Probiotics - Should you take them and when?

By Sue Wilby - Naturopath & Nutritionist

The human gut is a natural environment for a large and dynamic bacterial community (microflora), both beneficial and harmful.  All individuals have between 500-1000 different species of bacteria residing in the digestive system, starting in the oral cavity and ending in the colon which has the densest population. 

Alterations in the balance of good vs bad intestinal flora (dysbiosis) are caused by the use of antibiotics, acute diarrhoeal illnesses, psychological and physical stress, altered digestive tract peristalsis and dietary changes

The major role of our microflora includes:

  1. The production of short-chain fatty acids, predominantly butyrate, which provides energy to the gut cells (colonocytes).

  2. The production of vitamins including vitamin K, folate and other B vitamins;

  3. The absorption of calcium, magnesium, and iron;

  4. The enhancement of digestive tract motility, reducing the risk of constipation

  5. The breakdown of non-digestible dietary residues

  6. They play a key role in an individual’s immune system and provide a protective function between you and alien microbes. 

  7. It is also suggested that (bad) gut microflora may play a role in some disorders including inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer, and autoimmune diseases.

Why take probiotics?

Probiotics are defined as ‘living microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts deliver health benefits on the host’

This occurs in the following ways:

  • the manipulation of intestinal microbial communities;

  • the suppression of pathogens 

  • stimulation of epithelial cell proliferation

  • improving the function of the immune system 

  • strengthening the intestinal barrier of the digestive tract

Therefore, probiotics maintain, restore or improve the microflora in the gut to a healthier state. 

When should probiotics be considered?

  • When taking a course of antibiotics which can disrupt the balance of the microflora

  • To minimise the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and thrush

  • During the 3rd trimester of pregnancy

  • During gestation (pregnancy) if either partner has a history of eczema or asthma

  • Irritable Bowel Disease (Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis)

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

  • Chronic Constipation

  • Acute gastroenteritis

  • Leaky gut

  • Urinary tract infections

  • Overseas travel

  • Lowered immunity

What sets them apart?

Probiotics differ according to the genus (e.g. Bifidobacterium, Lactobacilli), species (e.g. L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus) and strain (e.g. Shirota) and while all probiotics are therapeutic some species are more effective than others in certain conditions. Therefore it will always be beneficial to first speak to your health care professional to help you identify the most appropriate probiotic strains for you.

Barangaroo Pharmacy stock a wide range of probiotics to meet all health requirements and our staff are well educated in the area probiotics. Come in and chat with our knowledgable staff today.

About the author

Sue is an experienced health care practitioner specialising in Nutrition and Western Herbal Medicine. She has spent the past 15 years providing consultations to clients to improve their health and lifestyle, with a proven record in the assistance of weight loss, stress reduction and general well-being treatment plans. Sue is known for her passion about nutrition, its impacts on health, and the benefits of herbal remedies and is a member of Australian Traditional Medicine Society.

Disclaimer - The information provided here is general only. For specific health advice and before beginning any new supplements, diet or lifestyle changes, always consult your health practitioner or book in a health consultation with our university-qualified naturopaths and nutritionists.