Category Archives: probiotic

Prebiotics vs Probiotics – What’s the Difference?

What’s the Difference Between Prebiotics and Probiotics?

You might have heard of the terms ‘prebiotics’ and ‘probiotics’ being mentioned in association with digestive health on BBC television show “Trust Me I’m A Doctor”. But what’s the difference between them and which one is more important?

Our digestive tract contains high amounts of probiotics ‘beneficial bacteria’, which play a vital role in supporting the optimum function of our digestive system. They do this via many various mechanisms including supporting digestion and enhancing our gut immunity.

Prebiotics

The best way to look after our gut bacteria is by feeding it well and the best foods for it are known as ‘prebiotics’. Prebiotics (also known as dietary fibre) are the indigestible components of food that are able to reach the large intestine (where most of our gut bacteria resides) to feed our beneficial bacteria to promote its growth and function. We are recommended to consume 30g of fibre daily, however, due to the introduction of the western diet which is high in processed and refined foods and contains very little fibre, the current average intake of fibre in the UK is 18g/day.

The main food sources of prebiotics include vegetables and fruits such as artichokes, garlic, leeks and onions and fermented foods such as kefir. Prebiotics are also available in the form of food supplements such as ‘fructooligosaccharides’ (FOS) and inulin.

FOS and Inulin

Research indicates that FOS and inulin are some of the most beneficial types of prebiotics for feeding our gut bacteria. They belong to the same family of fructo-polysaccharides, and the primary difference between them is that inulin is a longer chain fructo-polysaccharide than FOS. Although they both have very similar effects in terms of promoting the size, diversity and physiological functions of our gut bacteria, some research indicates that FOS may exert a broader therapeutic benefit than inulin. Both of these can be naturally derived from chicory, they are naturally sweet and can be used as a healthy alternative to sugar when the powder is sprinkled over food such as porridge for example.

Probiotics

Common modern lifestyle choices such as alcohol consumption, processed food intake and antibiotic use can impact negatively on the levels of our beneficial bacteria, hence the growing interest in the use of microbial preparations to supplement the diet known as ‘probiotics’. Therefore, although feeding our bacteria with prebiotics is important, it’s just as important to have the right balance of beneficial bacteria to be fed in the first place, which is why both probiotics and prebiotics are just as important as each other.

References
1. Slavin J. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients. 2013;5(4):1417-1435.
2. Bornet et al. Nutritional aspects of short-chain fructooligosaccharides: natural occurrence, chemistry, physiology and health implications. Digest Liver Dis. 2002; 34 (2): S111-20.

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Optibac Probiotics – travel with a happy and healthy digestive system

50% of travellers experience digestive issues when abroad. Don’t be one of them!

Traveller’s Diarrhoea is the most frequently experienced health disorder experienced by those travelling abroad[1]. Research suggest that pathogenic bacteria are responsible for 85% of all cases of Traveller’s Diarrhoea[3], with E. coli being the most common offender[4,5]. Despite it being a generally minor condition, it can ruin your holiday. Statistics reveal that 20% of sufferers are confined to bed for a day, and 33% need to stop their activities[2].

Of course some destinations are higher risk than others and are generally the more exotic locations such as Egypt, India, and Mexico.

So what is the best natural approach to Traveller’s Diarrhoea?

Much research shows the potential for probiotics to be a natural preventative. Studies suggest that probiotics, a.k.a. friendly bacteria, can help to strengthen the gut’s protective barrier against pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella. A review of the research on this (meta-analysis) found that 85% of cases of Traveller’s Diarrhoea were prevented by probiotics[7].

How can taking bacteria avoid a bacterial infection?

Well as with other issues with gut health, having enough of the relevant strain of bacteria will help fight the unwanted pathogenic bacteria. It has been found that a combination of B. longum Rosell-175, Lactobacillus rhamnosus Rosell-11, Saccharomyces boulardii and L. acidophilus Rosell-52 have been shown to be effective in preventing infection with E. coli[8]. Other trials also show that Saccharomyces boulardii may be especially helpful in cases of Traveller’s Diarrhoea due to its unique ability to actually bind to unwanted, pathogenic bacteria and then help excrete them, as well as its documented ability to alleviate diarrhoea during an infection [9,10,11,12].

