The Nutrition Expert Editorial Team January 21, 2017

Friendly bacteria, otherwise known as probiotics, are incredibly important for your health. But did you know that a product containing friendly bacteria has to contain billions of bacteria for it to actually work?

Not the kind of bacteria that gifts you with the latest sickness bug, but the kind of bacteria otherwise known as probiotics, that has been termed ‘friendly’ and offers the key to good digestion, energy levels, immunity, brain health, well-being, and a healthy weight.

Yes you did read that correctly, probiotics are not just beneficial for your gut. Having the correct balance of bacteria in your gut is paramount in providing assistance with all manner of bodily functions, not least brain health and immunity.

The ‘need to knows’ of friendly bacteria

According to a recent study by Healthspan, a whopping 72% of people have no idea how much bacteria a probiotic product should contain for it to be beneficial. Because we already have such a large number of bacteria in our gut, and when we say large we mean trillions and trillions, we have to consume a very high dose in order for them to effectively colonize.

In other words, for bacteria to have any health benefits on our body, we need to absorb it in its billions. Anything that doesn’t contain billions of bacteria is not going to provide you with the health benefits that you’re after.

The world of microflora includes an unbelievable number of different types of bacteria, but two types exist that may help regulate our immune system: lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. At this point it is also worth mentioning that prebiotics and probiotics are not the same thing. The former represent a special form of dietary fibre that acts as a fertilizer for the good bacteria in your gut, and the latter are that good bacteria.

Essentially, prebiotics, whilst also being individually beneficial to our health, feed probiotics.

The easiest route to a healthy gut is supplements

The TV programme ‘Save Money Good Health’ recently compiled a guide to the number of bacteria in popular probiotic products. It revealed the following:

Probiotic teas contain Forty thousand bacterium.

Popular yoghurt drinks contain Ten billion bacterium.

Sauerkraut contains Thirty million bacterium per serving.

Sachets and or supplements contain Two hundred billion bacterium.

For those who find the term ‘sauerkraut’ challenging, it describes a cabbage like superfood destined to be gastronomically fashionable in twenty seventeen. Unfortunately, as well as containing minimal amounts of bacteria, sauerkraut does not contain any lactobacillus, which is one of the two types of bacteria that may help regulate our immune system.

What is extremely apparent from this experiment is that supplements contain by far and away the most friendly bacteria, and that if you’re choosing to buy probiotic tea over your normal brew, it’s probably not doing you any good.

You should look for supplements that contain a large quantity of bacterium as well as both lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Healthspan’s recently released Super50 Pro supplement ticks both boxes.

Next time you compare the prices of probiotic products, you may want to think about the level of bacterium they contain.

Supplements are far from being a waste of money

Last year, Brits spent three hundred and fifty million pounds on supplements, and whether this is a waste of money is a topic that regularly graces the headlines.

Firstly, it is easy to forget that supplements need to be tailored to the individual. Many supplements, vitamin D for example, will be beneficial to everyone, but some should be taken as an alternative form of medication and in accordance with advice from your general practitioner.

As for probiotics, a mountain of research backs up the benefits of a well-balanced gut microflora. According to Glen Gibson, Professor of Food Microbiology at Reading University, ‘friendly bacteria have been described as the body’s silent partners in health’.

So there you have it. Friendly bacteria is dominating health conversation, and it looks like it will continue to do so.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.



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