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The probiotics debate

Confusing colonisation with efficacy - Our experts comment on the probiotics debate

It seems there is some scepticism out there as to the science behind supplementing with live bacteria.

We should be healthily sceptical about what we put into our bodies, but we should also take time to look at the weight of evidence. Probiotics is a case in point. Recently it was reported in the news that taking a live bacteria supplement might be a waste of money, however what the science actually showed was that there were differences in if and how the bacteria colonised depending on the individual. We know everyone’s gut flora is different and therefore each individual will have a differing response. We also know that even if transient, bacteria still create a favourable environment for other bacteria to flourish and still have an effect – supporting the immune system and beyond. Live bacteria taking up residence in the gut, may not be the simple linear equation we once thought but scores of scientists are uncovering the complexity of the gut flora, each new study providing growing evidence of their key effects not just on gut issues such as travellers’ diarrhoea, IBS and immunity, but on resilience, depression, anxiety, metabolism, stress and sleep.

We should eat a diet that creates an environment for good bacteria to flourish – adding plenty of fibre and fermented foods such as kefir and sauerkraut, but we should also not shy away from the evidence and consider supplementing with the good guys on an ongoing basis in order to give our gut the best chance of supporting our health.