How do probiotics improve gut health?

By Corrine Toyn  - Registered Dietitian

What is a probiotic?

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are used to help restore the natural balance of healthy microbes in your digestive tract.1 The use of probiotics as a dietary supplement has grown in popularity over recent years due to their numerous reported benefits relating to health and wellbeing.

 

The most common probiotic strains include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, which have been extensively studied for their effects on areas of health including digestion, immunity, metabolism, and more.2

 

How do probiotics improve gut health?

Probiotics are live microorganisms found in some foods or dietary supplements that work by helping to create an ideal environment in your digestive tract for friendly bacteria to thrive.2

 

Probiotics improve gut health by strengthening the mucosal barrier of the intestine, which in turn helps reduce inflammation and improve digestion.3 Probiotics also help create a healthy balance of good bacteria in your digestive tract, making it easier for your body to break down and absorb nutrients from food.3

 

The role probiotics play in promoting gut health is well-researched. Studies have revealed that probiotics can help reduce symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease such as Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, constipation and other gastrointestinal conditions.2,4

 

Probiotics may also influence immune systems to help your immune defence work effectively and help your body fight off infections and reduce inflammation caused by disease.2

 

In addition to promoting gut health, taking a multi-species probiotic supplement has been shown to provide other benefits such as improving mood in people with moderate depression.5

 

Also, some research has shown that probiotic supplements may improve skin conditions such as eczema and acne due to their anti-inflammatory effects on the skin's microbiome.6

 

Where are probiotics found?

To ensure you are getting enough beneficial bacteria to optimise your gut health, try eating a variety of probiotic-rich foods daily such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, kimchi, sourdough bread and some cheeses. 3

 

In addition to probiotic-rich foods, probiotics can be consumed via supplementation. Supplements provide a convenient way for people to get more specific strains of beneficial bacteria into their diets if needed. They often are in powder, capsule or liquid format and vary in how much should be taken. They also differ in how long you need to take them before you start seeing results from taking them consistently.

 

What do you need to know before taking probiotics?

Keep in mind that everyone’s gut microbiome is unique and they’re never a ‘one size fits all approach’. It’s best to talk with a healthcare professional such as your GP or a dietitian before beginning any new supplement regimen.

 

It's also key to remember though that not all probiotics are created equal so it’s important you do your research before purchasing any probiotic products or supplements. Check out our top tips on how to choose the right probiotic for you here.

 

 

References:

  1. NHS 2022. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/probiotics/#:~:text=Probiotics%20are%20thought%20to%20help,irritable%20bowel%20syndrome%20(IBS).
  2. National Institutes of Health. Probiotics. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals Probiotics - Health Professional Fact Sheet (nih.gov)
  3. Kocot AM et al. Int J Mol Sci 2022 Mar 7;23(5):2896. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35270039/
  4. BDA 2022. Probiotics Food Fact Sheet. Available online: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/probiotics.html
  5. Baião, R., Capitão, L., Higgins, C., Browning, M., Harmer, C., & Burnet, P. (2022). Multispecies probiotic administration reduces emotional salience and improves mood in subjects with moderate depression: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. <i>Psychological Medicine,</i> 1-11. doi:10.1017/S003329172100550X
  6. Kober M-M and Bowe WP. Int J Womens Dermatol.2015 Jun; 1(2): 85–89. doi: 1016/j.ijwd.2015.02.001