Most people have heard the term, but very few know what they exactly are (I was one of them and it took me a while to get my head around it) simply stated they are good bacteria that your body already knows and utilises in our digestive system.
They are naturally occurring in fermented food like kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and yogurts but also available in various supplements.
The good bacteria help the immune system, keep yeast infections at bay, help with skin problems and make sure the digestive system works normally i.e. normal poop which in turn prevents all kind of problems including constipation and haemorrhoids and nobody wants them really.
How did we do:
I always thought well I am eating really well. We make sure we eat a very balanced diet (i.e. no 'diet' - we eat everything... we are not vegetarian nor vegan but we eat very little meat, we eat lots and lots of vegetables, grains and pulses, fruit, very litte dairy and try to keep refined sugar to a minimum) and even cold sauerkraut is part of it (it has to be eaten cold by the way, as soon as you heat it up all the good bacteria are dead) so why take supplements.
The truth is however that today's diet is very far from perfect. It would be ok if you would live on an island with no cars i.e. no air pollution, very fertile soil that has all the nutrients still in it and animal produces that have never seen antibiotics or other medication. The truth is that food is simply not what it used to be and also nowadays life has become very fast and we expect a lot more from our bodies, we spend less time outdoors and do less good manual labour. Our immune system is compromised by stress and the sheer hustle and bustle of life.
I try to get probiotics from food but will also prepare myself for the cold season by supplementing them from about September to avoid getting the classic autumn cold everyone else seems to catch. When I feel like I can’t sleep as much or when I have to take antibiotics I make definitely sure my good bacteria are on the up again to avoid further trouble. Research also shows there is a link between your gut and your brain so when you are feeling blue its a good idea to get the gut health up.
What to watch out for, there are no cheap probiotics the good ones are expensive to produce and the ingredients have to be organic and from a reliable source. It’s not a good idea to go bargain hunting. On the upside if you have found a good source nothing much can go wrong with taking them as the body is already used to for example the Lactobacillus species and the Bifidobacterium, so really there is no risk involved.
Images are all by Tony Hay for Sagitta