.

Added to which, if your digestion is out of whack, your gut environment suffers and healthy bacteria is stifled while unhealthy microorganisms get to dominate. 

Symptoms of low stomach acid or Hypochlorhydria include indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux, bloating, wind, belching, nausea, tiredness, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), other gastrointestinal disorders and infections, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

If you are worried your electrolyte levels are low, consider taking an electrolyte supplement to re-mineralise.

Progurt Chloride is an advanced, highly absorbable multi-mineral concentrate, that’s ideal if you have poor mineral status. If you’re concerned about your digestion, you can take it in tandem with other supplements from the Progurt range which is focused on maintaining optimum gut health. 

Other ways to look after your electrolytes include avoiding unnecessary medications of any kind and bypassing processed foods that are high in sodium but low in other electrolytes.

You can also eat electrolyte-rich foods including coconut water, pink Himalayan salt, bananas, kiwi, watermelon, leafy greens, broccoli, cucumber, carrots, sweet potatoes, avocados and bone broth. Don’t forget to replenish your electrolytes if you’ve been unwell or do high-intensity training.

2) Protect the delicate pH balance in your GI tract


While it’s essential to maintain a balanced blood pH to avoid illness and disease, the pH throughout your gastrointestinal tract is of equal importance. Without the correct acid/alkaline balance, you can’t maintain the complex equilibrium of digestive enzymes and microorganisms needed to support your gut integrity.

This causes your GI tract becomes weak, inflamed and impaired. You may start to experience digestive problems and the risk of intestinal permeability where harmful particles can leak from your gut into your bloodstream. 

Any kind of digestive impairment means that you are less able to absorb the nutrients from your food. The more chronic and deep-rooted it becomes, the weaker your immunity and the greater your susceptibility to illness and disease. 

It’s interesting to note that electrolyte and pH balance are closely linked. If you have low electrolytes, they can negatively affect your digestion and gut pH. If your body pH is unbalanced, it will leach electrolyte stores from your bones, tissues and organs.

This impacts your digestive system, gut pH and puts further stress on your immunity. 

To maintain the acid/alkaline balance needed to keep your GI tract functioning optimally, you need to look at lifestyle and diet.

Eat a balanced whole food diet, regularly eat alkaline foods and steer clear of acidic, inflammatory, high sugar, pre-packaged and processed foods.

Learn to manage your stress effectively, exercise regularly and keep moving. Avoid exposure to environmental toxins and unnecessary medication.

You can also take a supplement specifically designed to optimise gut acid/alkaline levels.

3) Maintain healthy circulatory and respiratory systems

Your body is a finely tuned machine. It’s the master of masking things, compensating and functioning well under duress. But time takes its toll, and if underlying issues are not noted or addressed, the cracks start to show.

To break down and digest food, and do all the other jobs it needs to do, your GI tract needs oxygen. To do this effectively, you need efficient circulation and respiration

Oxygen is transported to your GI tract in your blood (circulation) from your lungs (respiration). The oxygen enables the muscles in your digestive tract to contract and obtain all the nutrients from your food, which among other things, feeds your respiratory system so it can function efficiently. A healthy circulatory system carries these vital nutrients via the blood. 

So, you can see how your digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems all work together, helping each other. Each one needs to operate optimally, so this constant cycle can keep your gut functioning the best it can. 

Poor circulation means you’re not getting adequate oxygenation of gastrointestinal tissue leading to impaired gut function and slow digestion.

Consequently, the respiratory system doesn’t receive all the nutrients it needs to function correctly and send oxygen back down to your intestinal tissues.  This puts continued pressure on your digestive system, your microbiota cannot thrive, and your body starts to suffer. 

If you’d like to boost your circulation and enhance blood flow, Progurt Enzymes may help. These are active natural plant protein isolated from probiotic bacteria. The supplement is specifically designed to optimise nightly circulation while also aiding your digestive system.

A proper diet is necessary when it comes to cultivating robust respiratory and circulatory systems. If you eat varied, wholesome foods, you should get the nutrients you need to keep them in check.

Vitamins B12 and folate are essential in this instance, so ensure you’re eating foods that provide these. If you are vegetarian or vegan, be especially aware of your vitamin B12 intake, which often comes from animal sources. It may be beneficial for you to supplement with it. 

You also need to ensure you are getting enough iron. If you eat a plant-based diet, make sure you always team vegetarian iron-rich foods with vitamin C foods which will help to increase your iron absorption. 

Stress hormones can negatively impact your oxygen resources and inhibit circulation, so remember to breathe, be kind to yourself and find ways to feel calm throughout your day. Exercise is also essential to get your circulation moving and improve oxygenation, as is avoiding toxins as much as possible.

4) Speed up sluggish digestion


You need to encourage an optimal nutrient flow for a healthy digestive system. Slow transit times lead to unprocessed food that sits in your intestines, quickly stagnating and becoming toxic. 

If you struggle to digest your food and suffer from constipation, your gut will be a breeding ground for toxicity, and it will be hard for healthy microbiota to populate.

Meanwhile, you are in danger of increasing less healthy bacteria and other microorganisms and obtaining adequate nutrients from your food will become more challenging.

To encourage more efficient digestion, eat plenty of fibre, especially insoluble fibre (found in whole grains and nuts) which bulks up your stool and speeds up the passage of foods through your digestive tract.

Eating pre and probiotic foods daily will also help. Progurt also has a Prebiotic syrup which is vegan-friendly and made of non-digestible fibre to stimulate probiotics in your gut and help them to thrive. 

A clean, well balanced and varied wholefood diet is essential and proper hydration is crucial.

Without adequate water intake, your stools become hard, dry and difficult to pass and food and toxins start to back up. Drinking ample amounts of water will soften your stools, and things will flow a lot easier. 

Exercise will increase metabolism and encourage peristalsis (intestinal muscle contractions). Relieving anxiety and stress will release tension and promote better digestion too.

5) Be aware of your body temperature


Your gut microbes need a normal body temperature, between 97? to 99?, to maintain a healthy balance. Although it could be argued that warmer is better (healthy gut bacteria flourish in incubation), a balanced temperature is vital.

Research is ongoing, but some studies have found that increased temperature from regular exercise may be linked to leaky gut.

Body temperature increased by as little as 2? could encourage weakened gut tissue and jeopardise gut integrity. Some bacteria may also thrive more than others depending on external temperature, and it might be that if you are sensitive to the cold, your gut microbes may find it harder to adapt to colder temperatures and become deficient. 

If you feel that your body doesn’t effectively regulate your body temperature, seek the advice of a health practitioner as there may be an underlying cause that needs to be addressed.

Practical steps would be to strip off and take measures to cool down if you’re feeling hot and adding layers if you’re feeling cold. 

Address any digestive issues, and eat a diverse mixture of plant-based foods to encourage a wide variety of healthy microbiota. Also, consume plenty of pre and probiotic foods to promote healthy gut bacteria.

Eat 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 bananas (slightly under-ripe).

You can also try taking a high strength probiotic supplement.

6) Take a probiotic supplement made from Human Probiotic Isolates

 

Probiotic supplements can complement a healthy diet and lifestyle and help to ease problematic digestive issues.

However, if you have a chronic digestive complaint, you need to find the underlying cause to determine the best diet and supplement plan.

So, in this instance, it would be best to seek the advice of a health professional such as a nutritional therapist, naturopath or functional medicine practitioner. 

Probiotics are live bacteria designed to populate your gut with healthy microbial strains, helping to restore balance, allowing optimal function. Depending on the strengths and strains of the supplements and your overall health, they may be useful in various circumstances.

These include re-balancing gut microbiota, easing the severity of acute attacks of diarrhoea, re-populating healthy gut bacteria after taking antibiotics, reducing allergy and eczema symptoms, boosting immunity, alleviating specific digestive issues, and relieving anxiety or depression.

Many experts believe that the stronger a probiotic supplement, the better. Evidence shows that human bacterial strains colonise in the gut, take up residence and become established. This differs from probiotics made using bovine probiotic strains which tend to be more transient. 