L. acidophilus Rosell-52 & L. rhamnosus Rosell-11 have also been shown to help prevent infection by less common pathogens including: P. aeruginosa, Klebsiella, and Staphylococcus [13,14].

So all in all these bacteria can be of huge help staying happy and healthy when travelling. Nutritional Therapist, Joanna Lutyens from OptiBac Probiotics says ‘ Your digestive system may be under siege when travelling abroad, both from an intake of foods which your body is not used to, as well as a whole new range of bacteria. It is therefore really important to look after your digestive health when travelling. Taking a probiotic specifically designed to support your gut health in this situation may really help prevent discomfort or illness. Of course there are other things you can do to avoid getting the dreaded Delhi Belly. Tips include avoiding unpeeled fruit and vegetables, avoid tap water even when brushing your teeth, wash your hands regularly, avoid ice cubes and stay hydrated.’

References:

  1. Bradley AC, 2007.
  2. World Tourism Organisation. Tourism highlights. 2008. Available at www.unwto.org
  3. Black RE. Epidemiology of travellers’ diarrhoea and relative importance of various pathogens. Rec. Infect. Dis. 1990: 12 (suppl 1): S73-S79
  4. Jiang ZD; Mathewson JJ, Ericsson CD, Svennerholm AM, Pulido C, DUPont HL. Characterisation of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli strains in patients with traveller’s diarrhoea acquired in Guadalajara, Mexico, 1992-1997. J Infect Dis. 2000;181:779-82
  5. Adachi JA, Jiang ZD, Mathewson JJ, Verenkar MP, Thompson S, Martinez-Sandoval F, et al. Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli as a major etiologic agent in traveller’s diarrhoea in 3 regions of the world. Clin Infect Dis. 2001;32:1706-9.
  6. Centres for disease control and prevention – www.cdc.gov.travel/yellowbookch4-diarrhoea.aspx
  7. McFarland MV, Meta-analysis of probiotics for the prevention of traveller’s diarrhoea. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease. 2007; 5: 97-105.
  8. Bisson JF. (ETAP), H. Durand (Institut Rosell- Lallemand), Effects of Different Probiotic Formulations on the Traveller’s Diarrhoea Model in Rats. Submitted.
  9. Kirchhelle, A. et al. Treatment of persistent diarrhoea with S. boulardii in returning travellers. Results of a prospective study. Fortschy. Med. 1996, 114:136-140
  10. Kollaritsch, H. et al. Prevention of traveler’s diarrhoea with Saccharomyces boulardii. Results of a placebo controlled double blind study. Fortschr. Med. 1993, 111:152-156.
  11. Kurugol Z., Koturoglu G. Effects of Saccharomyces boulardii in children with acute diarrhoea. Acta pediatr 2005; 94;44-7.
  12. Htwe K; et al. Effect of Saccharomyces boulardii in the Treatment of Acute Watery Diarrhoea in Myanmar Children: A Randomized Controlled Study. Am. J. Top. Med. Hyg. 2008; 78(2):214-216
  13. Tlaskal P, Lactobacillus acidophilus in the treatment of children with gastrointestinal tract illnesses. 1995, Cesko-Slovenska Pediatrie, 51 :615-619.
  14. Wasowska, K. Prevention and eradication of intestinal dysbacteriosis in infants and children. unpublished results 1997
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Optibac: Children and probiotics

There’s a lot of buzz about the benefits of bacteria in the media, particularly for children, but this can be a confusing issue for many people. Why would you ever want to give your child bacteria to improve their health? Aren’t bacteria bad for us, causing infections and stomach upsets?

