1. Managing diarrhoea
Arguably one of the most distressing digestive symptoms is diarrhoea. Diarrhoea may happen as a one-off as the result of a tummy bug; while sufferers of IBS may experience altered bowel movements more regularly. Then, people who travel frequently may be more subject to episodes of looser bowels as they regularly enter different climates where they are exposed to different foods and new environments.
Regardless of whether it’s a bug or IBS at play, research has suggested that altered gut bacteria is a major contributing factor in many cases of diarrhoea. Luckily for us, this means that by introducing good strains of bacteria in the form of probiotics we may have some sort of solution and be a step closer to managing this tricky symptom.
Specific strains of bacteria and beneficial yeasts including Saccharomyces boulardii have been found to be especially useful when helping to calm diarrhoea1 and may also help to protect against instances of traveller’s diarrhoea.
Another remedy worth pairing with your good gut bacteria to help manage diarrhoea is Tormentil. The tincture form of this herbal remedy allows for fast absorption, to help restore some calm quickly. Tinctures are always a good pick when digestive is disturbed, as they don’t require breaking down – a process that can be underpowered when digestive complaints hit.
2. Calming constipation
Whilst some people primarily struggle with diarrhoea, for others, constipation is an everyday issue.
Although ensuring you are drinking enough water or eating enough fibre are important lifestyle considerations if your gut is a little sluggish, it’s now becoming more readily understood that an imbalance in gut bacteria could also be playing a part.
A strain of bacteria called Bifidobacterium lactis is particularly prevalent in the large intestine, and by actively increasing our numbers we may be able to help regain some regularity in our bowel movements.2
In addition to this, sensible doses of dietary prebiotics such as FOS may also make a helpful addition to probiotics to help manage the symptoms of constipation.
3. Beating the bloat
Bloating is up there as one of the most commonly reported digestive complaints, so where should we start in terms of tackling this symptom? Whilst diet and lifestyle habits are once more an important consideration, research suggests that once again the balance of bacteria contained in our gut could be having influential.
Molkosan, which provides a dose of L+ lactic acid, works to support the internal gut environment and therefore the successful growth and stability of our good bacteria. In this way, it works as a prebiotic. Other forms of prebiotics such as FOS also help to support the underlying functions of the gut. Firstly, FOS acts as a source of fibre to help waste move more efficiently through the gut. However, in addition to this, they also act as a food source for your good gut bacteria, helping to ensure their survival.
In combination with the prebiotic elements, specific strains of bacteria, including lactobacillus acidophilus (primarily found in the small intestine) and bifidobacterium bifidum (primarily found in the large intestine) may help to tackle bloating head-on. It seems that a combination of pre and probiotics may work particularly well to manage the symptoms of bloating.
Interestingly, as an added bonus, probiotics may also even be useful for helping to support healthy weight management.3 So, rather than just assisting with the management of short-term bloating, they may also help to make longer-lasting changes to your waistline.
As we’re gradually learning more through research, it’s becoming much more apparent that, when it comes to a wide array of common health complaints, the gut seems like a good place to start!
4. Supporting intimate female health
With fluctuating hormones to contend with throughout our lifetime, women often have a number of symptoms to deal with; from those associated with PMS, right through to menopause. One area worth addressing, which we find many women struggle to discuss openly, is intimate issues such as thrush or cystitis.
As these conditions tend to be caused by opportunistic bad bacteria, topping up specific strains of good bacteria may help to overcome some of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with these female health issues.
This is the basis behind Optibac’s For Women product which I’ve seen work well for many women. This product is ideal in combination with herbal products such as Uva-ursi & Echinacea, to more directly, help to stop the symptoms of cystitis in its tracks.
5. Supporting an under par immune system
If you’ve read some of my other digestive blogs you’ll be well aware that up to 80% of our immune cells are believed to reside in our gut. This means that if your gut isn’t very happy, it can potentially have a negative impact on your immune function and you may end up feeling a little run down.
To help turn this around, taking Echinacea at certain times of the year can give your immune system a sufficient boost. To address the underlying gut problem, probiotics may be part of a suitable solution to help support the balance of bacteria in your gut.
Certain strains of bacteria, in particular, have been studied specifically for their beneficial immunomodulatory action.3
6. Addressing high cholesterol
Another largely unmentioned benefit of probiotics is their positive influence on cholesterol levels. The proper functioning of the digestive tract, and the liver, in particular, has a dramatic bearing on cholesterol levels in our body. When attempting to manage our cholesterol we often risk becoming transfixed on limiting dietary sources of cholesterol when, in fact, supporting your digestion could be a more important factor.
My main recommendation when it comes to balancing cholesterol levels naturally is artichoke. This herbal remedy has been used traditionally to help support the function of the liver, the organ which is primarily responsible for manufacturing and recycling cholesterol in the body.
Your gut bacteria could still have an important part to play, though. It’s been found that a particular strain of bacteria, lactobacillus plantarum, may help to reduce cholesterol levels by up to 13% when compared to placebo in trials. Just think of the possibilities if this was paired with some positive dietary and lifestyle changes and a regular dose of artichoke!
7. Supporting our mood, weight management and much more
To sum up, for supporting your mood,4 healthy weight management,5 even your skin6 and an increasing number of other health factors that are now being discovered, opting for a more general probiotic may offer some benefits. This is especially useful to know if conventional approaches don’t seem to be doing the trick for certain ailments.
The research out there on the benefits of probiotics is continually growing, constantly offering impressive new insights and going back to some ideas that ancient naturopaths such as Hippocrates first put across. Hippocrates, in particular, once claimed that ‘all disease began in the gut,’ and he definitely had a point!
Finally, don’t forget about the prebiotics!
Especially if you’ve tried probiotics in the past and are worried that the benefits may be short-lived, a fail-safe solution would be to pair them up with a prebiotic.
Molkosan is rich in L+ lactic acid and can therefore help to ensure the internal gut environment is optimal, which in turn, helps ensure the survival of any probiotics that you decide to take.