Probiotics perform a wide range of functions important for maintaining good health. They can be particularly helpful in supporting digestive health. Probiotic supplements can be taken proactively and are also often used to address and help mild gastrointestinal problems.

So how do you know if you might benefit from a probiotic supplement? Signs of intestinal imbalance include bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation and tummy upset. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of probiotics and which conditions probiotics might be effective at helping treat.

 

1. PROBIOTICS AND CONSTIPATION

Constipation can be commonly relieved with probiotics. When constipation is usually the result of imbalances in intestinal flora, a probiotic supplement can help restore the imbalance. In this way, a probiotic may allow you to regain the ability to properly digest food.

 

2. PROBIOTICS AND DIARRHOEA

At the other end of the scale, probiotics are also often indicated in the management of diarrhoea. Here they perform a dual role: firstly, a probiotic supplement can help ensure that the gut flora remains healthy and well-balanced. This could speed up the return to normal defecation. Secondly, diarrhoea can cause the gut flora to become depleted, which can slow recovery. Supplementation of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus plantarum are thought to be useful in helping relieve diarrhoea. Previously, the L. plantarum species was often administered alone, but more recent practice includes both Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus acidophilus for double actions.

 

3. PROBIOTICS FOR GAS & BLOATING

Gas and bloating may often occur due to the improper digestion of foods in the stomach and intestine, and due to an overgrowth of a number of bacteria or a change in the type of bacteria in the small intestine. These bacteria may produce excess gas. Probiotics have been shown in research to improve intestinal health by promoting a healthy balance of good bacteria, and thereby reducing the harmful bacteria that produces gas and leads to bloating. To help reduce symptoms, consider Bifidobacterium strains, as these are one of the most predominant cultures of ‘good’ bacteria that are found naturally. Lactobacillus acidophilis and Bifidobacterium lactis have extensive research individually and in combination in helping to improve intestinal health and digestive health

 

4. PROBIOTICS AND IMMUNE SUPPORT

The gastrointestinal tract functions as a barrier and immune system modulator. It is accepted that probiotics may directly or indirectly influence the host’s immune system. Recent studies show that probiotic strain B. Lactis enhances natural immune function by promoting the normalization of increased intestinal permeability, improving altered gut microecology, improvement of the immunologic barrier and alleviation of intestinal inflammatory responses, which produce a gut-stabilizing effect.
Specific clinical trials using the combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis show an effect on the faecal microbiota as well as improvements in immunological parameters in healthy adults. They are able to modulate unspecific cellular immune responses by increasing phagocytic (white blood cell) activity.

 

5. PROBIOTICS AND LACTOSE INTOLERANCE

Probiotics have also been shown to be helpful for people with lactose intolerance, helping relieve their symptoms. Lactobacillus acidophilus has been shown to help boosting levels of the lactose-digesting enzyme, lactase, in the gastrointestinal tract. Bloating, cramping, flatulence and diarrhoea can cause substantial discomfort to those with lactose intolerance, forcing them to adopt restricted diets. There is currently no cure for lactose intolerance, but certain aids are available to improve individuals’ tolerance of lactose. Probiotics are increasingly recommended as a method to help people with lactose intolerance better digest lactose.

WHICH PROBIOTIC SHOULD YOU USE?

Use our Probiotic cheat sheet to help you work out which probiotic is best for you.