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‘While the connections between the microbiome and the immune and metabolic systems are well appreciated, research into the role gut microbes play in shaping the nervous system is an exciting frontier in the biological sciences’. ~ N Soux (professor of microbiology)
Live, good bacteria, or probiotics, play a vital role in how well your immune system and brain function. During foetal development in utero, the brain and stomach are the first organs to develop together. Probiotics are essential in the digestion and absorption of our food and actively synthesise nutrients. Your digestive system is like a mini-brain, affecting mood and appetite.
Distributed in the wall of the gut is a network of neurons known as the enteric nervous system. There are in fact more nerves in your gut than in your spinal column! So it makes sense that we should take better care of our gut health.
DO YOU NEED TO SUPPLEMENT?
PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENTSEnsure you choose a well-known, good quality probiotic supplement as various factors affect the life of probiotics. Supplements are available in powder, tablet, capsule, oil, gum and lozenge form.
Side effectsLess than 1% of people may have bloating and I suggest you lower the dosage. You cannot overdose on probiotic supplements and they are safe for pregnant and lactating women and very beneficial for children and the elderly.
When to take This depends on the label. Some are taken with and others without food; it depends on the supplement coating used.
How long is treatment?Usually two to three weeks or until symptoms disappear.
How frequently?Supplementation depends entirely on your condition and the general suggestion is to supplement every four to six months.
PROBIOTIC FOOD SOURCESProbiotic food sources include yoghurt, cottage cheese, buttermilk, kefir, aged cheeses, lebne, miso, tempeh, fermented foods such as sauerkraut, and pickled foods. But I have to add: food may or may not contain probiotics after processing, transportation and storage. Lesser-known probiotic foods available in other parts of the world include kermavilli (Finland), kimchi (Asia), curtido (Central America) choucroute (France) and lassi, dadhi, maziwa lal, and chach, which are popular in India.
CONCLUSIONTo maintain good gut flora between bursts of supplementation, consume fermented foods and other probiotic-rich foods mentioned above; avoid sugar and processed food and eat soluble fibre (prebiotics) to feed the probiotics.
Research into the benefits of probiotics is ongoing. Our cosmetic industry incorporates probiotics in skin and hair products. But that is a topic for another article. And lastly, especially when travelling, don’t leave home without a good probiotic!
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