Probiotics are a group of supplements that help in restoring the ‘good’ or ‘friendly’ bacteria to the GI tract. There are many different types of probiotic, but most are bacteria similar to those found naturally in our gut, and in the majority of cases from two main groups, lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Within these groups there are many different species. Some probiotics are yeasts which are different to the friendly bacteria.

Probiotics are available in some foods as well as dietary supplements. Some examples of food substances containing the microorganisms are, yoghurt, miso, soya products. Some foods contain them naturally whilst others have them added during production.

Friendly bacteria are vital for the functioning of the gut and digestion and absorption of food. They also provide protection against microorganisms that cause disease, and are vital in the development of the immune system.

As with most other things, it’s all about balance. The balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria is thrown off in many different ways, the most widely reported being the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics not only destroy the bad microorganisms but also the good, so it is vital for the restoration of health to repopulate this group.

Unfriendly bacteria, yeasts, parasites and fungi, and overgrowth of these organisms can alter the balance, requiring additional supplementation, whilst, equally importantly, addressing the cause of the initial overgrowth.

Other common causes of imbalance are, poor diet, (excess sugar, alcohol, refined foods), stress, some pharmaceutical medications and food intolerances.