Currently, the majority of probiotic supplements you’ll find on the market are bovine based. But Progurt Probiotics derive from Human Probiotic Isolates which are identical to those found in a healthy human gut from birth.

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.

Each sachet contains a unique combination 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.

As long as you remain healthy, without a bout of illness or trauma to upset the balance (in which case you’d need to take another course to re-populate), these human probiotic strains will stay put.

Conclusion

Establishing and maintaining the right environment is essential for your gut health. Eating a natural, balanced and diverse diet, exercising and looking after your mental health are all part and parcel of ensuring this. 

Additionally, you might find it advantageous to take supplements to ensure your gut environment is tip-top, particularly if you feel that you’re struggling with any of the factors mentioned here. 

The Progurt range is specifically designed to restore and maintain a healthy and balanced gut environment. For example, if you decide to try Progurt Probiotics and don’t notice any real difference after taking a few sachets, it may suggest that you need to tackle another issue. Progurt’s additional supplements cover the environmental factors raised in this article, and any one of these may help.

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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6 Signs of Poor Gut Health and 11 Ways to Improve Them

6 Signs of Poor Gut Health and 11 Ways to Improve Them

Research is continually evolving, and scientists are discovering an increasing amount about the complexity of our digestive system and how vital it is when it comes to our health.

Around 70% of your immune system stems from your GI tract, all the way from your mouth, through your throat, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum and anus.

A healthy gut is integral to your overall health, and without it, you become more susceptible to a poorly functioning immune system, chronic disease of all kinds, mental health disorders, endocrine disorders and skin conditions.

Every one of us has an assortment of gut microbiota, or microorganisms, as unique as our fingerprints. We need to create the right conditions for them to thrive if we wish to stay healthy.

Gut microbes perform many crucial functions like aiding digestion, producing vitamins, protection from harmful bacteria, keeping the gut healthy and intact, and preserving immunity.

While we can all harbour harmful gut microbiota, many experts believe that healthy people carry particular species, and combinations of species, of gut microorganisms.

Many signs indicate poor gut health, and only some of them are listed here. Other indications for assessing and addressing gut imbalance can include (but are not exclusive to) chronic illness, ongoing fatigue, recurring acute illnesses such as coughs, colds and flu, poor sleep and brain fog.

Here are some signs of an unhealthy gut.

1) Depression, anxiety and stress


We now know that there is a bidirectional gut/brain connection, meaning your gut health can affect your brain function and vice versa. This is known as the gut/brain axis.

It is not uncommon to find that a person suffering from mental health issues can also have a significant gut disturbance.

It works the other way around too, where someone with persistent digestive problems can also be experiencing chronic stress, anxiety or depression.

One study involving 668 students revealed chronic stress as a significant predictor of gastrointestinal disorders.

Gut microbes also manufacture chemicals linked to low mood or depression, such as serotonin. It’s commonly thought that low levels of serotonin in the brain are directly related to depression. But new research suggests that gut-based serotonin has a substantial impact on mental health.

If your gut health is impaired, the chances are that your digestive serotonin could be too, and this might be contributing to your depression.

2) Autoimmune disease


There are over 80 autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, inflammatory bowel disease, Addison’s disease, Graves disease, multiple sclerosis, and Sjögren’s syndrome.

Damage to the finely-tuned gut microbiota and conditions such as leaky gut can lead to increased inflammatory processes in the body which compromise immunity.

In the case of autoimmunity, this leads to the immune system mistakenly attacking the healthy tissues and organs it is meant to protect.

Recently, researchers looked at the gut bacteria Enterococcus gallinarum, discovering that it can spontaneously locate outside of the gut to the lymph nodes, liver and spleen, causing an autoimmune response.

Other research also links the normal gut bacteria Bacteroides fragilis to autoimmune disease as it mimics a small protein called ubiquitin.

Not everyone produces this mimic protein (known as BfUbb), but for those who do, it can cause autoimmune dysregulation.

This highlights the importance of maintaining gut integrity and a healthy gut lining (mucosa) to block the passage of harmful substances into the bloodstream.

It also underlines the power gut bacteria holds to alter our immunity.

3) Allergies


Research supports the importance of the gut microbiome to protect against allergies by balancing our immune response to antigens. Without the right balance of healthy gut bacteria, we are less protected and more susceptible to allergic reactions.

Babies born by C-section have lower levels of some gut bacteria than those who pass through the birth canal, and this is linked to an increased risk of allergies, including asthma.

Maternal intake of antibiotics can also increase the risk of allergies in newborns and young children. Alterations in gut microbiota are also directly linked to food allergies.

To guard against allergies, you need to protect your gut health and cultivate a diverse yet balanced gut microbiota.

4) Eczema or other skin complaints


GI inflammation and poor diet can cause leaky gut, where its protective mucosal lining is damaged. It allows substances to enter the bloodstream, causing inflammation, including skin conditions such as eczema.

According to Cochrane, people with eczema sometimes have inflammation in their gut. Changes in gut microbiota can be associated with eczema in children.

Particular gut bacterias such as Bifidobacterium, Megasphaera, Haemophilus and Streptococcus are abundant in healthy children, whereas the proliferation of different gut bacteria is seen in those with eczema.

For example, increased levels of the bacterias Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Ruminococcus gnavus are found in the guts of children with eczema. These are associated with inflammation and the tendency towards allergic rhinitis, asthma and atopic dermatitis (eczema).

While more evidence is needed, there is some research showing a link between gut permeability (leaky gut) and eczema in both children and adults.

There is also an apparent correlation between food allergies and eczema, and recent research suggests that the lack of certain gut bacteria is linked to this. 

More studies are needed, but researchers reviewed recent findings linking eczema and gut microbiota. They determined that changes in the microbiome can contribute to the development, persistence and severity of the condition.

They also acknowledged a clear association between gut dysbiosis (microbial imbalance) and eczema.

5) Regular digestion issues


If you experience any recurring digestive problems or ongoing issues, this is a clear sign of poor gut health.

A healthy gut may have occasional disturbance, but should, on the whole, find it easy to digest and eliminate food.

There are many things you can do to address poor digestion, but it makes sense to start with your diet. Take a look at our article on all things digestion.

6) Unexplained weight changes


Weight loss can be a symptom of SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth), a condition where there is an excessive amount of gut bacteria in the small intestine.

Gut issues can be one of the reasons why you might have weight gain or struggle to lose weight. For example, the microbiota has an influence over the regulation of metabolic activity, including weight and glucose control. When compromised, this can increase your risk of obesity and diabetes.

By digesting fibre, gut microbes also produce short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate and propionate. SCFAs improve both metabolic and appetite regulation and obesity.

In one study, propionate population of the colon modulated appetite by affecting the brain and lowering reward-based eating behaviour towards high energy foods.

As we already know, stress and anxiety can affect gut health. Poor gut health can lead to chronic inflammation, which can underlie obesity.

11 ways to improve poor gut health

1) Seek the advice of a nutritional therapist, naturopath or functional medicine practitioner

We are all unique. How we express symptoms and the solutions that we need for them vary from person to person. For example, it may be that you need to rest and repair your gut in other ways before taking probiotics.

Or perhaps one of the most useful things you can do to ease your symptoms is to manage your stress more effectively. 

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.

2) Stop taking over-the-counter meds and unnecessary antibiotics


Drugs, in general, can affect the integrity of your gut microbiota. Aside from taking necessary prescription medication, it’s crucial to limit your intake of non-prescribed drugs.

For example, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Nurofen and ibuprofen, are known to impact the diversity of gut microbiome severely. Some NSAIDs have a more aggressive effect than others, such as naproxen and ketorolac.

According to gastroenterologist Byron Cryer, MD, a spokesperson for the American Gastroenterological Association, NSAIDs cause more than half of bleeding ulcers. They can also damage the mucosal gut barrier, leading to leaky gut. 

