The Probiotics Revolution
Insights from a GP
Written by Dr Tim Lebens for Doctify
When it comes to the human body, it can be hard to the wood for the trees. We focus too heavily on one organ, one cellular structure or a single biochemical reaction. Things tend to be more complex. We see this in the relationship between mind and body, hormonal molecular reactions, and the interaction between our bodies and the organisms living within us.
This leads us to probiotics, the healthy or ‘good’ bacteria which can help to balance the body’s natural gut bacteria. It is incredible that we have more bacteria in our gut than we have cells in our body. There has been a swell of research in this area over the past decade, providing some very interesting ideas. The theory is that the ‘healthy’ probiotic bacteria can kill or restrict the growth of harmful bacteria. Probiotics are also thought to interact with food metabolism and associated chemical interactions.
Researchers have gone as far as transplanting foetal faecal matter into a foreign gut to change the way the body absorbs and metabolises ingested food. Only preliminary results are available, but there are many ways the medical community has started to harness the benefits of probiotics. In the hospital setting, high dose probiotics are given to reduce the risks of infective diarrhoea after heavy antibiotic use in the elderly and children, and to good effect. Some studies (despite having limitations) have shown regular probiotics may improve immunity by reducing upper respiratory tract infections. Other research has suggested that probiotics could help reduce a child’s risk of developing asthma, eczema and hay fever, although this evidence is relatively weak. For irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sufferers, a four week trial of probiotics is recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE). I have personally had great success with trying this in combination with FODMAP diets for my patients with IBS, an all-too common condition. However, it is important to use the right probiotic: ideally one that will give you at least 1 billion bacteria per day and a recognised brand backed by scientific research. Probiotics are generally safe and therefore are officially considered a food rather than a medicine. For this reason, they may not be as highly regulated, so it does mean you will need to do your research to find the right formula.
The influence of gut health on the body has generated a lot of interest in recent years and I am certain we will be hearing more. There is a great deal of interesting research coming from London’s King’s College, where they have an international reputation for their impact on advances in nutritional health. I am sure there will be more evidence in due course… so watch this space.
More questions regarding Probiotics? Make an appointment with Dr Lebens, a Private GP specializing in General Medicine, Chronic Disease Management, Health Screening, Pediatrics, Sexual Health and the latest advances in medicine!