Do Probiotics reach the gut alive?
Good quality probiotic supplements will have in vitro (test tube) studies available to prove their product survives stomach acid and reaches the desired area alive (e.g. gut, bladder, vagina). These are helpful as they give us an indication of stability.
Ideally, the studies we really want are the human clinical trials as these rank higher in evidence and we can more easily see how the probiotic effects the human body. So far human clinical trials on probiotics have been small as they lack funding.
Here's what to look for when you are choosing a probiotic supplement
Check that it is proven to survive at room temperature until the expiry date and survive stomach acid.
Look at the strength.
Ideally you want a probiotic in the millions to billions but more doesn’t always mean better. Check the scientific evidence and use this as a guide. Or preferably, check-in with a nutritional therapist as we are trained in supplementation and can do all this ground work for you.
Be Strain Specific.
Look at the species and the strain.
For example, Rhamnosus Rosell 11 is a common probiotic found in supplements. “Rhamnosus” is the species and “Rosell 11” is the strain.
Rhamnosus Rosell 11 – shown to stabilise gut health during antibiotics. Rhamnosus GR1 – shown to help vaginal health.
Both are from the same species (Rhamnosus) but have different characteristics.
The strain helps to inform what that particular probiotic can do. Probiotics are not all the same!
If you've tried probiotics alongside dietary changes and you feel they have made no difference then in some circumstances it may be helpful to try a different species and strain. Speak to a nutritional therapist before starting supplementation, especially if you are on medication.
This morning I appeared on the Kaye Adams Show on BBC Radio Scotland along with the Food Medic to discuss the possible health benefits of probiotics and if we need to take them. Here is a summary of our conversation in case you missed it! You can listen back here on the BBC iPlayer
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are ‘friendly’ bacteria that support our gut health (digestive system) and help our natural bacteria flourish. They also support a healthy balance of bacteria in our vagina, on our skin and in our bladder.
What do probiotics do?
Probiotics help to do the following:
How effective are probiotics?
To really understand how effective probiotics are, it’s helpful to look at all the data (meta-analysis*) and ask ourselves is there a trend in the data? It is clear there are benefits to probiotics but we must be careful not to make overreaching claims. They can be useful in context! For example, to improve mood. But is it a standalone treatment for depression? Absolutely not.
*Meta-analysis (weighs all the evidence from all the small individual studies, and calculates whether or not the evidence is actually relevant).
What happens when we take a probiotic?
When we take probiotics, we are providing a barrier along the gut cells. This helps prevent pathogens damaging the gut lining and entering the bloodstream and setting off an inflammatory cascade (also known as leaky gut).
Should I take a daily probiotic supplement to maintain general health?
There is not enough evidence to advise taking a probiotic supplement daily but if you have digestive disturbances, or chronic inflammation it may be helpful along with other dietary adjustments to rebalance your gut. Taking a probiotic daily is considered safe but not always essential. Consult a nutritional therapist first.
What about eating fermented foods daily?
Probiotic rich foods such as raw kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi can be eaten daily to support general health, gut health, immunity, skin health and mood.
Living with Cancer
Specifically, dairy has shown to be protective to the gut in colorectal cancer. One of the best studies to support this is the EPIC study. The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study looks at the relationships between diet and cancer, across Europe.
The study shows lower colorectal cancer risks have been associated with higher intakes of total dairy products, total milk and dietary calcium. Adding natural yoghurt (a cultured dairy product) is a simple cost-effective way to incorporate probiotics to your diet safely and naturally without the need for supplements, which are often contraindicated during cancer therapy. Interestingly, it points to the calcium content specifically in dairy produce that is linked to reduced risk of colorectal cancer.
Up to 45% of the UK population could be suffering from food intolerance according to Allergy Research UK.
Research has shown that food intolerance is linked to antibodies produced by our immune system when we eat certain foods. Using a small blood sample, clinical tests can identify IgG and IgE antibodies (parts of the immune system) to over 200 foods.
The good news is that by identifying your trigger foods and replacing them with suitable alternatives as part of a comprehensive gut healing programme, you can rebalance your digestive system.
What is Food Allergy?
Food intolerances tend to be the most common and can include: gluten (non-coeliac gluten sensitivity), wheat, dairy, egg, soy and nuts. Environmental triggers could be mould e.g. aspergillus.
Avoiding the trigger foods with a food elimination diet is only one part of a gut healing programme and further work on supporting the lining of your gut and digestive secretions should be carried out with a nutritionist in order for foods to be safely reintroduced in the future.
I provide both food allergy and food intolerance testing in Edinburgh. More information on allergy testing can be found here.
Get in touch by email or book a call to discuss your requirements and find out if testing is suitable for you.
What is a ‘detox’?
There are many different definitions of detoxification. The word 'detox' has become associated with fad diets, strict juice cleanses, and general deprivation.
As a nutritional therapist, my interest is in the process of transforming potentially harmful (fat soluble) molecules into less harmful (water soluble) molecules so that they can be safely and efficiently eliminated from the body in a timely manner.
This reduces the risk of toxins being reabsorbed in the colon. Having the right balance of foods and nutrients in our diet helps this process to work smoothly and prevent disease.
Many organs are involved in detoxification but our liver is our main chemical processing factory and is the focus of this blog post.
Liver ‘detox’ involves two steps:
In simple terms ‘doing a detox’ is a bit like taking your car in for a service. You won’t leave with a shiny new engine but you might just get something that runs a bit better afterwards.
Common benefits include more energy, healthier skin, less aches and pains, clearer thinking and feeling more alert as well as less bloating.
What detox isn’t…
Some signs you may need to support your liver nutritionally:
I will be speaking about liver detoxification at the next Revive Yoga Break. Hope to see you there!
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