Balancing Both Good & Bad Bacteria for Gut Health

Probiotics for Gut Health Good Health Starts in the Gut

Did you know that the bacteria in your gut – your microbiome – can weigh as much as your brain? Your microbiome could even be considered an organ in its own right, and plays an important role in your health and happiness.

From immune function to brain activity, nutrient synthesis to elimination of toxins, the bacterial balance in your gut affects almost all aspects of your health. That’s why it’s essential to maintain a diverse microbiome for good all-round health, and to keep those bad bacteria at bay.

Unfavourable Gut Bacteria

There are more bacteria in the intestines than there are cells in the body. In fact, on the basis of cell numbers alone, we are 10% human and 90% bacteria!

Every person’s gut flora is unique, but most of us have at least 700 species of bacteria living in our intestines at any one time. Around 85% of normal gut flora is made up of beneficial bacteria, i.e., species we want to have around because they perform useful actions like synthesizing vitamins or breaking down our food to release energy. The other 15%, however, is made up of potentially pathogenic unfavourable bacteria, i.e., those that can cause disease if they get out of hand.

When this 85:15 ratio is maintained, we call that a state of eubiosis. When the unfavourable bacteria increase in number, this can cause dysbiosis, which can have unpleasant effects on health. The shifting balance of gut bacteria can have a major impact on immune system health, for example, as well as affecting hormone balance, inflammation, and even cognitive function.

Signs of an Unhappy Gut

When your microbiome is upset by stress, antibiotic use, illness, infection, or a diet high in refined sugar, tummy troubles can quickly put a cramp in your style. An imbalance in gut bacteria has been associated with a wide variety of digestive issues and other problems, including:

  • Indigestion
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Allergies
  • Frequent antibiotic use

If you’re struggling with any of the symptoms above, you’ll want to know how to get rid of bad bacteria in the gut. One way to replenish and restore a healthy microbiome is to increase your intake of prebiotic and probiotic foods.

Gut-Friendly Foods (Prebiotic and Probiotic Foods)

Prebiotic foods, including fresh fruit, vegetables, and legumes, are a great way to support your intestinal microflora. These foods contain a type of fibre that we cannot digest, but that good bacteria love! Check out our blog on How to Maintain a Probiotic-Friendly Diet for more tips.

Many fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir are a source of probiotics and prebiotics, as is cultured yogurt. Many store-bought versions of fermented foods are pasteurized, however, and do not contain any live bacteria, so be sure to check the label or make your own fermented foods at home.

How Probiotics Support Good Health

Probiotic foods and supplements can help restore, replenish, and maintain a beneficial balance of bacteria in the gut. These good bacteria out compete bad bacteria and can help stop undesirable organisms sticking to the walls of the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts.

The two main types of probiotics in the human gut are lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, found predominantly in the small and large intestines, respectively. Every probiotic species and strain has a unique range of effects on our health.

Probiotics work together to:

  • Provide maximum support for acute digestive health needs [1,2]
  • Restore and maintain healthy, balanced intestinal flor [3]
  • Combat antibiotic-associated digestive diarrhea, discomfort, and yeast infections [4,5]
  • Support gastrointestinal integrity and reduce the production of pro-inflammatory substances [6]
  • Limit growth of putrefactive and pathogenic bacteria and help prevent traveller’s diarrhea [7]
  • Stimulate phagocytes, dendritic cells, and other immune system cells to destroy foreign organisms [8,9]
  • Support the gut-brain axis and a calm, relaxed state of mind [10]

A multi-strain formula, such as Natural Factors Critical Care Probiotic, helps maintain a healthy bacterial balance, while supporting digestive function and helping to keep tummy troubles at bay. If digestive upset does strike, a high-quality probiotic supplement can also help get you back on track by restoring intestinal balance.

Probiotic supplements, as in the example of, ReliefBiotic are specially formulated to meet specific needs associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), while others such as TravelBiotic are helpful in cases of acute dysbiosis, when experiencing traveller’s diarrhea. Taking tailored probiotic supplements can even help reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhea and traveller’s diarrhea. Meanwhile, CalmBiotic contains strains shown to support the gut-brain axis, helping to moderate feelings of anxiousness and promote a healthy mood balance.

Many health care practitioners now recommend regular consumption of probiotics to maintain healthy gut microflora, as well as the use of probiotics when taking antibiotics, to restore gastrointestinal health and support immune function.

The benefits of healthy gut flora extend far beyond the intestines, and are increasingly recognized as a key component of general health maintenance. Topping up your good bacteria can help keep your microbiome balanced, helping you maintain resilience against pathogenic organisms.

We really can’t overstate the importance of gut health. An upset microbiome is no small thing! If you have any concerns about gut health, consult your health care practitioner.

References:

[1] Del Piano M, Carmagnola S, Anderloni A, et al. The use of probiotics in healthy volunteers with evacuation disorders and hard stools: a double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled study. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2010; 44 Suppl 1:S30-4

[2] Wildt S, Nordgaard I, Hansen U, et al. A randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial with Lactobacillus acidophilus La-5 and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis BB-12 for maintenance of remission in ulcerative colitis. J Crohns Colitis. 2011; 5(2):115-21.

[3] Mangin I, Lévêque C, Magne F, et al. Long-term changes in human colonic Bifidobacterium populations induced by a 5-day oral amoxicillin-clavulanic acid treatment. PLoS One. 2012; 7(11):e50257.

[4] Goldenberg JZ, Yap C, Lytvyn L, et al. Probiotics for the prevention of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea in adults and children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017; 12:CD006095.

[5] Witsell DL, Garrett CG, Yarbrough WG, et al. Effect of Lactobacillus acidophilus on antibiotic-associated gastrointestinal morbidity: a prospective randomized trial. J Otolaryngol. 1995; 24(4), 230-3.

[6] Matsumoto M, Benno Y. Anti-inflammatory metabolite production in the gut from the consumption of probiotic yogurt containing Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis LKM512. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2016; 70(6):1287-92.

[7] Sikorska H, Smoragiewicz W. Role of probiotics in the prevention and treatment of meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2013; pii: S0924-8579(13)00293-8.

[8] Klein A, Friedrich U, Vogelsang H, et al. Lactobacillus acidophilus 74-2 and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis DGCC 420 modulate unspecific cellular immune response in healthy adults. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018; 62(5):584-93.

[9] You J, Dong H, Mann ER, et al. Probiotic modulation of dendritic cell function is influenced by ageing. Immunobiology. 2013; pii: S0171-2985(13)00162-9.

[10] Winek K, Dirnagl U, & Meisel A. The Gut Microbiome as Therapeutic Target in Central Nervous System Diseases: Implications for Stroke. Eurotherapeutics. 2016; 13(4):762-774.