Recently, researchers looked at the effect of antibiotics on oral infections. They found that antibiotics kill short-chain fatty acids produced by healthy gut bacteria, inhibiting the body’s ability to fight infection.

The researchers also found that if you leave those natural defences alone, they can effectively reduce inflammation and infection: so why kill them?  

Several studies show the adverse effect of antibiotics on our gut and the potentially dire ramifications this can have on our immunity and overall health.

Some scientists even discuss the permanent damage antibiotics can have on our beneficial gut bacteria. Some friendly gut flora never fully recover, increasing our susceptibility to infection and disease.

One 2008 study looked at the gut bacteria of three healthy individuals before and after a single course of antibiotics. The drug, Ciprofloxacin, influenced one-third of their gut bacteria, decreasing the richness, diversity and evenness of the community.

There were individual variations among these, but in all three participants, after six months, several of the healthy gut bacteria failed to recover. This suggests that even a short course of antibiotics can detrimentally and perhaps permanently affect our gut health.

Where possible, try to find natural alternatives to pain, cough and cold relief, allergies, or any other reasons why you are turning to medication. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, ask whether it is essential and if there are any alternatives.

3) Don't eat foods that aggravate your symptoms and clean up your diet


If you suffer from any digestive issues, cut out the foods you think could be aggravating your symptoms. You may also benefit from eliminating inflammatory foods such as dairy, grains, and gluten from your diet. 

Sugar and sweeteners can also cause dysbiosis and inflammation, so it’s essential to cut down on sugar and most definitely eliminate sweeteners of any kind.

Cutting out processed and junk foods while increasing the amount and diversity of plant-based foods can significantly improve your gut health.

4) Eat daily pre and probiotic foods


Eating plenty of pre and probiotic foods will encourage a rich diversity of healthy gut bacteria. Add them daily to your meals to keep your gut healthy and strong. 

Raw fermented foods are rich in probiotics and include full-fat natural yogurt, raw sauerkraut, gherkins, kefir or kombucha, miso and tempeh.

Prebiotic foods include garlic, leeks and onions (all three both raw and cooked), Jerusalem artichokes, cabbage, apples, under-ripe bananas, oats, beans and pulses, nuts and seeds.

5) Eat a diverse range of fruit, vegetables and fibre


A healthy gut contains a vast array of different microbiota. The more varied the species in your gut bacteria, the more potential health benefits you can gain and the stronger your gut wall. 

By eating a diverse range of foods, especially plant foods, you will encourage this.

Ensure you eat a wide range of fruit and vegetables in all their different colours, consume lots of omega-3 fats, nuts and seeds, legumes, and pulses.  

Fibre also makes your gut bacteria thrive. It speeds up the transit time of your food and creates a gut-friendly environment by removing toxins and improving constipation

Fibre will also encourage short-chain fatty acid production to impact immunity, while also regulating your weight and glucose levels.

6) Work on your pH balance


Many practitioners recognise the importance of acid/alkaline balance in the blood. This is because illness and disease are less able to thrive in a less acidic environment. 

Poor gut health promotes excessive acidity, but it’s not just about blood pH. It’s also essential to maintain a healthy pH throughout your GI tract. Without it, you cannot manage the intricate balance of microbiota and digestive enzymes needed for a well functioning gut.

You are also less able to absorb all the necessary nutrients from your food, and as we know, compromised gut integrity leads to inflammation, reduced immunity and increased susceptibility to disease.

One way to help keep your acid/alkaline balance in check is to add more alkaline foods to your diet. Ditch processed and junk foods, pre-prepared meals and sugar. Reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake. Some people may also find it beneficial to avoid dairy and cereal grains.

You could also take a daily green powder containing alkalising superfoods such as spirulina, chlorella, sprouts, and grasses.

pH balancing supplements can optimise stomach acid/alkaline levels and promote gut health. A natural one containing electrolytes can address this.

7) Take probiotics 


Probiotics are live, friendly bacteria that provide health benefits for you and your gut when taken in adequate amounts. They can be useful when your microbiota is out of balance and could do with a boost of the good stuff.

Opinions differ, but many experts believe that stronger is better when it comes to taking a probiotic supplement. The majority of probiotics you’ll find on the shelves come from bovine sources which are not indigenous to us.

So, for the most profound benefits, it makes sense to take a high-strength supplement derived from human bacterial strains.

Progurt is one of the most advanced probiotics on the market. It’s clinically tested and has an exceptionally high, one trillion Colony-Forming Units to populate your gut. 

What makes Progurt particularly progressive is that the bacteria derive from human probiotic isolates (HPIs). 

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

Bovine probiotics tend to be more transient, whereas our bodies respond to these native HPI bacteria more instinctively and effectively. They remain established in your gut unless poor health or medication disrupt your healthy gut environment, and you need a maintenance dose.

8) Eat at mealtimes, chew your food properly


This is pretty obvious, but it’s something that so many of us don’t do. We often rush our meals and get distracted by watching TV, working or looking at our phones. 

Ensure you are chewing your food correctly as this is an integral part of digestion. It helps to break everything down and eases the whole process.

Savour the flavour of your meals, take in the aroma, and engage with every mouthful. Always try to eat at a table and don’t wolf your food.

9) Manage stress


There is a direct link between stress and GI disorders and studies support the benefits of stress-reducing interventions for this.

Evidence suggests that cognitive behavioural therapy, hypnosis and relaxation techniques can all significantly improve GI symptoms. Some studies also support the use of mindfulness, meditation and yoga for reducing IBS symptoms.

If you regularly struggle with stress or anxiety, make it your mission to find ways to alleviate the strain. This could be anything from 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, practising deep breathing, exercising, or meditating. 

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

10) Get enough sleep


Sleep and gut health are connected, with one affecting the other. 

A 2014 animal study demonstrated the harmful impact sleep disturbance might have on healthy gut bacteria. A small study with healthy male participants also found that as little as two nights disturbed sleep can noticeably alter the gut microbiota.

This is most likely related to the fact that, rather like the rest of you, your microbiota are programmed to regular circadian sleep-wake cycles and patterns of eating.

When this gets disrupted, your microbial health can suffer. This could be particularly problematic for frequent long-haul flyers and shift workers. 

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

11) Exercise

 

Exercise and regular movement can help to shift food through your digestive tract.

Walking is an excellent form of exercise that is suitable for all levels of fitness as you can take it at your own pace.

If you have a job where you’re sitting down for much of the time, or you live a sedentary lifestyle, get up and move around at frequent intervals throughout your day.

Conclusion

There are several signs which can suggest your gut health is compromised, and while we have listed some of the major ones, there are others. 

The steps mentioned in this article could make a significant improvement to any gut symptoms you are experiencing. They can also be useful for preventing gut problems – full stop. 

However, depending on your issues, you may benefit more from a tailor-made solution. In this case, it’s best to seek the advice of a qualified professional who specialises in nutrition and holistic health, such as a nutritional therapist, naturopath or functional medicine practitioner. 

This article is written by Rebecca Rychlik-Cunning, 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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Impactful Ways to Improve Your Gut Environment, Balance Microbiome

Impactful Ways to Improve Your Gut Environment, Balance Microbiome

The gut is host to a wide range of resident micro-organisms, some of which help us break down food, produce nutrients and fight infection. Although bacteria are a major component of the human microbiota, viruses, fungi and archaea are also members of the community.

When this diverse system is out of balance due to stress, a change in our diet or even moving to another country, disease can set in. Understanding this dynamic and diverse terrain can be a key to overall health.

Interestingly the guts of people in the West who consume a lot of animal fats and proteins are largely dominated by the Bacteroides species. The guts of people who follow a plant-based diet contain lots of Prevotella species.

There’s no doubt that our modern sedentary lifestyles, which are disconnected from nature, are killing off many species of microbes and making us sick. Altering the terrain of gut microbial communities requires knowledge of how they work.

In this article, we’ll discuss five ways to improve the gut environment as well as getting into why you’d want to alter your gut microbiome in the first place.

