Do you supplement?
I've been a fan of supplements in the past but last year after my milk thistle debacle I pulled back on any supplements I was taking. At one point I was taking 6 or 7 a day, but as I said after I was on a programme of milk thistle as recommended by Holland and Barratt and consequently poisoned myself on it (horrendous don't recommend it) I have stopped taking anything.
I stopped taking anything until I'd had two consecutive courses of antibiotics last summer and afterward my body was totally upended. I kept getting small skin infections and I didn't feel right at all. I went to my doctors who gave me steroid creams which had no effect. This was the point I started researching probiotics to repopulate all my good bacteria which had been wiped out by the antibiotics. I'd tried a few which had no noticeable effect and on a message board I saw one of the posters mentioning Bio Kult.
I bought it immediately and took 3 a day to give my system a boost, within 3 days the skin infections the steroid creams had done nothing for in two months had completely cleared up. That was pretty definitive for me and I've banged on and on about them to anyone who will listen. I definitely think if you're taking antibiotics you should be taking these too. I haven't been paid or sponsored to promote the brand, they're just really, really good. So good I got in touch with them and asked if they would do a Q&A with me about the probiotics. Below is an interview I did with their nutritional therapist Natalie all about the benefits for women of a probiotic. I hope you'll enjoy this and feel informed as well. I can't speak highly enough of them.
1. What can supplementing with a probiotic do for the body?
We all house trillions of different bacteria in our bodies. Beneficial bacteria play an essential role as our first line of defence, in supporting efficient digestive function and supporting immunity. More than 2000 years ago Hippocrates said that “all disease begins in the gut”. I feel this is still relevant today and believe too that means that optimal health throughout the whole body must also begin in the gut. A number of factors can compromise an optimal balance of beneficial bacteria throughout the body, including antibiotic therapy, infection, stress, travel or a period of unhealthy nutrition. Gut flora imbalances could also be indicated in numerous symptoms that may at first not be seen to be related to the gut such as fatigue, poor concentration, anxiety, low mood, headaches etc.
An effective solution is to supplement the microflora by taking a probiotic to restore the balance. Probiotics have been defined as ‘live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’. Traditionally we consumed fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and pickles on a daily basis. Now days we tend to use probiotic supplements offering a standardised dose in an easy to consume capsule.
2. How do we know what to look for in a probiotic?
A good probiotic supplement should be stable and able to guarantee the bacterial count until the end of the products shelf life, not just at the time of manufacture. Those products that are more stable do not generally need to be kept in the fridge. They should also be able to survive the harsh acidic environment of the stomach to reach the small intestine intact. If in doubt ask the company of any tests they have performed in this area. Products range in their dosage and strains (specific types of bacteria e.g. Lactobacillus acidophilus PXN 35). I believe a probiotic that contains a wider number of different strains, similar to how probiotics are provided for us in nature, are able to provide a wider range of benefits for a wider range of people.
3. Taking antibiotics is necessary at times but I know personally the effect they can have on the good bacteria in your body. Would you recommend Bio-Kult to people who are taking or have just taken antibiotics to get them back to normal again?
We recommend that Bio-Kult should be taken at the same time as antibiotics (although at least 2 hours apart) and continued for 2-4 weeks after at a dose of 4 capsules a day. Our reasoning is that the beneficial gut flora are likely to be damaged by antibiotics, altering the balance and thereby allowing further pathogenic bacteria to selectively overgrow. Studies have indicated that probiotics may prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhoea (AAD) via restoration of the gut microflora.
Johnston BC, Goldenberg JZ, Vandvik PO, Sun X, Guyatt GH. 2011. Probiotics for the prevention of pediatric antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Nov 9;(11):CD004827.
4. We get told a lot about what we should and shouldn't be taking. What are the essential supplements you think women should take?
It is imperative that our gastrointestinal system works effectively so that our body is able to digest and absorb the food we eat in order to gain the adequate fuel (nutrients) for every organ to function optimally. In women particularly the predominance of lactobacilli in the vagina is known to create an acidic environment that protects women from infection, and its absence is the specific feature in conditions such as bacterial vaginosis, Candida albicans and UTI’s. Hormonal variations can affect microflora balance in women throughout their lives. Oestrogen stimulates the proliferation of lactobacillus in the vagina. UTIs are particularly frequent in post-menopausal women when oestrogen levels fall. During pregnancy higher levels of the hormone progesterone, relaxes and slows down the peristaltic muscle movement in the intestines possibly contributing to constipation. Beneficial bacteria produce substances that lower the pH in the colon, enhancing peristalsis and subsequently decreasing colonic transit time. In women probiotics have been shown to significantly improve stool frequency. I would recommend taking a daily multi-strain probiotic supplement such as Bio-Kult.
5. There is a lot of research coming out at the moment about gut health, primarily changes in gut flora and its effect on mental health, they are seemingly very interconnected. Could probiotics have a wider use in the future to help with anxiety or depression as that research deepens?
We know that the brain sends signals to the gut, which is why stress and other emotions can contribute to gut symptoms. New research shows that the signals also travel the opposite way1. Many patients report that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut. This could be due to our ‘happy hormone’ serotonin being largely produced in the gut. In 2011 Messaoudi et al2 found a Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum significantly improved depression and anxiety. More recently a multi-strain probiotic was shown to lower levels of activity in the areas of the brain associated with emotion and pain while increasing activity in areas associated with decision making1. While scientists are looking at the potential future use of probiotics to treat conditions such as autism, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and depression, why not consider optimising a healthy gut flora from birth to prevent the onset of such conditions in the first place?
Natalie Lamb Dip NT mBANT– Protexin Probiotics
Natalie is a qualified Nutritional Therapist who studied a three year diploma in Nutritional Therapy at the College of Naturopathic Medicine (CNM) in London and is a fully registered member of The British Association of Nutritional Therapists (BANT). Natalie saw clients in a private clinic in London for 2 years before joining Probiotics International Ltd (Protexin), manufacturers of Bio-Kult and Lepicol ranges.
Natalie has a BA (Hons) in Business Studies and prior to working as a Nutritional Therapist she spent over 10 years working in food and health related industries, from market research analysis for UK food and drink manufacturers to food preparation and service within the hospitality industry. For 5 years Natalie worked for a UK cancer charity assisting with their awareness program and researching and preparing information articles for the public and health care professionals.
1. Tillisch K, Labus J, Kilpatrick L, Jiang Z, Stains J, Ebrat B, Guyonnet D, Legrain-Raspaud S, Trotin B, Naliboff B, Mayer EA. 2013. Consumption of fermented milk product with probiotic modulates brain activity. Gastroenterology. Jun;144(7):1394-1401.e4.
2. Messaoudi M, Lalonde R, Violle N, Javelot H, Desor D, Nejdi A, Bisson JF, Rougeot C, Pichelin M, Cazaubiel M, Cazaubiel JM. 2011. Assessment of psychotropic-like properties of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and human subjects. Br J Nutr. Mar;105(5):755-64.