Increase your probiotic intake
Probiotics are bacteria that we can consume to add to the existing populations that naturally live in our bowel.
There is around 1.4kg of bacteria in the human gut; 10 times more bacteria than human cells in our bodies and between 500 – 1,000 different species!
We can benefit from topping up these levels of bacteria, particularly if we have had a bout of food poisoning or gastroenteritis, suffered from travellers diarrhoea or have been on a course of antibiotics (that wipe out both the bad and good bacteria). Basically a probiotic is the opposite of an antibiotic.
There is growing evidence that a regular intake of probiotics may increase the levels of good bacteria and positively influence our digestive health. We can buy a good quality probiotic supplement (in the form of capsules that are designed to survive the acid of the stomach and therefore reach the bowel) from chemists or decent health food shops (my probiotics contain ~10billion bacteria per gram!) or we can just try to eat more probiotic containing foods like live yoghurt and some yoghurt drinks (e.g. Yakult, Danone Actimel or Muller Vitality), just watch the sugar content of some of these though.
Bifidobacteria are one of the good guys; ideally we want them to be present in the greatest numbers to keep our gut happy . These bacteria are a type of lactic acid bacteria – the most common bacterial probiotic strain that are used in the manufacture of yoghurt and are frequently incorporated into probiotic supplements. The theory is that taking Bifidobacterium probiotics during antibiotic treatment can minimize the death of good bacteria , thereby helping to prevent the take-over by bad bacteria. So look for a probiotic with a good amount of bifidobacteria if you can.
Some foods however are naturally rich in probiotics; especially fermented foods:
Recent research has shown the good bacteria in the gut may break down (ferment) the cocoa in the chocolate (the better the quality of chocolate, the more cocoa), producing an anti-inflammatory effect. In turn this could improve cardiovascular health by reducing the incidence of stroke and heart attacks. Some claims have been made that dark chocolate could even reduce cancer risk but a lot more work needs to be done to prove or disprove that theory.
Having said this, chocolate can exacerbate IBS symptoms through triggering the release of serotonin (the feel good hormone that makes us fall in love with chocolate) which can cause diarrhoea in some individuals. So as with increasing your fibre intake (see Tip No.1), if you decide to increase your probiotic intake, do it gradually to allow your body to adjust gently.
Tip 3 follows tomorrow…………… 🙂