Probiotics can encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut. But what’s the best way to take them… and are they actually any good?

Much has been said about ingesting probiotics as part of a healthy lifestyle. Although most experts agree that they’re not essential to your wellbeing and ‘wellness’, there are claims that they are beneficial.

So what is a Probiotic? Arguably one of the most important systems in our body is our digestive system. Within our gut, we have a community of bacteria, which play a crucial role in our immune defence systems, digestion and the absorption of food we eat. There are good strains of bacteria, and there are harmful strains. Probiotic foods and supplements contain the good type!

So there you have it: they’re a good type of bacteria that assist the immune system in its daily chores.

But what exactly do they do to the body? Probiotic supplements and foods replenish the good strains of bacteria in our gut and encourage the growth of more bacteria in the hope that the bad bacteria never gain enough numbers to become problematic to our health.

Why should I take Probiotics? As previously mentioned, there are very few professionals out there that will say a daily intake of probiotic supplements is essential to good health, but they can assist the immune system and generally promote good gut health. Probiotics supplements can be extremely beneficial for those that may have problems with digestive health or are recovering from courses of antibiotic treatment.

Most of us, at some point, have needed antibiotics or suffered from a stomach bug and these are just two scenarios they could be of value.

Probiotics are said to be particularly good for those with weakened immune systems or individuals with IBS and other chronic digestive complaints. After all, 70 per cent of the immune system operates in the gut and intestine, so it pays to make sure the tummy is in good working order.

Thankfully, friendly bacteria can be found in plenty of foods that are easily incorporated into daily diets, but they’re also simple to ingest in liquid or capsule form, thanks to the rise of probiotic drinks and supplements.

What’s the best way to take Probiotics? With a little culinary know-how, it’s easy enough to get these good bacteria into your guts via a healthy diet. You could try sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented miso and black garlic, but the easiest, quickest and least gag-inducing way is via a good quality supplement and most of these now come in a drink, capsule or powder form.

When looking at supplements, make sure they are good and signs of quality involve the amount of CFU’s (colony forming units) contained within, as you want a good diversity of strains to inhabit the gut. Good quality supplements will sometimes also have a time released or enteric coating – meaning they can withstand the harsh environment of the stomach to make it to the small intestine.