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.
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