Writer Allison Tannis answers our questions
1. Are probiotic supplements also useful when there are no known problems with one’s gut?
Friendly microbes called probiotics play a key role in our digestive health. Many of the healthy foods we eat need to probiotics to turn key nutrients into ones our body craves. Just consider those leafy greens we know are super healthy for us – they contain vitamin K1 which little probiotics can convert into vitamin K2 the version of this important vitamin our bones need to be strong and healthy! The same is true for lignans found in flax seeds – probiotics are super helpful in ensuring we get the most out of the good foods we eat.
2. What is more important: microbiome diversity or microbiotal quantity (the number of “beneficial” bacteria in the gut?)
There are no studies that directly compare the two. However, we know that there is strong evidence suggesting a diversity of helpful microbes in the body offers a wider array of health benefits.
3. Does contact with others increase your bacterial diversity? Is this beneficial or even necessary?
If you want health benefits such as those seen in scientific studies from a probiotic, you need to take a supplement just as they do in the studies.
4. Which bacterial strains would you recommend every probiotics consumer to definitely consume?
Each person has a microbiome that is unique – just like how we all have unique fingerprints. Therefore, it’s impossible to tell ONE strain we should all take. There are so many probiotic strains – if you hear of one that has caused a health benefit in a study that you also desire, that may be a strain worth looking into.
5. Which bacterial strains show promise?
By definition all probiotics are helpful to the human body. As such, they all show promise. It depends on what health goal you are seeking. It’s very important to understand that each strain of probiotic has a unique set of health benefits. And, that probiotic research is still in it’s infancy – there is still so much to discover about them.
6. Do probiotics also contribute to the health to parts of the body except the guts?
To date, research shows the microbiome plays a role in the mouth, stomach, intestinal tract, vaginal tract and urinary tract. However the intestinal tract interacts with the GALT (immune system) and is where a large portion of the body’s serotonin is produced (effects mood). Some studies show the microbiome also plays a role in skin health.
7. Which common diseases can be treated or alleviated with probiotics?
Most health organizations have avoided the use of the words treated as research is still needed. As for alleviated symptoms, many probiotics are linked with lower rates of bloating and intestinal discomfort (L. acidophilus NCFM, B. lactis Bi-07 just to name a few).
8. Can mental health problems be alleviated with probiotics?
No, however early research suggests the microbiome does influence mood, cortisol (stress) levels as well as anxiety.
9. Do you think doctors should prescribe more probiotics in your country?
Probiotics are particularly well supported to help rebuild the microbiome when antibiotics are being used. It would be great for more studies in clinical settings to focus on this so the medical community could prescribe with confidence.
10. Do probiotics help with congestion? And if so, how?
There are some probiotic strains that help with upper respiratory tract infections (B. animalis subsp. lactis BI-04)