Does the summer heat make you more prone to bloating, allergies and low mood? Here’s why topping up on probiotics can help alleviate symptoms
You’ve been looking forward to the hot weather for months, but now it’s here, you just feel bloated and sluggish.
It may be that your digestive system is not working as well as it should be, but the most common cause of bloating is an imbalance of bacteria (dysbiosis) in the gut.
rebalancing the beneficial bacteria through diet and probiotic supplements may help to improve physical and mental health
We’ve known for some time that having a decent number of healthy bacteria in your gut is important for great digestion and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the health benefits of these bugs extend even further, with the latest research linking probiotics to a raft of additional health benefits – from better sleep to clearer skin and a lower risk of depression.
Latest research suggests that rebalancing the beneficial bacteria through diet and probiotic supplements may help to improve physical and mental health.
Here we look at different ways probiotics may help you to…
#1 You’ll lose weight more easily
Research shows eating probiotic foods that contain gut friendly bacteria can help with weight loss. In a recent meta-analysis (Nutrients 2021), it was found that people who were overweight or obese had a lower microbial diversity than those who were a normal weight. As well as improving digestion and reducing inflammation, beneficial bacteria also promote the release of the appetite suppressing hormone, leptin.
Lack of good bacteria can also cause blood sugar imbalances which make it more difficult to lose weight. The bacteria strains most specifically associated with weight loss included lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
Other beneficial strains were L.rhamnosus, L.plantarum and L.curvatus. In an earlier review (Obesity, 2017) it was shown that probiotics can also help to reduce body fat percentage.
READ MORE: 5 ways your mind is sabotaging your weight loss
#2 Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) will improve
If you suffer from IBS, the painful stomach cramps and alternating constipation and diarrhoea can be seriously debilitating, but studies show probiotics can help.
‘In a 2017 a Colombian study found that taking probiotic supplements for six weeks were effective in reducing abdominal pain, diarrhoea and constipation,’ says GP and nutrition expert Dr Sarah Brewer.
‘While a 2022 study found that probiotics could improve both symptoms and quality of life for IBS sufferers’.
This is probably because these ‘good bacteria’ can help to crowd out and reduce numbers of the gas-producing enterobacteria we know can trigger IBS symptoms she explains.
a 2022 study found that probiotics could improve both symptoms and quality of life for IBS sufferers
Look for a product containing strains that studies have found help with IBS, which include: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus paracasei, Bifidobacterium lactis and Bifidobacterium bifidus.
Try: Healthspan Super20 Pro, £10.95 which contains all four live bacterias.
#3 They help tackle traveller’s tummy
‘Most of our immune system is located in the gut and when on holiday we change our diet which has a knock-on effect on both our digestion and immunity,’ says Professor Glenn Gibson, head of microbiology at Reading University.
A common result of this can be a greater susceptibility to tummy bugs – especially when our bodies are faced with an onslaught of foreign bugs in a new country.
‘Taking probiotics for five days days before and then during trips abroad can prevent this,’ says Professor Gibson.
Indeed a 2007 analysis of 12 studies found 85 percent of cases of traveller’s diarrhoea were prevented by taking probiotics in this way.
Studies show the Saccharomyces boulardii probiotic yeast is particularly effective for traveller’s tummy diarrhoea.
Try: Viridian’s Travel Biotic, £28.70, also available in health food stores.
READ MORE: Stomach problems? 3 common tummy troubles and how to treat them
#4 You’ll sleep better
Hot summer weather is a well-known insomnia trigger, but did you know that good gut health could have the opposite effect and help improve sleep quality?
According to new research from health drinks company Yakult, some 40 percent of people aren’t aware there could be a link between our gut health and sleep.
In fact, a healthy gut will produce melatonin – known as the sleep hormone which regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Yet at this time of year many of us indulge in less than gut-friendly eating and drinking habits, often gorging on barbecued red meats washed down with alcohol.
‘Practical steps to promote sleep include eating a healthy diet rich in wholegrains, vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins,’ says Nutritionist Rob Hobson who is also the author of The Art of Sleeping.
at this time of year many of us indulge in less than gut-friendly eating and drinking habits
‘These can help to support good gut health and ensure you are getting enough of the nutrients associated with sleep, such as magnesium, zinc, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, which are involved in the production and regulation of the sleep hormone called melatonin’.
Try: Yakult, found in all major supermarkets – containing 20 billion L. casei Shirota, a strain of friendly bacteria that research has proven reaches the gut alive.
#5 They will help boost your mood
If your gut is not working properly, this will affect your mood.
‘The gut is also known as the second brain,’ says Professor Glenn Gibson, professor of Food Microbiology at Reading University.
‘Chemical messages are constantly being transmitted between the ENS (enteric nervous system) and the brain. The ENS is embedded in the lining of the gut and controls digestion.
‘The gut and the brain produce many of the same neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acic (GABA), all of which are involved in regulating mood. This communication works both ways. If you have problems with your gut, this will affect you mentally’.
In a recent review of seven studies (BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health, 2019) it was shown that consuming probiotic and prebiotic foods for gut healthy significantly reduced depression and anxiety.
READ MORE: Hay fever symptoms? 8 things you need to know about allergy season
#6 Reduces allergy symptoms
Allergic rhinitis is an inflammation of the inside of the nose caused by an allergen, such as pollen, dust, mould, or animal dander. It affects around one in five people in the UK.
It also falls under the hayfever umbrella (seasonal allergic rhinitis). Typical symptoms include sneezing, itchiness and a blocked or runny nose.
Research shows unhealthy gut bacteria can trigger or make allergic symptoms worse and taking probiotic supplements may help. In a recent Australian study (Frontiers in Nutrition, 2022) participants took a daily probiotic sachet (lactobacillus reuteri, lactobacillus plantarum, lactobacillus rhamnosus and bifidobacterium lactis).
Research shows unhealthy gut bacteria can trigger or make allergic symptoms worse
After 10 to 12 weeks there was a significant reduction in symptoms such as a runny nose and itchy eyes, improved quality of life, better sleep, less tiredness and irritability, compared with the placebo group.
While there’s currently no specific allergy probiotic that has been identified, a recent study and others found a blend of the following bacteria can help : lactobacillus reuteri, lactobacillus plantarum, lactobacillus rhamnosus and bifidobacterium lactis.
#7 Easier to tackle thrush and cystitis
Humid temperatures can mean an increase in thrush in the summer months, while the increased dehydration risk and not drinking enough water in the heat can be cystitis triggers. Again probiotics could help.
Urinary tract infections are linked with bowel bacteria that find their way into the bladder, so by inhibiting these ‘bad’ bacteria, probiotics have been found to help women experiencing recurrent urinary infections.
Urinary tract infections are linked with bowel bacteria that find their way into the bladder
In a similar way, increasing the good bacteria naturally found in the gut is believed to inhibit the growth of yeasts responsible for vaginal Candida infections (thrush).
Probiotics containing various lactobacillus strains were found to be most effective against thrush and cystitis, but several studies have also shown than eating live yogurt may help as well, especially when it comes to prevention.
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