1) Petting animals


Let’s start with an abstract way to diversify your microbiota – petting animals.

Believe it or not, studies have shown that animal-human relationships increase bacterial diversity in the microbiome.

Therefore, petting your dog or cat might be doing more for your health than simply relaxing you or lifting your mood. Epidemiological studies seem to bear this out, as kids who grow up in households containing dogs tend to have a lower risk of autoimmune illnesses such as asthma and allergies.

As noted in a New York Times article from a few years back, “exposure to a rich array of indoor germs may actually be salutary, helping stave off a variety of illnesses.”

2) Reduce stress


In ecology the words stressor, disturbance, perturbation and threat are used interchangeably. A stressor is basically anything that alters steady-state environmental conditions.

When looked at from that perspective, it’s easy to understand how stress can quickly alter the microbiome.

The gut microbiome and the central nervous system (CNS) are intrinsically linked. Therefore, stress can significantly alter diversity in the gut.

The gut is particularly vulnerable to stress, as evidenced by stress-induced alterations in gut motility, gastric secretion and even mucosal blood flow.

3) Balance is key


If we pursue a healthy lifestyle and keep our diet consistent, the bacteria in our gut should remain stable.

Changes in the environment, specifically disturbances such as heavy metal exposure and quick changes in temperature, can alter the balance of microbes in the gut.

While a little bit of alcohol (particularly red wine) can be beneficial, over-indulging will damage the organisms in your gut.

Similarly, micronutrients can be beneficial to organisms – but high levels can produce adverse effects.

The take-home? Strive for balance. And do everything you can to minimise the harmful impact of air pollution on your gut health.

4) Optimise nutrition

Nutrient deficiencies can severely impact the gut and reduce microbial diversity.

In fact, a zinc deficiency alone has been found to make the body three times more likely to contract pneumonia. Pneumonia is primarily caused by the proliferation of the bacteria Streptococcus pneumonia.

Eating a wide and varied diet is connected with both greater gut microbiome diversity, and also elimination of chronic illnesses like obesity or heart disease.

A tribe in Tanzania called the Hadza people who live a hunter gatherer lifestyle are thought to have the highest diversity of gut microbiome. Their gut microbiome diversity is said to be 40% higher than the typical US microbiome.

Similar findings were reported in a study of the Yanomami villagers of the Amazon. The Yanomami people also live a life close to nature and follow an ancient, semi-nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

The Yanomami people were found to have double the microbe varieties when compared to US participants.

5) Maintain a healthy weight

There’s a clear link between obesity and a less diverse microbiome. However, it’s still unclear whether obesity leads to a less diverse microbiome or vice-versa.

Biologist Jeff Gordon exposed the relationship between obesity and the microbiome when he implanted gut bacteria from obese humans into mice. He found that the mice gained weight when the microbial community was infiltrated with obese people’s microbiome.

A surefire way of bettering your gut environment, therefore, is to maintain a sensible weight throughout your lifetime.

6) Eat fermented foods


The rise in commercially-produced processed foods has undoubtedly reduced the diversity of microbes in the gut.

Fermented foods and beverages are jam-packed with gut healthy probiotics and prebiotics that promote the good bacteria in the gut.

Foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, tempeh, miso and live yogurt are excellent choices.

Need more inspiration? Check out our article 10 Benefits of Fermented Foods.

7) Avoid artificial sweeteners


Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose and saccharine are in just about all packaged processed foods and drinks.

These seemingly harmless sweeteners wreak havoc on the delicate balance of the microbiome. They reduce gut diversity and this can ultimately lead to obesity.

The six sweeteners which have been found to negatively affect gut health are aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, neotame, advantame and acesulfame potassium-k.

To be on the safe side, avoid processed food to keep artificial sweeteners out of your diet.

8) Avoid migrating, if possible

Moving country appears to have a massive impact on the diversity of microbial species in the gut.

514 immigrant women participated in a study to analyse the effects of immigration on the gut microbiome. It was found that the microbiome began to change as soon as the immigrants landed in the US.

The microbiome change continued while they were in the US, resembling that of American citizens after just a few months. Worryingly, child refugees that arrive in the US often suffer from obesity post-immigration.

Much more research is needed to definitively say that migration is bad for the microbiome. It probably depends on a range of factors, not least where you might be migrating from – and where you might be migrating to. However, it does give some food for thought.

Conclusion

When thought of as micro-communities, the microbiome begins to make more sense. They respond to extreme disturbances in the same way a macrobiome of larger organisms would.

For example, extreme changes in temperature, location, environment or nutrition will alter the inhabitants of a forest – much in the same way microbes in our gut will proliferate under auspicious conditions.

Disease progresses where there is a dysbiosis in the balance of the bacteria in the gut, so keep things balanced for better health moving forward.

If you’d like to learn more about gut health, take a look at our in-depth article 3 Key Factors You Must Consider When Trying to Improve Gut Health. We’re pretty sure you’ll learn a thing or two.

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.

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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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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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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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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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Probiotic word cloud on grey background

Restore Digestive Health with Food and Supplements

Digestion – a facet of health we think little about if all is well, but which has the potential to send our overall levels of wellbeing plummeting if something’s wrong.

In this blog, we’ll look at the supplements you should be reaching for when bloating, gas, stomach pain, diarrhoea or other symptoms of poor digestion threaten to ruin your day.

Let's get to it.

What is Digestion?


Most people have at least a basic understanding of digestion, without necessarily being able to sketch out the gastrointestinal tract with a high degree of accuracy.

In simple terms, the word describes the process by which food and drink is turned into energy – and by which the body expels waste.

Think of the digestive system as a kind of disassembly line, where nutrients are extracted from food and absorbed into the bloodstream to fulfil the body’s various needs.

The digestive system encompasses the pancreas and salivary glands, the oesophagus, stomach, liver, small intestine and large intestine: each has a role to play after food passes your lips, and the entire organ system is known as the gastrointestinal tract.

Some assert that digestion starts in the brain, since stomach acid secretion and the release of digestive enzymes rely upon this ‘cephalic’ phase: the thoughts that circulate through our heads when we see, smell or even just think about food (as anyone is wont to do when hungry).

Thus, before the mechanical processes kick into gear, thoughts warm up the engines.

After we have chewed a piece of food, aided by the saliva in our mouths, it travels down the oesophagus and into our stomach, where it mixes with digestive enzymes and gastric juices like hydrochloric acid.

Hydrochloric acid may not sound like the most helpful substance in the world, but in fact it is completely essential.

Secreted by special cells in the stomach’s lining in response to a meal, hydrochloric acid not only kills germs that may be in the food but also helps us digest protein by stimulating pepsin production.

Like a biological food processor, the stomach turns dense food matter into a semifluid soup known as ‘chyme’ which then passes into the small intestine. Once there, chyme stimulates the pancreas to release bicarbonates, which neutralise the highly acidic gastric juice and prevent it from damaging the intestinal membrane.

Further secretions from the pancreas (enzymes), liver (bile) and gallbladder (bile) are added to the chyme, digesting it into yet smaller nutrients to be absorbed in the intestines and transported to the bloodstream.

Once in the blood, nutrients are carried to cells throughout the body.

At the end of the production line, the large intestine performs the important task of absorbing water and essential vitamins while converting the remainder of chyme into faeces.

The large intestine is also home to resident beneficial bacteria, whose microbes digest substances in the chyme the stomach is unable to take care of.

Supplements for Digestion: A Guide

 

Now that you have a broad understanding of the digestive process, let’s look at products which could help to restore digestion and ease discomfort.

1. Probiotics

Bacteria living in the gastrointestinal tract – usually referred to as gut flora – help with digestion. They do so by ensuring proper food breakdown, manufacturing vitamins and preventing other microbes from infecting the GI tract.

What’s more, probiotic supplements have proven effective for constipation, antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and even irritable bowel syndrome. In the case of IBS, those struggling with the condition tend to have less ‘good’ bacteria in their guts, leading to symptoms such as abdominal pain.

