The human microbiome is said to consist of approximately 10-100 trillion symbiotic bacterial cells living in our body (Ursell et al., 2012).
A large portion of these bacterial cells actually reside in our gut.
When we consume probiotics, we actively populate and nourish our human microbiome, increasing the amount of bacterial species present, which benefits our health.
That being said though, what are probiotics?
What are probiotics?
The term "probiotics" gets thrown around a lot lately, and although most people have a general understanding of it, they are best defined as living microorganisms, and when consumed in adequate amounts, provide us with an array of health benefits.
Most often, probiotic supplements consist of an array of specific bacterial and yeast-like strains, with some common one's being Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Saccharomyces boulardii.
Although this list isn't extensive, all strains of probiotics exert various beneficial effects on our health, and we need to ensure we have a diverse range of them.
This is often why it's always good to purchase a broad-spectrum probiotic than contains multiple strains, over one that only contains one or two (Timmerman et al., 2004).
A multistrain probiotic allows better microbial diversity and synergy in our gut, whereas something with a high level of one strain could cause an imbalance of our microbiome.
How do probiotics benefit our health?
There has been a mountain of evidence in the scientific literature these days that underscores the beneficial effects of probiotics.
Some effects include an improvement of gastrointestinal (GI) function, improved immune response, a reduction in cholesterol, and even some level of cancer prevention (Kechagia et al., 2013).
A systematic review published in the Journal of Function Foods in 2020 highlighted the beneficial effects of various Lactobacillus strains on reducing GI symptoms, including heartburn, nausea and bloating (Agah et al., 2020).
Supplementation of probiotics have also shown a significant reduction several health-markers related to lipid and cholesterol control. This also resulted in improvements in inflammation, immune function and blood sugar control (Homayouni et al., 2012).
The list of studies could go on, but there is a substantial chunk of evidence out there that strongly highlights the benefits of probiotic supplementation.
What are the best probiotics to buy?
When it comes to purchasing probiotics, quality and the amount of strains found in the product is important.
Do not rush off and grab the cheapest probiotic you can find, because often, it only contains a few strains, and this can detrimental and could create a microbiome imbalance.
You would only ever want to be supplementing with single strains if you were specifically targeting or treating something, but generally, broad spectrum is best.
You can also obtain a healthy dose of probiotics from functional foods such as Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Kombucha, Kefir drinks and even Probioform, a living functional liquid food supplement.
Our gut microbiome is important, so ensuring we maintain a diverse range of bacteria in our gut ensures we stay in optimal health.
When our gut microbiome is out, it's reassuring to know there are products and functional foods out there to bring our gut back to balance.
Stephen Brumwell | Clinical Nutritionist
- Agah, S., Akbari, A., Heshmati, J., Sepidarkish, M., Morvaridzadeh, M., Adibi, P., Mazidi, M., Farsi, F., Ofori-Asenso, R., Talley, N. J., & Feinle-Bisset, C. (2020). Systematic review with meta-analysis: Effects of probiotic supplementation on symptoms in functional dyspepsia. Journal of Functional Foods, 68, 103902. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2020.103902
- Homayouni, A., Payahoo, L., & Azizi, A. (2012). Effects of probiotics on lipid profile: A review. American Journal of Food Technology, 7(5), 251-265. https://doi.org/10.3923/ajft.2012.251.265
- Kechagia, M., Basoulis, D., Konstantopoulou, S., Dimitriadi, D., Gyftopoulou, K., Skarmoutsou, N., & Fakiri, E. M. (2013). Health benefits of probiotics: A review. ISRN Nutrition, 2013, 1-7. https://doi.org/10.5402/2013/481651
- Timmerman, H., Koning, C., Mulder, L., Rombouts, F., & Beynen, A. (2004). Monostrain, multistrain and multispecies probiotics—A comparison of functionality and efficacy. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 96(3), 219-233. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2004.05.012
- Ursell, L. K., Metcalf, J. L., Parfrey, L. W., & Knight, R. (2012). Defining the human microbiome. Nutrition Reviews, 70, S38-S44. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00493.x