Why Are Probiotics Better Than Yoghurt?
Once unheard of, the term ‘probiotics’ is now a household name. Awareness around the importance of looking after your ‘friendly bacteria’ has risen dramatically in the last decade and people are now starting to understand that optimal health starts in the gut. They are even prescribed by many vets to support the gut health of animals!
There are around 100 trillion bacteria that live mostly in your gut. This is made up of a mixture of beneficial bacteria and other more harmful types that need to be kept to a minimum. It’s crucial that the good guys outnumber the bad; that way there’s less chance of them causing any harm. As well as supporting a healthy gut environment and being an important part of the immune system, beneficial bacteria help to produce essential nutrients and can even affect how you think and feel.
The balance between good and bad bacteria is strongly influenced by diet and lifestyle choices, and unfortunately, the typical Western diet and lifestyle is more conducive to feeding the bad guys and starving the good.
Many people choose to add ‘probiotic yoghurt drinks’ to their diets in a bid to boost the good guys. And in theory this is a good idea. However, it’s unlikely that this habit is doing your health as much good as you might think.
Beneficial bacteria are living organisms that are easily damaged and have a very limited shelf life. Many probiotic drinks may once have contained beneficial bacteria but it is unlikely that there are many left by the time they reach your shopping basket, and even if there are they are highly unlikely to survive the harsh conditions in the journey from your mouth, through your stomach and into the gastrointestinal tract. These drinks are also usually loaded with sugar.
Our advice is to steer clear of sugar-laden ‘probiotic drinks’ and instead follow these guidelines on how to nurture a healthy balance of good bacteria:
• Feed the good – Beneficial bacteria thrive on a diet rich in wholefoods, fruits and vegetables so you need to include lots of these in your diet. Foods for beneficial bacteria are known as ‘prebiotics’. Particularly useful prebiotic foods include asparagus, bananas, onions, garlic, cabbage, chicory root, dandelion greens, beans and lentils, wholegrains, artichokes, root vegetables and apples.
• Starve the bad – Avoid sugar, alcohol, caffeine, refined and processed foods as these can feed unhealthy organisms.
• Probiotic-rich foods – As well as providing food for the good guys and starving the bad, it’s also useful to consume foods, which naturally contain high levels of probiotic organisms. Many people think of live yoghurt when it comes to upping your intake of good bacteria, however there is a range of foods, which are far superior to live yoghurt when it comes to supporting your gut microflora. Fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, tempeh, natto, lassi, sauerkraut and kombucha naturally contain high levels of a variety of beneficial bacteria and are a great addition to your daily diet. Click here to read more about Kefir.
• Probiotic supplement – A daily probiotic supplement is now considered to be as important for your health as a daily multivitamin & mineral. Choose a probiotic supplement that contains scientifically proven strains to ensure it will be effective. Beneficial bacteria are easily damaged during processing and even on the journey down into the stomach so it is also important that your probiotic can demonstrate that it can survive the stomach acid and reach the intestines intact, otherwise it will be ineffective.
• Antibiotics only when necessary – Antibiotics wipe out both good and bad bacteria so it’s important to take them only when necessary. If you do need to take antibiotics however, make sure you follow up with a high strength probiotic supplement to replenish your beneficial gut microflora. In addition, be particularly careful with your diet whilst using antibiotics and afterwards too. Consume plenty of prebiotic foods that will help the good bacteria to repopulate and avoid refined, sugary foods to limit the growth of unhealthy microorganisms.
• Minimise exposure to environmental & lifestyle factors – Friendly bacteria are highly vulnerable to damage by lifestyle and environmental factors. Chlorinated and fluoridated water, antibacterial soaps, agricultural chemicals and pesticides, pollution, stress, noise and food additives can all interfere with a healthy gut microflora, so it’s worth assessing your exposure to these factors and taking steps to minimise where possible. Incorporate regular relaxation into your lifestyle to reduce stress and support beneficial bacteria. Yoga and mindfulness are ancient techniques that have a long history of use for reducing stress and supporting overall wellbeing.
This content is restricted, please Log In to a Health Professional or Student Health Professional account
Featured Articles in Ingredient Focus Articles
The health benefits of vitamin C are well documented and you can now pick up a supplement for next to nothing in your local pharmacy or supermarket. So why would you bother to go to the time or trouble of ordering one that costs a bit more?
There are both beneficial and pathogenic bacteria in your gut and it’s crucially important that the good guys outnumber the bad. When this balance is disrupted, physical, mental and emotional health can all suffer...
An exciting new study funded by the Medical Research Council has shown a significant increase in heart function in participants suffering from heart failure. More than 160 heart failure patients were involved in a 5-year trial at Leeds Teaching Hospitals where they were given either a 100µg vitamin D tablet or a placebo daily for a year.
Omega 3s have been in the dietary spotlight for many years now. Public opinion has finally shifted away from the ‘all fat is bad’ standpoint and has moved towards welcoming these special fats for the unique role they play in our health. Omega 3s are important at any age, and not least for growing children.
Much has been written about vitamin D in recent years. The nation’s eyes have finally been opened to the idea that epidemic levels of deficiency may be having a significant effect on our long-term health outcomes.
Magnesium deficiency is commonly referred to as a modern day silent epidemic or the ‘invisible deficiency’. And this is because it is known to be difficult to detect in a clinical setting.
If you want to increase your dietary intake of magnesium make sure you include as many of the following foods as possible. These 10 foods contain the highest levels of magnesium per average serving...
Here we take a closer look at Natural Eggshell Membrane (NEM) and Glucosamine Sulphate – two fantastic natural ingredients which both offer something unique for your joints. Read on to make sure you understand the difference and the unique applications for each...
In an ideal world, all of our nutrients would come from a well-balanced diet. However, the food that we eat has changed dramatically over the course of the last 50 – 80 years.
Did you know...
Nuts and seeds are often lacking from a typical Western diet, yet these nutrition powerhouses are just about as easy as you can possibly get for a speedy snack. Now a new study, published in Nutrition Research has found that almonds in particular are the nuts you should be reaching for if you want to really boost your health.
It is difficult to give an accurate estimate of how many people in the UK are suffering from thyroid problems and that’s simply because so many go undiagnosed.
Commonly seen as an exotic fruit rather than a weekly shop staple, perhaps we’re missing a trick with papaya – the flesh, skin, seeds and stem of this exotic fruit have been used in traditional medicine for many years...