Probiotics can rebalance the microbiome and help to achieve the desired 85:15 ratio of good-to-bad bacteria.

Probiotics have also shown themselves to be capable of buffering stress, effects of which are often manifested with stomach upset.

Of course, probiotics are useful for all kinds of things; but the best strains for digestion include L. acidophilus, L. bifidus, B. longum and B. bifidum.

Choose a high-strength probiotic like Progurt if you require a digestive boost.

Not only is it far stronger than other probiotics, containing a huge one trillion beneficial bacteria, but its strains are human-derived. This is important, since strains isolated from plants and animals are unlikely to colonise as well as human-derived isolates. There are many reasons for this, but one is that bovine animals have a higher body temperature than humans.

Incidentally, the key probiotic strains in Progurt are L. acidophilus, L. bifidus and S. thermophilus.

2. Greens

Incorporating greens into your diet comes with a swathe of benefits, not least antioxidant protection and an abundance of vitamins and minerals.

They’re also good for digestion, since their fibre content helps maintain bowel regularity.

Moreover, proteins found in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts etc) play a role in ‘turning on’ the T-bet gene. This is important, since T-bet produces the innate lymphoid cells that keep the bad bacteria out of the intestine and mitigate the risk of conditions like bowel cancer and inflammatory disease.

The pH of your body is highly influential in regulating digestion, and thus it makes sense to eat alkaline foods which keep the body’s pH balance at an ideal level. Fresh vegetables and fruits are among the most alkalising foods you can find.

As well as pH-balancing greens, lacto-fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchee are excellent detoxifiers and brimming with live probiotics. Be sure to opt for the fresh, raw kind, or better still make them yourself from scratch.

Supplementing with a greens formula is a good bet, particularly if you might otherwise struggle to hit the 10-a-day target. Green Vibrance kicked off the green food revolution in the early 90s, and has been re-formulated many times since.

Loaded with over 70 ingredients, Green Vibrance has won various awards owing to its dense  micronutrient profile. Ingredients include pro- and prebiotics, plant-based digestive enzymes cereal grasses and fruit powders.

Blend it with water (alkaline is best) or add a scoop to your usual smoothie recipe.

3. Omega-3

Omega-3s are touted for all kinds of benefits, most particularly for brain health, heart health and vision. However, they also play a crucial part in reducing inflammation – including in the gut.

By preventing the formation of pro-inflammatory compounds from omega-6 fatty acids, and by manufacturing anti-inflammatory compounds of their own, omega-3s help the digestive system function optimally.

After all, inflammation of the gut is closely connected to Candida albicans and Leaky Gut, both as cause and effect.

One of the best things you can do to improve digestion, therefore, is to limit pro-inflammatory foods. If you eat a typical Western diet, this will be no mean feat, since we tend to consume far more omega-6 than omega-3. A Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, achieves a much healthier balance.

Taking an omega-3 supplement is a great option. Go with a fish oil that’s been independently validated for purity and efficacy. Labdoor currently rank UnoCardio 1000 number one for quality of 53 products tested, citing its high levels of EPA and DHA, as well as its purity and ingredient safety.

UnoCardio 1000 is bolstered by the inclusion of 1,000 i.u. of vitamin D, another beneficial nutrient for digestion given the number of vitamin D receptors on cells in the digestive tract. Like omega-3, vitamin D is widely believed to reduce inflammation.

4. Magnesium

It’s well known that magnesium regulates over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Facilitating smoother digestion is but one of its responsibilities.

It does so by helping relax muscles within the digestive tract, thereby promoting regular bowel movements. For this reason, constipation is among the most common symptoms of magnesium deficiency.

The digestive system also relies on magnesium to regulate blood sugar levels and blood pressure, assist in metabolism and activate enzymes which allow the body to break down food for energy.

In fact, ATP – the main source of energy in cells – must be bound to a magnesium ion in order to be biologically active.

Unlike oral magnesium supplements, topical sprays, gels and oils send nutrients into the body through the pores in your skin. They’re also known for being hugely beneficial as sports performance and workout recovery aids.

Of course, some people have greater magnesium needs than others. For example, certain heart medications as well as birth control pills reduce magnesium levels by expediting magnesium loss via excretion by the kidneys.

Refined sugar consumption also causes such excretion. It may be the case that topical application and oral supplementation is required. If so, check out Revitacell Magnesium Citrate, a combination of magnesium and citric acid which is readily absorbed into the blood stream and body tissues

5. Digestive Enzymes

The importance of enzymes in digestion cannot be overstated. It is enzymes – mainly produced in the pancreas and small intestine – which are responsible for breaking food into its constituent nutrients (amino acids, fatty acids, simple sugars etc) which the body can then absorb.

Enzyme production can be hampered by a number of factors, not least low-grade inflammation in the digestive tract itself. Insufficient stomach and chronic stress also play havoc with digestive enzyme output, leading to nutritional deficiencies and, potentially, long-term health implications.

An increasing number of people factor enzymes into their digestive health protocol, usually alongside probiotics and prebiotics, though it is perhaps wiser to address inflammation in the body before resorting to enzyme supplements.

Cutting our processed food, including sugar, is a good start, and eating more bile-moving foods like leafy greens will facilitate better digestion. Simple things like drinking a glass of water 15 minutes before a meal will also fire up more hydrochloric acid, thereby improving the flow of bile and pancreatic enzymes.

If you are concerned about nutrient malabsorption, or experiencing bloating, constipation or poor digestion generally, consider a supplement which contains the best-known digestive enzymes – namely protease, amylase and lipase. These will help ensure protein, carbohydrates and fat are broken down.

The Importance of Salt for Good Digestion

 

One underrated component of good digestion is salt. There are many reasons for this, one being that salt activates the salivary enzyme amylase, kicking the entire digestive process into gear.

Salt is also essential to the production of hydrochloric acid. As mentioned, proper stomach acid levels are fundamental for good digestion.

Of course, there is a difference between highly processed, mineral-stripped table salt and good natural sea salt. Opt always for the latter.

If you have in any way subscribed to the low-salt myth, you will greatly benefit from a course of the capsules, particularly if you’re soon to use probiotics.

We simply cannot overstate the importance of regularly consuming a good-quality natural salt.

Good Health Starts in the Gut

In conclusion, there are many steps you can take to assure better digestion and, as such, better health.

In specialised cases, however, you may wish to talk through your options with a natural health care practitioner, preferably one with experience of managing digestive disorders.

We are proud to offer a range of supplements for digestion and encourage you to peruse our customer reviews if you’ve never bought from us before. We would also encourage you to contact us if you desire more information about our products, or if you would like to talk through your requirements.

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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S Thermophilus Probiotic Bacteria

The Health Benefits of Streptococcus Thermophilus

A great many species of bacteria make up the human microbiome, but the same dozen or so strains come up repeatedly when probiotics are discussed.

One of the major players is Streptococcus Thermophilus, and it supports your body’s biology in a number of unique ways.

In this article, we’ll attempt to highlight the key nutritional benefits. After reading, you’ll know whether to incorporate a probiotic containing S. Thermophilus into your own bespoke gut health regime.

What is Streptococcus Thermophilus?

Streptococcus Thermophilus – generally abbreviated to S. Thermophilus – is a lactic acid bacterium widely used in the production of yogurt and cheese. One of the earliest identified and isolated forms of probiotic bacteria, S. Thermophilus is often mooted as an option for those who are intolerant of lactose, owing to the fact that it can break the sugar into lactic acid and thereby facilitate smoother digestion. However, the benefits of S. Thermophilus don’t end there: not for nothing is the bacterium one of the earliest colonisers of the gastrointestinal tract.

Indeed, the probiotic strain could protect against small intestine irritation, combat antibiotic-induced diarrhoea, reduce gut inflammation and prevent chronic gastritis. There is a wealth of data, derived from human, animal and in vitro studies, underscoring the advantages of the S. Thermophilus strain as it pertains to human health. As noted by the authors of a recent review published in the Journal of Functional Food, “Studies have established their ability to survive passage through the GI tract and transiently colonise while ingested.”

