Did you know that for every 1 human cell in your body, there are 10 (or more) bacteria living in there too? Gross right?!?
Well, it’s not all that bad to be honest, because a large proportion of the trillions of bacteria that live on and in our bodies are ‘friendly’. Not ‘friendly’ as in they’ll give you a high five or cheer you up when you’re down, but ‘friendly’ as in they are beneficial to your body. They’re also known as ‘probiotics’ or ‘good bacteria’ and have been found to be essential for good health. We’re all born with a certain amount, but our levels can diminish over time so it’s useful to keep yourself topped up through diet and supplements.
There’s a whole population of friendly and unfriendly bacteria that live in balance in our gut called our ‘gut microbiome’. But when the balance is disturbed and there are too many unfriendly and not enough friendly bacteria, we call this ‘Dysbiosis’ and it can happen in many ways in modern life.
Broad spectrum antibiotics, for example, taken to kill off a bacterial overgrowth, won’t just attack harmful bacteria, but wipe out large numbers of our friendly ones too. A diet high in sugar and unhealthy fat can affect our probiotic colony head count, as well as not giving the good guys enough food to eat and thrive.
Prebiotics, which you may have heard more people talking about these days, are the fibres found in foods like onions, bananas, apples, oats, artichokes and seaweed, that our bodies consider waste, but provide a great food source to feed our good bacteria and keep them healthy, growing and multiplying.
Optimal good bacteria levels can help our bodies digest food more efficiently, fight off bad bacteria, reduce inflammation and more, and here are 5 ways they can help issues women face:
- Bloating – Hormone imbalances around our periods and menopause can cause many women to experience bloating, sometimes accompanied by discomfort and pain. Several studies have found that probiotics are very useful in reducing the gas, constipation, bloating and stomach pains that occurs around the beginning of a women’s cycle, during menopause and also for those who suffer with IBS.
2. Urinary Tract Infections – Also known as UTIs, these irritating infections are characterised by the need to pee frequently and a burning sensation while urinating. Normally our vagina is naturally slightly acidic which helps prevent the growth of dangerous bacteria or yeasts. But if something throws off our pH levels, bacteria (like E.Coli) can form, which triggers a UTI. However taking probiotics can help to balance the pH and introduce the friendly bacteria to help fight the infection.
3. Obesity – Probiotics have been found to have an impact on weight management by helping the release of appetite reducing hormones, which can also help your body burn calories and fat. They can also increase levels of fat regulating hormones, which may lead to decreased fat storage.
People who are obese have also been found to have fewer varieties of good bacteria in their gut compared to people with moderate weight, so eating several types of probiotic foods and taking supplements with several strains of bacteria is advisable.
4. Period Health – Probiotics have been found to not only help balance hormones during your cycle, therefore helping to reduce symptoms of PMS, but taking regular probiotics has been linked to balancing mood swings (including reducing feelings of depression and anxiety), reducing diarrhoea during periods and reducing cravings.
5. Skin health – There’s been clear links made with gut health and skin health for decades, so when the gut is unbalanced, it can show up as skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and acne. A common holistic treatment option for people with these challenges is to take a 3-6mth course of probiotics, which often results in experience a significant reduction in their symptoms. Skin conditions that have bacterial overgrowth at their root will be more prevalent in those who have lower levels of friendly bacteria available to fight off the unfriendly ones, so again, topping up your levels is key.
Here are just 3 of the many ways to add probitoics to your diet:
High quality capsules like Optibac are a convenient way to take probiotics in powder form, either by swallowing or opening capsules to sprinkle over cold food
Food sources of probiotics can be a cost effective way to boost your levels. Try homemade sauerkraut, live plant based yoghurt, kombucha & vegan kefir.
I hope you found this useful and to find out more about your gut health, book an appointment in The Naturally You Clinic for a Live Blood Analysis Appointment here.
Take care and stay healthy
The Naturally You Coach
About the Author: Leah Salmon, The Naturally You Coach, is a bestselling author, speaker, nutritionist, live blood analyst and life coach, focused on womb & pregnancy health and premature birth prevention & on a mission to help black women to eat for health, think for happiness and live in harmony or what she calls Becoming Naturally You. She does this through her clinic, books, programs, coaching, events, workshops, videos, articles and a free weekly ezine.