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
No 1 - The Importance of the Gut Environment
The first area to be considered is gut environment.
The microbes that have a synergistic relationship with us are very particular about the environment they live in. That environment depends on multiple factors including hydration, pH balance, mineral balance, body temperature, vitamin D levels, omega 3 levels, oxygen flow, nutrient flow etc. If these are out of balance beneficial microbes will not proliferate and colonise. Instead you will get harmful bacteria taking a hold.
It is worth noting that many people struggling with constipation problems suffer from low blood pressure, low body temperature and they feel the cold. Their metabolism is sluggish and this impacts the microbiome with the consequent effects on bowel function. Improving mineral balance and hydration can often raise body temperature and speed up metabolism resulting in a more hospitable environment for beneficial bacteria to colonise, which in turn results in better bowel function.
Poor dietary choices can have a detrimental impact on the bowel environment, in particular the consumption of sugar, which feeds all the harmful bacteria, and excess processed foods. Many people who suffer with gut issues will often benefit from the elimination of dairy products and wheat from their diets. If possible consume a high vegetable content diet with as much organic foods as possible.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to focus on an improved bowel environment as a foundational part of a beneficial probiotic regime.
No 2. Use Probiotics that Intuitively Belong in the Human Body
The second most important aspect of probiotic success lies in the type of probiotics we use.
The majority of probiotics on the market are of bovine origin. However, although there are many similarities, they do not intuitively belong in the human digestive tract. The digestive system of a cow is quite different from that of the human body. The body temperature of a cow is also different from a healthy human body. The environment is different. Although bovine derived microbes will often bring a positive result they will struggle to colonise properly, which is why many people have to take them continually to gain benefit.
There is also a trend for companies to focus on particular strains of bacteria. When a healthy baby is born they will have a very diverse collection of bacteria in the body. Many of these become depleted over the years through chemicals in our environment, in our food and in medicines we consume. For optimum health we need to take a wide spread of microbes to restore the microbiome to optimum functioning. What we don’t want to do is substitute one imbalance for another. That is often counterproductive.
There are clinics that have used faecal implants to introduce human bacteria from healthy people into people who have compromised immune systems. In many instances they have seen encouraging results. This illustrates the potential benefits of using human derived microbes to restore health and balance in the microbiome.
No3 . Use Probiotics in High Enough Concentrations to be Able to Compete and Colonise
In addition to improving the gut environment and then consuming the right type and spread of probiotics there is a third aspect of probiotic optimisation that should be considered.
It is now understood that there are more microbial cells in our bodies than there are our human cells. There are estimated to be in the order of 130 trillion. If we are going to introduce microbes into the gut at concentrations that are going to be able to compete and colonise then they have to be introduced at high enough concentration. In our view currently perceived high strength probiotics of 30 to 50 billion colony forming units are inadequate to be totally effective. They may give a result but if our goal is optimum health through a healthy balanced microbiome they are often inadequate to readily colonise.
The Progurt Approach
Water for Health distribute the Progurt range of digestive tract products in the UK. Their approach aligns with Water for Health’s approach to the use of natural products to promote wellness. We have been very pleased to see people benefiting with improvements in wellbeing. Progurt are an Australian company that have been involved in this field for the last 25 years. They focus a lot on gut environment improvement in addition to using human derived isolates (not faecal) that intuitively belong in the human body. These are used in very high concentrations of 1 trillion colony forming units per serving. The combined approach is in our view the secret to the results we are seeing. The focus is not just on managing problems but dealing with the root cause, helping to promote optimum health.
In summary we understand that probiotics have an immense amount to offer everyone who is looking for improved health, particularly digestive health and brain health. However unless we optimise the bowel environment and use probiotic strains that intuitively belong in the human digestive tract at high enough concentrations we may struggle to get the maximum benefit.
Our Progurt range of powerful probiotics and effective gut care supplements can be found here.
Written by Roddy Macdonald, founder of Water for Health Ltd.
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.