Since questions swirl around exactly which probiotic strains are able to survive the acid pH and bile salts of the stomach – a famously inhospitable environment – this alone is a massive coup for S. Thermophilus.

Five Key Benefits of S. Thermophilus Bacteria

  1. Reduces Lactose Intolerance 

As mentioned, Streptococcus Thermophilus is incredibly useful for those who struggle to digest dairy. This is due to their powerful fermentative capacities. Because the bacterium is able to easily turn milk sugar into lactic acid, it can help sensitive people avoid the troublesome symptoms of lactose intolerance, including painful bloating, gas and even vomiting. If you haven’t resorted to cutting out dairy altogether, utilising a probiotic containing this strain can certainly ease discomfort and improve gastrointestinal rhythms.

  1. Reduces Diarrhoea

There is some evidence that Streptococcus Thermophilus helps to reduce acute diarrhoea. In one study, conducted on mice, subjects infected with C. difficile exhibited 46% less weight loss and reduced symptoms of diarrhoea when given S. Thermophilus. It was also suggested that the lactate produced by the bacteria is a factor which impacts the progression of C. difficile.

This isn’t the only study. Another, published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, showed a correlation between S. Thermophilus and a reduction in diarrhoea symptoms: children given the probiotic experienced 50% less symptoms than the placebo group. The beneficial bacteria is also understood to alleviate antibiotic-induced diarrhoea.

  1. Encourages the Growth of Other Probiotics

S. Thermophilus is known for stimulating the growth of other probiotics, which is partly why it is so common as a starter culture for yogurts: it works synergistically with Lactobacillus strains, each providing co-factors the other needs to proliferate. The fact that S. Thermophilus works best in tandem with other strains, helping ensure their survivability through the gastric region, is probably why it is rarely utilised as a single-species treatment.

  1. Could Prevent Gastritis

Among the therapeutic uses for S. Thermophilus, this has to be one of the most noteworthy. In separate studies, milk containing the bacterium was shown to be effective for gastritis prevention – making it arguably one of the best functional foods for the condition. It should be noted that the studies were on mice, so we eagerly await a large-scale human trial to replicate the results.

  1. Helps to Eradicate H. Pylori

In a 2015 Thai study, Streptococcus Thermophilus – when used in conjunction with Lactobacillus delbrueckii – was shown to improve Helicobacter Pylori eradication rates if taken before and after the standard therapeutic protocol. In fact, eradication rates were significantly higher in those who only took the probiotics before (and not after) the antibiotic course. 

And there are many other benefits to this particular bacterium which continues to be investigated for its probiotic benefits.

Should You Take a Probiotic Containing S. Thermophilus?

Given its ability to stimulate the growth of other probiotics, it would seem logical to include Streptococcus Thermophilus in your health protocol, whether in the form of yogurt, cheese or a probiotic supplement. In truth, S. Thermophilus is not as ubiquitous as some strains employed in popular supplements: indeed, it tends only to appear in the most expensive products.

The two most powerful probiotic supplements on the market are VSL#3 and Progurt – and each contain Streptococcus Thermophilus. While the former contains 450 billion good bacteria (from S. Thermophilus and other strains), the latter is brimming with a cool one trillion – from S. Thermophilus, Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Lactobacillus Bifidus.

Progurt’s clinically-tested strains are also human-derived – identical to those found in a healthy human gut from birth. The freeze-dried probiotic powder is free from GMOs, MSG, dairy, sugar, lactose, wheat, gluten, soy, salt, cornstarch and preservatives, and what’s more, it has a shelf life of 12 months.

Whether you choose to use Progurt, another supplement or rely on foods, getting S. Thermophilus into your diet is a big part of ensuring optimal gastrointestinal performance and achieving elevated levels of wellbeing.

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It’s Love Your Gut Week 2018: Time to Heal Your Microbiome?

Though we should all make a year-round effort to nurture the good bacteria in our gut, this week is Love Your Gut Week 2018 (17-23 September). The initiative, which is run by a collective of digestive health charities and organisations, is dispensing recipes, tips and expert advice to encourage people to take better care of their microbiome.

We are certainly of the same mind: gut health is vital if we are to attain better levels of wellbeing generally!

Do We Need a Gut Health Week?

Some might question, given the amount of press in recent months, whether a dedicated Gut Health Awareness Week is necessary. It seems that now, more than ever, we are becoming switched on to the benefits of supporting the community of microbes in our stomach with good nutrition.

Where once it was considered a niche area, most now view the gut as a key indicator of wider health, the epicentre of wellbeing. Or so you would think. In fact, according to research conducted by the collective, almost a third of people (29%) who experience persistent gut or abdominal problems have not sought professional help. And 63% of the population have had persistent gut problems such as constipation (44%), diarrhoea (43%), heartburn (39%), bloating (33%) and stomach pain (15%) in the last year. 13% also experienced blood in their stools.

What these numbers show is that, despite rising awareness of the role of the gut in overall health, gastrointestinal discomfort is a common problem – and many are starting to accept it as part of everyday life. This is exactly the kind of malaise Love Your Gut Week is intended to rectify, pointing out that digestive diseases are linked to one in eight deaths in the UK.

Research also showed that, of the 71% who seek professional help to diagnose their gut troubles, 20% wait for up to a year before booking an appointment with their GP. 13% suffered with symptoms for more than a year before finally biting the bullet and arranging to see a specialist.

What Causes Gut Trouble?

There are many factors which can give rise to the conditions listed above. Stress is a common one: it also happens to be the cause most respondents (63%) suggested as being responsible for their complaints, followed by alcohol (54%), a fibre deficiency (49%) and a sedentary lifestyle (49%).

When we encounter stress, adrenalin and cortisol impacts the transit of food through the digestive system, which often leads to either constipation or diarrhoea. The blood flow to the gut is also hindered. Many people talk about stress tying knots in their stomach and it’s true: the effect of stress on your microbiome is pronounced, hence the gut-brain axis or ‘second brain’. The harmony of the trillions of microbes living in our gut is reliant upon healthy neurological processes.

A 2011 study in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology illustrated this well, showing that persistent stress reduces both the quantity and diversity of your good gut flora. The study – a collaboration between universities in Germany and Poland – noted that stress-induced alterations of the brain-gut interactions could also lead to the development of such gastrointestinal disorders as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Of course, stress isn’t the only culprit. Lest we forget, antibiotics play havoc with our gut flora. Prescribed to kill bad bacteria, they also decimate good bacteria and leave the gut in a condition favourable to yeast. The harmful bacteria may or may not be eradicated by your antibiotic course, but crucial microbes which help to regulate immunity, digestion and mental health are also destroyed, causing a state of dysbiosis or bacterial imbalance.

Understanding what antibiotics do to your gut, and how antibiotics affect gut flora, will help us make better decisions when prescribed a course by our GP. This is not to say there aren’t times when antibiotics are necessary. It is simply the case that antibiotics are among the most over-prescribed drugs in medicine today. Oftentimes they are doled out for conditions which aren’t even linked with a bacterial infection.

If you decide to go ahead with an antibiotic course, or are in the midst of one, be sure to replenish the good bacteria in your gut with a high-strength probiotic. You can do this pre-emptively (i.e. before taking antibiotics), during your course or in the weeks following. It will certainly help to preserve the ecosystem in your gut and minimise disruption.

The benefits of probiotics extend beyond their antibiotic-balancing effects, too. The best supplement currently available is Progurt, which contains 1 trillion beneficial bacteria per serving from special human-derived isolates.

It also helps to eat a diet rich in probiotic foods, including sauerkraut, miso and kimchi. Incidentally, you may have read reports recently published under the misleading headline "probiotics are useless". This was an oversimplified reaction to a single study which assessed the long-term colonisation of one particular probiotic product. Feel free to read our in-depth response here.

How to Restore Gut Health

Ultimately, minimising stress levels, maintaining good levels of physical activity and eating a diet rich in probiotics and other nutrients (vitamins, minerals, polyphenols) should keep your gut healthy in most instances.

