Probiotics & gut health – any benefit?

The previous post mentioned prebiotics and the importance of ingesting both prebiotics and probiotics simultaneously to enhance gut function. We therefore thought it would be a good idea to explain probiotics in a little more detail and how to include them into your diet.

What are probiotics?

Probiotic foods contain live bacteria and yeasts that have been shown to be beneficial for gut and overall health.

A lot of fermented foods contain probiotics and the most commonly found probiotic strains, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, are now widely available for us to buy.

How do they work?

The variety of bacteria in the gut usually prevent invading organisms form entering the bloodstream. However stress, illness, the use of antibiotics, consumption of highly refined, processed and sugary foods as well as physiological alteration in the gut can impair the integrity of the microbiota. This can lead to an increase in the amount of ‘harmful’ bacteria and a decrease in the abundance and diversity of ‘good’ bacteria in the gut.

The ingestion of probiotic foods containing live ‘good’ bacteria is thought to replenish and enhance the numbers of ‘good’ bacteria in the gut, improving gut function (Reference 1).

What are the health benefits of probiotics?

Probiotics have been shown to:

  • Improve digestive health.
  • Improve the balance of our gut microflora.
  • Reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Relieve symptoms, maintain remission and reduce the risk of relapse with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).
  • Reduce the duration and incidence of diarrhoea in babies, travellers and those taking antibiotics.
  • Improve the digestion of lactose and reduce the symptoms of intolerance including loose stools, abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and nausea (Reference 2).

What are probiotic foods?

  • Yoghurt
  • Kefir – a cultured and fermented milk drink filled with probiotic bacteria.
  • Kombucha – a fermented drink made from bacteria and yeast mixed with black or green tea and sugar.
  • Sauerkraut – fermented cabbage which produces beneficial probiotics during the fermentation process.
  • Kimchi – a Korean staple made from salted and fermented vegetables with a range of spices and seasonings (e.g. chilli powder, garlic, ginger, scallions).

If you would like to know more about nurturing your gut and how to incorporate these foods into your diet, book in for a Free Pre-Consultation.


edinburgh nutrition Team