How probiotics affect digestive system health

How probiotics affect digestive system health

Many traditions see digestive system health as an essential aspect of overall health

One of the most important aspects of health is the state of your body’s intestinal health. The ‘Father of Medicine’, Hippocrates (469-370 BC), said ‘all diseases start in the gut’. This belief is echoed in other ancient medicine systems such as Ayurveda, where Indian medicine practitioners consider the digestive system to be the ‘seat of health’.

Probiotics have a long history of supporting wellbeing worldwide

Probiotics have rapidly gained attention from health researchers for their important role in the digestive system, and for many other significant health benefits. Early researchers such as Metchnikoff began to study the benefits of probiotic bacteria as far back as the early 1900’s. This led the way in later decades for other researchers to build upon his breaking evidence. 

Fermented food and beverages containing beneficial probiotic bacteria have a long and rich history of consumption. People from many parts of the world have consumed probiotic-rich foods to boost their health and vitality.  Examples include: 

  • Europeans, who commonly ate sauerkraut (fermented cabbage).
  • New Zealand Maori, who fermented corn and called it Kaanga Pirau.
  • Koreans, who culture carrots, cabbage, onions, ginger, garlic and chillies to produce Kimchi.

Probiotics and digestive system health

Billions of friendly bacteria from more than 400 different species occur naturally in a healthy digestive system.  Most live in the intestines, where they are sometimes called “intestinal flora”. 

These probiotic (the word means “for life”) bacteria can help to modulate gut flora  and support a healthy gastrointestinal lining. They can also help the body to digest and metabolise nutrients, which makes them essential for our health and wellbeing.

When can taking probiotics be helpful?

In addition to supporting digestive system health, probiotic bacteria also help to maintain our general wellbeing, for example, by supporting immunity. However, they can be very sensitive to changes in their environment, and some lifestyle factors can significantly reduce their numbers. These factors include:

  • Antibiotic use (antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria)
  • Certain medications, e.g. steroids or the Oral Contraceptive Pill
  • Frequent alcohol consumption
  • Stress or aging
  • Poor diet, too much processed food, or eating disorders
  • Digestive problems such as diarrhoea and constipation
  • Pollution, chemical additives and pesticides

In any of these cases, supplementing with a concentrated probiotic supplement can support digestive system health and general wellbeing.  Probiotics have been also studied for times when intestinal flora can become disrupted such as while travelling, or during food allergies or sensitivities.

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