There are over 400 species of bacteria living in our digestive tracts. Most of these are ‘friendly’ bacteria that have a mutually beneficial relationship with
us, their hosts. However, the gut is also home to some pathogenic (diseasecausing) bacteria which, given the right conditions, can proliferate causing the
delicate environment of the gut to be disrupted. The results can be digestive disturbances such as bloating, flatulence, constipation and diarrhoea. Friendly
bacteria feed on fibre and in doing so, produce various organic acids that can alter the acidity level of the intestines, therefore controlling the spread of
pathogenic bacteria. They also manufacture certain vitamins and aid the digestion of our food e.g. Lactose in milk products. It is therefore very
important to ensure that the balance of intestinal bacteria is in favour of the ‘friendly’ strains, which can be achieved by eating an appropriate diet
(high fibre and low sugar) and supplementing with probiotics.
Probiotic products are usually combinations that include Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis. These two strains are
found to dominate in different areas of the digestive tract and tolerate different conditions, but both are very important for its health and function.
Such intestinal bacteria are easily destroyed by antibiotics and certain types of medication so supplementation allows us the opportunity to maintain
good levels of ‘friendly’ bacteria and, therefore, good health. Probiotics can be taken during and after antibiotic treatment to aid recovery.