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?
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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, 8.45am till 5.30pm. We’d love to hear from you.
Lactobacillus, of which there are over 80 species, has been demonstrated to have the greatest effect on gastrointestinal symptoms.