The health of your gut is extremely important to your overall wellbeing. Known as the ‘second brain’, various studies have revealed that the gut passes messages back to the brain, influencing our choices on a daily basis.
Digestion, mood, health and even the way people think is being linked to the ‘second brain’ more and more every day which is why probiotics is topic of many conversations for everyone at the moment.
Probiotics are live bacteria that are good for your whole body, but in particular, your digestive system. These live micro-organisms can help to restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut, which might have been thrown out of kilter by modern living, a poor diet, or having taken too many antibiotics. As part of following a healthy lifestyle, taking probiotics can assist the good bacteria that are already in your gut, by increasing their numbers and decreasing the numbers of bad bacteria, to help ward off infections and inflammation.
What type of probiotic should you be taking?
Probiotics fall into groups – with Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium being the most common. Within these groups they can be categorised further into strains. The effects of taking probiotics are strain specific depending on your need, meaning that the best probiotic for you may be different to the best probiotic for someone else. For example, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG is a highly-studied strain that has a whole host of benefits, including promoting intestinal health. Whereas another common strain, Bifidobacterium animalis, is thought to promote digestive and optimal nutrient absorption and supports a healthy immune system. This doesn’t mean you can’t have multi-strain probiotics. Many bacteria have symbiotic relationships with each other and actually boost functions in complementary groups.
Probiotics can be naturally found in the form of yoghurts and certain drinks, but in order to have the greatest effect, the bacteria they contain need to be in their live state when they reach your gut. Many will naturally become dormant simply due to the warmth of your mouth and digestive system. They need to survive the very acidic environment of the stomach and gastrointestinal tract, and only the highest quality probiotics will pass through your stomach still intact and move into the intestines where nutrients are absorbed.  Capsule-type probiotics may be a better bet as the outside coating can help to protect the live bacteria on their journey towards your gut.
The connection between your gut and brain
There is a link between what happens in your gut and what happens in your brain. The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion, with any intense feeling being able to trigger symptoms in the gut. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected. Your gut contains 500 million neurons, which are connected to your brain through nerves in your nervous system. As gut bacteria can affect brain health, improving your gut bacteria by taking probiotics may, therefore, improve your mood and memory, and a number of other health benefits such as the prevention of digestive diseases, increased immune function and healthier skin. 
Travelling, antibiotics and probiotics
Although probiotics is for everyone, travellers and other groups can particularly benefit. For those whose immune systems may be under more pressure and may be exposed to different germs if travelling to exotic countries, or to anyone who has taken a course of antibiotics – probiotics can help by repopulating their gut with friendly bacteria.
While you should of course maintain a healthy diet and consume products containing these healthy bacteria; not all of them will reach your gut so it’s important that you’re supplementing your body with good bacteria to balance your microbiome. The connection between your gut, your brain health and your overall wellbeing is getting stronger every day – so by looking after your gut, you’re restoring yourself to optimal health.
Keep your body balanced for a happy and healthy lifestyle!