Bacteria in our gut is a big focus in the frontiers of gastrointestinal science. It seems like every couple of weeks we’re hearing about reports that tout the benefits of certain bacteria in our gut, or warn us of the dangers of other bacterias to our overall health. In them, unhealthy gut bacteria has rumoured to be linked with everything from weight management issues, digestive issues, overall health and healthy gut bacteria is the solution to some of these problems.

A Lot Of Bacteria

In our bellies we host between 10 and 100 trillion microorganisms and its these guys that have come under the microscope. Some foods, call probiotic foods, contain “good” bacteria, the kind that keeps your intestines healthy. The most common probiotic, one called lactobacillus, can be found in yoghurt and other fermented foods but you can get probiotics in others that have added probiotics. You can even get your probiotic in a no-fuss capsule, powder, or gummies from the pharmacy.

Sometimes, it can sound like this probiotic thing might be the biggest health breakthrough in decades, and feel like if you’re not taking probiotics, you might be missing out. But do you really need a probiotic in your diet? The too-short answer is “no”. But, like most things, the real answer is more complicated than that.

Healthy Responses

For a healthy gut, probiotics aren’t really going to do anything. If you’re already sporting a healthy selection of microorganisms, the probiotic foods won’t change it or suddenly make your body work differently. Clinical studies have not conclusively demonstrated any benefits for otherwise healthy intestines. But, if you’re dealing with one of a number of intestinal complaints, there is research emerging that shows that reactive and even preventative treatments with probiotics can be of help.

Meta Analysis

One overview of 74 other studies showed that “in general, probiotics are beneficial in treatment and prevention of some gastrointestinal diseases”, which is really good news for the sufferers.

Antibiotics are a modern medical miracle, but when they enter the body, they kill the good bacteria along with the bad, which can give you diarrhea. Another meta-study found that probiotics “reduced the risk of diarrhea” in antibiotic-associated cases.

Probiotics have also been associated with improvement in symptoms and overall quality of life for those who suffer from medically diagnosed IBS, being called “an effective pharmacological therapy in medically diagnosed IBS patients”. 

Mood balance and Probiotics

More surprising is early research that is showing that probiotics might be linked with supporting healthy emotions and mood balance. It might almost be intuitive that probiotics would help with gastrointestinal issues, but linking gut health with mental health is an area of research that demands more exploration.