Probiotics for Women- are they good for your health?
For some years now there has been a lot of talk and marketing around probiotics and their benefits to health. When we talk about probiotics we are not just talking about the ones you buy in a bottle, they are found in food and you can feed and ‘grow’ your own in your very own gut! Is all the hype necessary? Do you know what actually creates a healthy gut?
There are many unknown things about the gut microbiome, but there is one thing for sure we know a healthy colony of gut bacteria is good.
Probiotics… What are they?
Probiotics are defined as ‘live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host’. They key is that to be called a probiotic they have to have research to show a known health benefit. There are many good bacteria that we may not refer to as probiotics that are still beneficial to our health and make up your gut microbiome (trillions of microorganisms and their genetic material that live in your gut).
To be called a probiotic in a food there must be enough live bacteria left after food processing to show the health benefit backed by research.
You can influence the health of your own gut bacteria by feeding them with prebiotics. Prebiotics are a type of fibre; prebiotic fibre that passes through the digestive system undigested and stimulates the growth and/or activity of certain ‘good’ bacteria in the large intestine. The prebiotic fibre is fermented by the gut bacteria (it is a food for them). This produces gases, called short chain fatty acids that help keep the gut tissue healthy and can pass into the blood stream, traveling around the body resulting in many other health benefits.
When enough and a variety of prebiotics are eaten from different plant foods (the more diverse the better!), it will benefit our overall health.
What we eat may has an impact on our gut health (both positive and negative). The healthier it is, the healthier we seem to be.
The health benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics help to enhance or restore health to our gut microbiome which helps promote many aspects of our health. It helps with our skin, our digestive issues, our weight, it can even help or link to our mental health and behaviours.
Probiotics and our skin
Did you know there is some research to show probiotics may actually benefit our skin.
Research has shown that not only diseased skin, but also healthy skin can benefit from probiotics. It shows that it may reduce skin sensitivity, support the skins immune system and may even help in protect the skin from UV damage and some skin diseases such as eczema, acne and atopic dermatitis. So keep eating plenty of plant foods including those with prebiotic fibre to feed your gut bacteria as we certainly know doing that can only be good for your skin!
Probiotics and mental health
Ever heard of the brain gut axis? Well when you eat to feed your good gut bacteria you are helping yourself feel better both physically and mentally.
There is strong evidence that suggests the gut microbiome plays an important role in the bidirectional relationship between the central nervous system that goes to the brain and the gut (i.e. the pathway that goes back and forth between them- they ‘talk to each other’).
This means it is interacting with the parts of the brain associated with stress response, anxiety and memory function. Many of these effects appear to be probiotic strain-specific, suggesting a potential role of certain probiotic strains as a complementary strategy for neurologic disorders. More research needed here- watch this space and always speak to a health professional qualified in the area, but eating foods containing probiotics and feeding the good gut bacteria you have is something you can do for your own mental health.
Probiotics and weight
A few studies have also displayed correlation between probiotics and weight loss or management, mainly animal studies with more human studies needed. People who have a healthy and diverse gut microbiota may carry less body fat. Some research showed that people who introduced more probiotics and prebiotics into their diets either started to lose weight or stabilise it. More research is again needed however eating plenty of plant foods is a good place to start.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s)
Reoccurring urinary tract infections can be an ongoing issue for some women. Urinary tract infections are one of the most common bacterial infections. The bacteria move from the rectum to the vagina. The vagina microflora is mostly Lactobacillus species. Increasing the number of Lactobacillus bacteria may offer health benefits particularly after anti-biotic treatment for the urinary tract infection. Again more research is needed here.
How can you include probiotics into your diet?
Probiotic and good gut bacteria are found in fermented dairy products like yogurt, Filmjolk (probiotic milks) as well as fermented foods such as kimchi, kombucha, miso and sauerkraut. You can also find beneficial bacteria (not necessarily with a known probiotic effect) in other foods such as sour dough breads, cheeses and tempeh.
You can enjoy these foods in many different ways. A couple of my favourites:
- Enjoy probiotic yoghurt Filmjolk with cereal, muesli or porridge with delicious berries or chopped bananas blend these ingredients into a smoothie
- You could and try a glass of one of Rokeby Farms Probiotic yogurt Filmjolk drinks. It is full of gut loving probiotics, calcium, protein and most importantly the different varieties taste great!
- Sauerkraut and kimchi in salads, poke bowls, and on the side with fritters