Probiotic is a word we hear frequently these days, and we know it’s something that’s supposed to be good for us, but what is a probiotic, do we really need them and what is the best way to get them?

A probiotic is a live bacterium, normally found in the human gut that has been cultured and is used for it’s health benefits.

Gut bacteriaThe human gut is a hive of activity – not only in terms of digestion with food being processed and passing through, but we have billions of ‘good bacteria’ residing there – and some bad too. These bacteria are vital to our health, and often overlooked. They play an important role in digestion, breaking down complex food molecules, like carbohydrates, proteins and fats, making them more easily absorbed. So the yoghurts that claim to reduce bloating can do that because of the general improvements they make to digestive function.

When we use anti-biotics to kill off bad bacteria, they are unable to differentiate between good and bad, thereby wiping both out. Probiotics help re-inoculate the gut with the right balance of good bacteria.

Probiotics may have very beneficial effects on the immune system – activating and directing the immune system when pathogens are located.

A great case for probiotic therapy has been in the treatment of diarrhoea. Controlled trials have shown that Lactobacillus GG can shorten the course of infectious diarrhoea in infants and children.

Probiotic therapy may also help people with Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Several small studies suggest that certain probiotics may help maintain remission of ulcerative colitis and prevent relapse of Crohn’s disease and the recurrence of pouchitis (a complication of surgery to treat ulcerative colitis).

Kefir Grains

Kefir Grains (Photo credit: luxomedia)

We really can’t do without them.