Are Probiotics Really Helpful?

20th April 2016 | Written by Louise Blanchfield

In a word, yes. I’m sure we’re all well aware that there are both good and bad bacteria that live in our guts. The question is what do they do and how can we encourage the good ones and eliminate the bad? Surprisingly there’s actually a whole host of things that bacteria help our bodies with. They:

  • Provide a front line defense to fight infectious disease so are an essential part of our immunity
  • Help us to digest and absorb our food
  • Produce vitamins for us to absorb and use
  • Help remove toxins from the body
  • Keep bad bacteria under control by crowding them out or, indeed, produce substances that kill infections like candida
  • Help to prevent allergies
  • Improve the natural movement of the bowel, called peristalsis, so improve bowel transit time
  • Some bacteria have anticancer effects
  • Others prevent and treat diarrhoea

If we have get an overgrowth of too many bad bacteria they can cause a whole host of problems. Just look at the table below, and this isn’t all of the possible symptoms:

Flatulence Food allergies / intolerance Anxiety
Foul smelling stools Nausea Acne
Inflammatory bowel disease Bloating Skin problems
Asthma Irritable bowel syndrome Weight loss
Cramps Rectal itching Bad breath
Diarrhoea Sinus problems Constipation
Fatigue Depression Restless leg syndrome

So, how can we help our friendly bacteria to thrive and help to keep our guts healthy? Well, there’s quite a lot actually and these include:

  • Cut out sugar and refined carbohydrates / processed foods – sugar feeds bad bacteria so can increase its numbers. This includes high sugar fruits
  • Limit red meat to once a week
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Eat more plants and increase dietary fibre, aim for more vegetables in your diet, all colours of the rainbow
  • Limit antibiotics – antibiotics kill off both bad and good bacteria so if you’ve ever had any you’ve wiped out all of your beneficial bacteria too
  • Take a probiotic – this will help to repopulate your bowel with the good bacteria
  • Get dirty once in a while – avoid household cleaners and anti-bacterial soaps, like antibiotics they kill everything
  • Don’t drink chlorinated water – use a filter
  • Try to eat fermented foods
  • Decrease stress
  • Exercise regularly – it increases transit time of food in the gut and increases metabolism
  • Wash food thoroughly to remove industrial chemicals
  • Avoid pollution

Eat prebiotics – Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, leeks, onions, bananas, garlic and almonds are all rich in inulin which is insoluble fibre that ferments in the gut and feeds good bacteria

Eat garlic – if you can stomach it raw, say in an olive tapenade, it kills bad bacteria. If not eat it cooked, it’s still good for the gut.

This is a good starting point but don’t forget to go and see a doctor if you are at all worried to seek a proper diagnosis. And, of course, there’s a lot that nutritional therapy can do to help you. We rarely have just one problem and looking at your body and lifestyle as a whole will give you a tailor made programme designed to address all of your symptoms rather than guessing at what something may be.

If you’re interested, please call The Food Physio™ on 0800 024 8460 for more information or you can book your session online now.

Digestive Wellness, Lipski 2012
Signs and Symptoms Analysis from a Functional Perspective, Weatherby, 2004
Textbook of Functional Medicine, The Institute of Functional Medicine, 2010

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