Probiotics supporting healthy digestive and immune function

Probiotics are live micro-organisms which are considered beneficial and are often referred to as ‘friendly’ bacteria or ‘microflora’. They are naturally present throughout the length of the digestive tract and the urogenital area.We pick-up many beneficial bacteria at birth, and over the first 6 months of our life beneficial bacteria populate the body. There are over 300 trillion bacteria present within a healthy gastro-intestinal tract. Maintaining a balance between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria is important in supporting healthy digestive and immune function.

Probiotics are naturally found in fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, aryan sauerkraut and kim chi.

Why should I take probiotics?
Certain factors such as dietary, lifestyle and medications can upset the balance between our ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria. Supplementing with probiotics can assist in re-establishing this natural order. These friendly bacteria have various functions within the body.

They have an immune function; protecting the gut and the rest of the body from bacteria, fungi and parasites. They also help to regulate inflammation, support carbohydrate and fat digestion, detoxify waste products and synthesize the B vitamins and vitamin K. Supporting digestive health can have far reaching health-promoting effects on to the rest of the body.

There is a variety of reasons why people take probiotics and these include
• To maintain a healthy digestive function
• For treatment of diarrhoea due to antibiotic use or traveller’s diarrhoea
• For Irritable bowel syndrome (reduce pain, gas, assist in normalising bowel function)
• To manage yeast infections (thrush, mastitis)
• To manage urinary tract infections
• For Inflammatory bowel diseases (ulcerative colitis, crohns disease)
• To strengthen and support immune function
• To manage allergies and food intolerances  
• For a healthy pregnancy and new born
• For the treatment of leaky gut syndrome

Are all the Probiotic supplements the same?
There are over 300 species of live bacteria residing in the human digestive tract, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Probiotic supplements contain different combinations and numbers of strains and there are specific benefits associated with taking specific strains. Let’s investigate the health benefits of key probiotic strains.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus
Populates most of the digestive tract from the mouth, through to the small intestines, colon and within the vaginal area. This strain plays a central role in regulating immune function and is effective in preventing gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections in children, and yeast infections (1). It is the most effective strain to prevent diarrhoea associated with antibiotic use (2). A large NZ trial has shown that when pregnant women take a 6 billion daily dose from the third trimester, through 6 months while breastfeeding and then the Baby receives this probiotic in powder form from 6 to 24 months, that the child is 44% less likely to develop eczema. The strain has also been shown to improve symptoms of eczema such as dry skin and itching in children that have already developed the condition.

Lactobacillus plantarum
Populates the colon and has key benefits for the symptomatic relief of IBS and helps to prevent a leaky gut (3).

Bifidobacterium lactis
Populates the colon and vaginal area. Its key role is in building immunity against viruses and it is also useful in treating diarrhoea after antibiotic use (4).

Lactobacillus reutri

Inhabits the mouth, small intestine and urogenital area. It provides protection against urogenital and yeast infections (thrush).  It is naturally found in breast milk and reduces the of occurrence colic in infants (5).

Saccromyces cerevisiae (boulardii)
Is a specialty probiotic that is actually a yeast, which may be useful in providing symptomatic relief of irritable bowel syndrome and assisting with traveller’s diarrhoea (6, 7).

Why do some supplements need to be refrigerated?
Traditionally most probiotics are created by drying the live bacteria at low heat over a long period of time. Probiotics that are manufactured through this ‘drum/spray drying’ are more heat sensitive and therefore require refrigeration to prevent them from returning to life before we ingest them.

However, the alternative option is freeze dried probiotics which are created through rapidly drying the bacteria to -70 degrees and then slowly returned to 5 degrees.  This process is repeated over and over resulting in a super dried bacteria powder that is 3 times drier than ‘drum/spray dried’ bacteria and so are therefore in a deeper state of dormancy and have better stability in higher temperatures.Packaging non-refrigerated probiotics with an aluminium induction seal and in glass jars maintains there shelf-life through preventing moisture from accessing the probiotic bacteria.Although the research shows that there is no difference between the usefulness of probiotics that both require and do not requiring refrigeration some people are making the switch to non-refrigerated options out of personal convenience.

A note on Prebiotics
Prebiotics and probiotics are different but are both important in maintaining the health of the digestive tract. A prebiotic is a non-digestible carbohydrate fibre that acts as a food source for live probiotic organisms, stimulating their growth and also helping them to adhere to the digestive tract wall.  Most prebiotics are glucose or fructose based.  A few natural sources of prebiotics are onions, asparagus and banana. Probiotic supplements have been shown to be more effective when combined with prebiotic ingredients such as Litesse.

• Eat foods naturally containing probiotics (yoghurt, kefir, aryan sauerkraut, and kim chi)
• Help the ‘good’ bugs to grow by eating prebiotics.

Also consider supplementing your diet with a good quality probiotic. Healthy Essentials offer a wide selection of non-refrigerated freeze dried probiotic supplements for the whole family including Healthy Essentials Broad Spectrum Probiotic 10, Pregnancy Probiotic, Baby Probiotic, Children’s Probiotic, Dairy Free Probiotic and Saccharomyces Probiotic. These formulations provide a broad range of beneficial strains in a low allergen formula with the inclusion of the fructose free prebiotic Litesse.

1. Hojsak, I, Snovak N, Abdović S, Szajewska H, Mišak Z; Kolaček S. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections in children who attend day care centers: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin. Nutr.  2009; 29(3): 312–6.

2. Goldenberg JZ, Ma SSY, Saxton JD, Martzen MR, Vandvik PO, Thorlund K, Guyatt GH, Johnston BC. Probiotics for the prevention of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhoea in adults and children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2013; 5. Art. No.: CD006095. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006095.pub3.

3. Niedzielin K, Kordecki H, Birkenfeld B  (2001). A controlled, double-blind, randomized study on the efficacy of Lactobacillus plantarum 299V in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2001; 10:1143-7.

4. Correa NB, Peret Filho LA., Penna, FJ, Lima FML. & Nicolini, JR.  (2005). A Randomized Formula Controlled Trial of Bifidobacterium lactis and Streptococcus thermophilus for Prevention of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea in Infants. J of Clin Gastroenterlogy. 2005; 9(5): 385-389.

5. Abad, C.L, Safdar, N. The Role of Lactobacillus Probiotics in the Treatment or Prevention of Urogenital Infections - A Systematic Review. J of Chemotherapy. 2009; 21(3):243-252. DOI:

6.    McFarland LV. Meta-analysis of probiotics for the prevention of traveler`s diarrhea. Travel Med Infect Dis.  2007; 5 (2): 97–105. doi:10.1016/j.tmaid.2005.10.003.PMID 17298915.

7.    Maupas J, Champemont P, Delforge M. Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with Saccharomyces boulardii: a double blind, placebo controlled study. Medicine Chirurgie Digestives. 1983; 12(1): 77-9

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