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  ANNABEL MACKENZIE

                                                          DIETITIAN AND NUTRITION CONSULTANT

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Gut Bacteria

Dysbiosis is a word that keeps popping up in the media and is often associated with the words probiotics and prebiotics.  So what's the deal?

Research is rapidly building in demonstrating how important the natural gut bacteria are in maintaining general health and wellbeing. There are approximately 3,8x1013 bacteria that live in our gut, where there are over 1000 different species.  Each species plays a different role, which is a beneficial role.  If pathogens (the bad gut bacteria, viruses or fungi) enter this system in the gut, they can wipe out some colonies and change the whole gut environment, making it difficult for some beneficial bacteria to grow and function in the team. Think of these bacteria as a sports team or an orchestra, if you just have one member in the team, it cannot function efficiently, yet together they are highly productive - a symphony!

      Dysbiosis is simply an imbalance of gut microbes, which in turn causes a disruption to the

functionality of the gut, which in turn has a knock on effect to our health and wellbeing.

So, why all the fuss.  With our rapidly changing environment, we have greater demands on our mental health, foods are becoming more processed to cater for convenience (ie low fibre, high sugar, high fat and greater use of preservatives) and the availability and use of antibiotics is increasing.  Other associations such as alcohol misuse, reduced exercise, chemical dependency and living within a sterilised environment that are also thought to be contributors to our changing gut microflora and hence creating this dybiosis.

Probiotics are made up of beneficial bacteria known to colonise the gut.  They are being used in probiotic supplements to replace these destroyed or altered colonies, however they are also available as naturally occurring in fermented foods such yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha.  As previously stated, there are over 1000 different species known to exist in the gut, but some of these products provide only 2-4 different species each, hence the need for variety in the diet to obtain that varied exposure to different bacteria.

When selecting a probiotic the same applies, look for probiotics that have at least 10 or more different species in them. This will include those names such as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacter, Sacchromyces and Bacteroides species. 

 

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