It is worth consulting with a nutritionist if symptoms persist, as food intolerances can presage a whole list of gut complaints.

It's also important to be mindful of the factors which determine the health of one's microbiome. These include a person's genetics, nutrition, environment, lifestyle and physiological health.

Whatever you do, don’t be one of the 29% who brush gut health troubles under the carpet. Look after your gut and you’ll very likely avoid indigestion, bloating and other debilitating gut-related conditions. You'll also help to avoid the conditions which poor gut health has been linked to, including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, autism and inflammatory bowel disease.

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The Most Beneficial Bacteria: Which Microflora is Best?

If you have your ear to the ground, you’ll have heard much about gut health in recent months. You’ll have learned that cultivating good bacteria could reduce depression and IBS, among other things. Maybe you also came across the news story, late last year, suggesting Parkinson’s disease starts in the gut. But one question remains: what’s the most beneficial bacteria of all?

What is Good Bacteria?


Trillions of bacteria live in our guts – and though that might sound alarm in some, it should be noted that there’s plenty of good bacteria balancing out the bad.

Indeed, these beneficial microbes play key roles in such important functions as digestion, nutrient absorption and immunity.

In healthy people good bacteria outnumber bad bacteria by about five to one. However, the widespread use of oral antibiotics has a profound effect on the ecology of the gut; it can result in antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and even, in some cases, severe intestinal complications such as Clostridium difficile-related colitis.

One 2005 study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology demonstrated the lingering effects of antibiotic use. Researchers looked at the bacterial balance in six healthy volunteers who received oral amoxicillin for five days.

The results were as follows: “Human fecal microbiota were markedly modulated within 2 to 3 days of an antibiotic treatment. The dominant fecal microbiota tended to return to its initial profile within 60 days following a 5-day amoxicillin treatment (500 mg per day).

“Indeed, the microbiota profile for five out of six volunteers came back to near initial composition within 60 days (87% similarity or more).

However, individual responses were such that in one subject important modifications persisted for at least 2 months. These results may explain the occasional development of chronic disorders following antibiotic treatment.”

Nurturing Good Bacteria


According to Dr. Tim Spector, a major figure in this field, “Everyone’s got their own garden inside them and it’s up to them to nurture and grow as many bacteria as they can to keep themselves healthy.”

Nurturing such beneficial bacteria ensures an adequate diversity of microbes populating the so-called gut community. Low diversity has been linked to numerous diseases, hence the prevailing wisdom – which has certainly picked up momentum – that good health begins in the gut.

Hippocrates, the early Father of Medicine, had it right all along.

As for how to grow more good bacteria, it’s rather a case of eating plenty of probiotic-rich foods, ideally of the fermented variety. The bacteria in such foods helps ferment carbohydrates we are unable to properly digest, while also creating conditions conducive to the proliferation of yet more good bacteria.

Kefir and sauerkraut are excellent choices, as are kefir, kombucha and pickles.

Good-quality probiotics – live bacteria – can also help bring the gut into balance. More on those later.

It’s not just a question of consuming live bacteria in the form of dietary fibre, fermented foods and probiotic supplements, however. A person’s future microbial wellbeing is dramatically impacted by their early exposure to microbes.

According to one of the country’s most eminent scientists, missing microbes is one of the leading causes of childhood cancer. Professor Mel Greaves, from the Institute of Cancer Research, contends that the immune system can become cancerous if it does not witness enough bugs early in life.

It is thus important to “prime” one’s immune system in the first years of life. Obviously you are not responsible for that, with the burden falling on your parents. Professor Greaves suggests guardians “be less fussy about common or trivial infections and encourage social contact with other and older children.”

Early exposure to animals and dirt is also beneficial. Oftentimes over-sterilised environments do more harm than good, particularly where our microbiome is concerned.

For more information about the factors governing good gut health, read our blog “3 Key Factors You Must Consider When Trying to Improve Gut Health.”

The Most Beneficial Bacteria

There are many different types of bacteria and each is linked with different benefits. Lactobacillus, of which there are over 80 species, has been demonstrated to have the greatest effect on gastrointestinal symptoms.

Lactobacillus Acidophilus is one of the most cited; it produces lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide to manufacture unfavourable conditions for the growth of harmful bacteria. It also aids in the digestion of food.

The most beneficial bacteria of all – at least according to a new study by Oxford University – is that which is passed straight to children, rather than being transmitted via the surrounding environment.

Published in Nature Communications, the study tracked the evolutionary history of over 100 bacterial symbiosis to determine whether the manner in which bacteria is passed is key to the efficacy of symbiont relationships.

It found that when bacteria is transmitted ‘vertically’, that is to say directly from mother to offspring, it is much more beneficial than when passed ‘horizontally’ (via the environment).

Professor Stuart West, who co-authored the paper, explained the findings thus: “If bacteria is passed on vertically, it has a vested interest in its host’s wellbeing. A healthy host…will produce more offspring, and in doing so it will also pass on its bacteria. These offspring will then follow the same cycle with the next generation.”

Progurt: Human Probiotics that Harness Innate Bacteria

While the vast majority of probiotic supplements contain bacteria from plants or animals, Progurt contains Human Probiotic Isolates – identical strains to those found in a healthy human gut from birth.

This means you can consume the same bacteria as received by a naturally-nurtured baby: it’s the essence of every sachet of Progurt.

Given that the most beneficial bacteria is that which is transferred naturally, it is best to use a probiotic which is not derived from plants or animals but from humans. The strains in Progurt include beneficial Lactic Acid Bacteria and Bifidobacteria, not least Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Bifidus and S. Thermophilus.

Each serving provides 1 trillion Colony-Forming Units, making Progurt the purest, fastest and most powerful probiotic currently available. Indeed, it contains 100 times as much friendly bacteria as many popular probiotics sold in health stores.

Conclusion

Restoring and rebalancing gut flora – which is particularly important after a course of antibiotics – is made simpler thanks to a super-strength probiotic tailored for the complex intestinal environment.

As noted by the Oxford University study, there is of course no substitute for bacteria passed directly from mother from child. Progurt? It’s the next best thing.

Want to learn more about how probiotics work? Give us a call on +44 (0) 1764 662111. Our office is open from Monday to Friday, 9am till 5pm. We’d love to hear from you.

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How to Banish Bloating for Good

How to Banish Bloating for Good

How to Banish Bloating for Good

We’ve blogged a fair bit about gut health recently – it’s the topic on everyone’s lips in the health community – but one persistent problem we continue to hear much about is bloating.

Whether caused by a large, stodgy meal, a hastily-gulped drink or a heightened sensitivity to certain foods, abdominal distention is a horrible and sometimes agonisingly painful occurrence.

Only one question springs to mind: what’s the best way to deal with it?

What Causes Bloating?

OK, so perhaps two questions spring to mind: in order to posit a solution, it’s necessary to know what causes bloating in the first place. Unfortunately, bloating is not always easy to pinpoint. Indeed, the list of triggers is virtually endless, with stress, IBS, food allergies (egg, fructose, lactose, wheat/gluten), poor digestion and hormonal imbalance just a few of the usual suspects.

Other factors which can lead to a bloated belly include:

  • Eating too quickly
  • Eating large, rather than small, meals
  • Guzzling gaseous/fizzy drinks
  • Chewing gum
  • Consuming high-fibre foods (which produce gas)
  • Constipation
  • Sugar alcohols (typically found in sugar-free foods)
  • Dehydration

With so many possible factors, it can be difficult getting to the root of the problem. Cutting out gum, properly masticating food and giving up Coca-Cola might be easy enough, but if symptoms persist you may have to systematically purge other foods from your diet to locate the problem. Keeping a food diary is a good way to go about this, as you’ll gain a greater understanding about which foods or drinks give rise to that full-to-bursting/gassy feeling. Alternatively, you can work with a clinical nutritionist to formulate a diet designed to minimise your discomfort. If problems persist, you should naturally see a doctor to rule out a chronic medical condition.

