The importance of gut health in a post-pandemic world

COVID-19 has alerted people to the importance of being healthy from the inside out, especially when it comes to supporting the immune system.

According to Angela Leach, the Head Dietitian for FUTURELIFE®, 70-80% of your immune cells are located in your gastrointestinal tract, which means that good health starts with a balanced and healthy gut.

“There are trillions of bacteria that live in our gastrointestinal tract, including beneficial probiotics and harmful bacteria. Several factors impact the balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria. Some of these include diet, genetics, antibiotic use, exposure from our environment (from highly sanitised to poorly sanitised), method of birth delivery (natural versus caesarean) and many more. The balance of these bacteria is of great importance for optimal gut health. Often, due to many factors, this balance between “good” and “bad” bacteria can become disrupted. Taking a probiotic supplement can assist in maintaining an optimal balance of good bacteria, protecting the integrity of your gastrointestinal tract and ultimately improve your immunity,” Angela says. 

Angela shares 5 health benefits of taking a daily probiotic:

  1. Promotes digestive health

If the bacteria in your gut is unbalanced, you can experience  abdominal cramps, nausea, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation and other frequent symptoms that can disrupt your daily life. Probiotics promote regular bowel movements, preventing constipation and diarrhoea, reducing the risk of colon cancer, and improving overall digestive comfort.

  1. Supports the immune system

Considering that 70-80% of your immune cells exist in your gastrointestinal tract, it’s no wonder probiotics will positively influence your immune system. In fact, there are several clinical trials that describe the activity of important cells of the immune system, such as phagocytic and natural killer cells. These studies show that probiotics significantly improve the activity of these cells, which demonstrates that probiotics contribute to the strengthening of the body’s natural defenses. 1,2

  1. Improves mental health

It is estimated that 90% of the body’s serotonin (the happy hormone) is made in the digestive tract, signifying that there is a close correlation between your mental and digestive health. Recent research shows that probiotics can significantly boost your mood, easing the symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. Although more studies need to be conducted to clarify the right probiotics for mental health, the probiotic strains Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum have been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in people with clinical depression. 3, 4

  1. Improves heart health

Research shows that probiotics can benefit heart health by lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol5, which is bad for your heart and overall health. Other studies also show that it has the potential to lower your blood pressure6. Both cholesterol and blood pressure are risk factors for heart disease, but probiotics can help reduce their effects on the body.

  1. Assists in weight management

Gut bacteria may also influence your body weight. A study of 210 participants7 found that 12 weeks of probiotic intake resulted in 8,5% reduction of abdominal fat. When the participants stopped taking the probiotic, they gained the fat back in 4 weeks. Therefore, regular intake of probiotics can have a significant impact on your body weight.

“Probiotics are crucial for gut health, but remember to choose high-quality probiotics as they all have different strains that offer different health benefits. Find out what your body needs and speak to your dietitian or medical doctor if you need advice on which strain is correct for you,” concludes Angela.

Angela Leach, the Head Dietitian for FUTURELIFE®

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