Have you ever wondered about the ‘gut’, which may be more than a collection of cells? It is smarter than you know and plays a significant role in absorbing essential nutrients that provide energy to your body. The microbes in our gut are more than the number of people on this planet. About 70 per cent of the body’s immunity is found there.
Our immune system is central to all aspects of health. When it works well, we fight all infections and when it doesn’t, it ensures that we are at the risk of developing all kinds of diseases. Not only that, the gut is often called the second brain because it is loaded with neurotransmitters. In fact, more serotonin (happy hormone) is produced in the gut than anywhere else in the body. The gut can actually communicate with the brain and therefore gut bacteria are crucial in determining your mood and anxiety.
Nurturing our gut bacteria so that they are more beneficial than harmful is one of the most important choices that we can make for our health. Thus, consuming probiotics or beneficial bacteria that restore better digestive health and help the immune function in a more balanced manner is essential.
There is growing evidence that probiotic bacteria can help reduce our chance of catching certain infections, and also help us recover from them faster. People who consume probiotics are better able to fight off flu, cold and diarrhoeal illness.
Researchers in Washington DC who were studying children found that probiotic consumption resulted in lower rates of gastrointestinal infections and also fewer upper respiratory tract infections. Other trials have found fewer acute respiratory tract infections and less antibiotic consumption among probiotic consumers of all ages.
Dr Mary Ellen Sanders, who serves as the executive director of the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), agrees that there is a compelling data to support the use of probiotics for a number of conditions like antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, diarrhoeal illness and even common cold.
But not all consumers understand probiotics. Some products labelled probiotic do not contain strains shown to be effective nor deliver adequate levels.
The catch is that all probiotics are not the same and therefore every probiotic should be scientifically validated for its health benefits. So, when you pick your next probiotic, remember that the ‘gut’ is more than just a ‘gut feeling’.
The writer is General Manager—Science and Regulatory Affairs, Yakult Danone India Pvt Ltd