Remedies and Rituals to Cure Bloating

Given that everyone is different, there is no panacea when it comes to bloating (or much else, truth be told); it simply does not follow that what works for one will work for all. Nonetheless, there are steps you can take which could potentially eliminate or lessen the symptoms of bloating.

One is to use a digestive enzyme supplement to ensure your body is able to efficiently break down nutrients from food. Progurt Enzymes is a highly effective proteolytic enzyme formulation isolated from fermented plant bacteria. In many cases, an enzyme supplement can provide almost instant relief.

Drinking ginger tea is touted as a natural remedy for bloating and stomach pain more generally. It not only helps stimulate saliva and gastric juice to aid in the digestive process, but it helps reduce the likelihood of intestinal gas and flatulence resulting from an inadequately digested meal. What's more, ginger tea is famed for relieving muscle constrictions and releasing blocked digestive gases in the gastrointestinal tract.

Peppermint oil works in much the same way, with several studies showing it to be capable of assuaging the symptoms of IBS – including bloating. Using spices that stimulate digestion is another good tip – cumin and black pepper should be your go-to condiments.

Can Probiotics Help with Bloating?

If bloating is caused by imbalanced gut flora, a good-quality multi-strain probiotic could also be of massive benefit. Ensuring your microflora is well-balanced between good and bacteria is vitally important not just for avoiding bloating but for reducing symptoms of allergies, improving sleep, elevating mood (via the brain-gut axis) and lessening abdominal pain associated with IBS. Go for a probiotic containing well-researched strains and tailored for the human stomach’s complex environment – Progurt is a good choice. You can choose to mix the sachets with water and drink or whip up your own high-strength probiotic yogurt. A probiotic is especially advisable if you recently underwent a course of antibiotics.

As with the other remedies outlined, the effectiveness of probiotics in tackling bloating will largely depend on the individual. Getting your gut in good working order, however, is never a bad thing – even if it means seeking out another solution for your abdominal distention. Although in most cases you have to take probiotics for some time to notice a difference, Progurt should make an impact within a few days given the strength: a single sachet contains one trillion bacteria capability, 30 to 40 times that of most probiotics.

If bloating has become a regular feature of your life, try to work your way through this list and, as ever, listen to your body: it will give you all the instruction you need.

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How Antibiotics Harm Your Health and How to Help Your Body Recover

How Antibiotics Harm Your Health and How to Help Your Body Recover

In developed countries, the average person receives around 20 courses of antibiotics by age 18.

Antibiotics are effective to treat bacterial infections, but are ineffective against viruses.

Many health experts argue that physicians prescribe antibiotics too hastily without first ensuring that the patient's condition is really caused by bacteria.

All this over-prescription of antibiotics is damaging our health in several ways.

The Effect of Antibiotics

1. Your digestive tract is composed of good bacteria that your body needs. They help to digest especially carbohydrates, they keep in check the proliferation of the bad bacteria, and they help your immune system distinguish between the two.

In fact, some medical experts estimate that as much as 80 per cent of your immune system's ability to distinguish between good and bad bacteria is established by gut bacteria.

2. The immune system begins to build a record of good versus bad bacteria while the foetus is still in the womb. This is when good bacteria begin to proliferate and bad bacteria are marked as potentially damaging.

Women are usually advised to steer clear of antibiotics during pregnancy precisely because its use can compromise the foetus's ability to learn the difference at a stage when the build-up of bad bacteria can kill it.

3. The overuse of antibiotics throughout life weakens your immune system by destroying the good bacteria from which it is meant to build a record of the organisms it should leave alone. As a result, it continues to attack good bacteria because it has marked them as potentially harmful.

At this stage, physiologists are still researching the potential harm of the destruction of good bacteria, but they do know that bad bacteria flourish in the absence of the good bacteria that are supposed to suppress their growth.

You thus place yourself at risk of developing a long list of inflammatory diseases caused by bacteria, including inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and cancer, and even disorders caused by other biochemical imbalances, such as diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and depression.

4. The destruction of good bacteria makes the lining in the digestive tract more susceptible to leakage of food, bacteria, and chemicals meant for digestion. This is believed to cause an autoimmune response in many organs, which basically means that the immune system begins to attack healthy tissue.

5. By overusing antibiotics, you also risk developing species of bacteria that are drug resistant and therefore untreatable. If a potentially harmful organism survives a dose of antibiotic, it builds resistance to that antibiotic and can then no longer be killed. If this happens to be one of the harmful types, you will struggle with it for the rest of your life in the form of serious illness, hospitalisation, and expensive invasive medical treatments.

6. Worse still, some bacteria pass their drug-resistant properties to other bacteria, which may pass them on to still further bacteria, which is a chain reaction that can put your life at risk.

7. As those in the meat industry have discovered, cattle, pigs, sheep, and other mammals put on considerable weight when fed with antibiotics. Chickens do too. The meat industry in Europe is no longer permitted to pack the animals with antibiotics, exactly because the medical industry has pleaded with the European Union to curb their overuse.

But the obesity of antibiotic-fed animals has given rise to the realisation that antibiotics cause obesity in humans too via a mechanism that is at this stage still unknown.

Post-Antibiotic Recovery

None of this implies that you should abstain from antibiotics completely. Some bacterial infections are life-threatening, after all. It only means that you should build a relationship with a physician who is aware of the potential risks and who prescribes antibiotics only when they are essential.

It is extremely important that, when you are prescribed an antibiotic, you complete the whole course. If you stop taking it halfway through, you would have taken too little to kill the bacteria, but enough to make them resistant to the next course.

There are steps you can take to help your body recover after a course of antibiotics:

• Use probiotics to replace the good bacteria killed by the antibiotics. Probiotics contain beneficial bacteria that resemble those in the digestive tract. Strains like bifidobacterium lactis HN019, lactobacillus reuteri ATCC55730, lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, lactobacillus casei DN-114 001, and Bifidobacterium lactis Bb-12 are believed to help the immune system recover by replacing those lost bacteria that it is supposed to label as harmless.

Probiotics are best taken as supplements that are especially designed to contain the right strains of bacteria. Progurt is a good example, as it contains a greater volume of good bacteria than any other supplement. Its bacteria is also human-derived and thus better able to colonise.

Alternatively, any fermented food contains probiotics, so you can try yogurt and soft cheese, or preferably plant options like pickled vegetable sauces, miso and tempeh that are high in protein and vitamins and thus much healthier.

• While probiotics actually contain live bacteria, prebiotics feed and thereby build up the good bacteria that are already in your digestive tract. You can eat a lot of oatmeal, beans, lentils, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, and bananas on their own or in combination with a probiotic supplement.

• If you opt for fermented foods to replace good bacteria, remember to drink alkaline water or to take an alkaline supplement. Fermented food is relatively acidic, and can exhaust your body's ability to neutralise them if you suddenly binge.

• Drop all refined foods from your diet for a few weeks. Plant and animal foods contain a reasonably good mix of bacteria, which can re-introduce good and bad bacteria into your digestive system to restore your immune system's ability to distinguish between the two types. During excessive processing of our modern food types, all these bacteria are destroyed.

• While you are cutting food types from your diet, include animal-based foods. They may have a good collection of bacteria, but they are also acidic, while you actually need alkaline foods to help the lining of your digestive tract recover. When antibiotics destroy good bacteria, yeast tends to grow in the digestive tract's lining, which can cause perforations and leakage. Yeast does not grow well in an alkaline environment.

• Glutamine can help to repair the lining in your digestive tract. You can consume it either as a supplement or in foods like cabbage, beets, beans, spinach, and parsley.

Targeted Antibiotics

Of course, it is important to take antibiotics when they may be needed, but quiz your physician on the type of antibiotic and the need for it.

Try to steer clear of general broad-acting antibiotics in favour of ones that narrowly target specific bacteria.

Follow the steps above to help your body recover once you start taking them, and where possible try to explore all natural forms of antibiotics first.

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