Pot of yogurt full of good bacteria

Good bacteria – if they’re happy, then you’re happy!

Why it’s time to listen to your gut feeling

We’re still waking up to just how important the relationship between bacterial cultures and our brain is, but the early signs provide food for thought. The fact that the brain and tummy are linked isn't surprising.

Digestive problems have long been thought to be a common symptom of stress – but we’re now learning that this connection is more of a two-way relationship, with the two actually “talking” to each other.

And the role of bacterial cultures (which you may have heard called “probiotics”), could be about to shake up what we’d previously understood about the link between our physical body and mental health.

Where have all the probiotics gone?

Since a change in EU rules on nutrition and health claims linked to foods, products that call themselves probiotics can’t be sold in Europe, as the term “probiotic” is considered an unauthorised health claim. The commission believes the term probiotic suggests it has a health benefit, which could be misleading to consumers, unless it can be proven scientifically.

Despite many applications regarding probiotics being submitted to the European Food Safety Authority, there have been no health claims approved for probiotics (although there are many people who say they do feel benefits from taking probiotics).

As a result, consumers are faced with labelling using the Latin term for a particular strain of bacteria, which is not easily understood when looking for probiotics and often creating confusion. We’ll stick with “good bacteria” for now!

Less stress

Some studies have found that good bacteria may influence our moods. A trial gave placebos and probiotics to a group of 22 healthy men, and the perceived daily stress and cortisol stress hormone levels were found to be lower in the men who took the probiotics.

Boost your fibre

Soluble fibre, found in oatmeal, lentils, beans, and fruit, ferments in the colon and feeds the bacteria that live there.

Keep your weight down

Being overweight damages gut diversity – one more reason to shift those pounds. Research on a group of around 300 Danes revealed that overweight people had fewer types of gut bacteria in their digestive tract. This in turn led to further weight gain, and they were also found to be more likely to experience mild inflammation in the digestive tract and body, which is thought to be linked to an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Get plenty of sleep

A healthy sleep cycle helps the body make hormones melatonin and prolactin, which may balance good bacteria and aid digestion.

Eat lots of fermented foods

Foods like yoghurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut and are packed with healthy bacteria – just make sure they contain live cultures. If you don’t like the taste of fermented foods, there plenty of supplements that are good sources of gut bacteria – be sure to check they are stored in the correct way to keep the bacteria alive – usually in the fridge.

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