The simple answer is No! Not all bacteria are bad; in fact mounting evidence suggests that starting out with a healthy balance of friendly flora in their intestines could help to improve your child’s health and actually reduce the risk of infections and other health conditions as they grow up. Even better, having plenty of good gut flora (bacteria) is being linked to good long-term health.

So how do these microscopic microflora help to improve your child’s health?

It may seem weird, but the average human being is a home to literally trillions of bacteria who live all over our bodies, but most plentifully in the moist, warm areas in our intestines. Symbiotic, or ‘friendly’ bacteria are those that live in harmony with our bodies – we provide them with a home and food to eat, and they in turn offer us a host of health benefits.

Though we are typically born without any bacteria in residence, they begin to colonise in our bodies within a few days of birth. The first bacterial settlers are passed on to babies by their mother as they pass down the birth canal during a normal vaginal delivery.

These tiny passengers have been shown to have many positive effects in the body ; they work with the immune system helping to modulate immune responses, reducing the risk of allergies and protecting against infections and viruses. They help to improve digestive function, alleviating diarrhoea or constipation and helping to improve metabolism and nutrient absorption.

Studies have indicated that numerous health benefits may be seen in children who were given probiotic supplements, including a reduction in childhood illnesses and allergic symptoms such as eczema.

If children take on beneficial bacteria during birth, why are probiotic supplements necessary?

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to give supplements, but many factors can affect the integrity of a child’s gut flora. If the mother’s intestinal flora is compromised in any way, then the bacteria passed on to a baby may be unbalanced from the start. Vaginal infections during pregnancy, antibiotics, poor diet and even stress can all impact the delicate populations of probiotic bacteria in our intestines.

Additionally, those babies delivered by Caesarian section will not have the benefit of bacteria from mum, and often suffer from digestive problems or allergies such as eczema as a result. Any antibiotics given to your baby or child will kill off good as well as bad bacteria, and consequently can negatively affect their populations of friendly flora.

Why use supplements?

Isn’t it enough just to give your child yoghurt every day?
It’s true that fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut have formed an important part of the human diet in most cultures for hundreds of years, and it’s still a good idea for most people to include these as part of a healthy diet.

But it’s often difficult to ascertain the levels of bacteria present in fermented foods; which species are present and how viable they are once consumed. Many of the bacteria found in fermented foods are typically ‘transient’, meaning that they have beneficial effects as they pass through the digestive system, but can’t be guaranteed to become resident in the intestines and restore the balance of flora present.

The bacterial strains used in OptiBac Probiotics products undergo stringent tests that guarantee they will adhere to the intestinal wall, and form new colonies, meaning that they’re likely to offer longer-lasting health beneifits.

So where do we find these so-called ‘friendly bacteria?’ in a supplement form?

The good news is that the folk at OptiBac Probiotics have made it very easy for you to add probiotic bacteria into your child’s daily healthcare regime.

They offer a specific product designed to be taken by children from 0-12 years, which comes in a powder neatly packaged in a handy sachet form. Unlike many other similar products, the sachets do not require refrigeration and are easy to add to a little water, milk or yoghurt.

To ensure that really helpful species of bacteria are passed on to their babies, we also recommend that mums-to-be take ‘For babies & children’ during the final trimester of pregnancy.

Breast-feeding mums can continue to take the product as evidence suggests that the bacteria continues to be passed on to baby via breast milk, or the product can be given directly to infants from birth.

Bifidobacteria infantis has been identified as one of the early settlers in a healthy child’s gut, which is why it is included in ‘For babies & children’ which is gluten-free and suitable for those with lactose intolerance.

So the question is not why would you give your child probiotic bacteria, but given the evidence supporting their use, why wouldn’t you?

Kerry Beeson BSc (Nut. Med.) BANT CNHC
Nutritional Therapist

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Probiotics and Children’s Immunity

A recent placebo-controlled trial has found that a combination of probiotics and vitamin C helps to prevent cold infections in young children.

The study, published last month in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, involved 69 preschool children who each received either a placebo supplement or a chewable probiotic and vitamin C supplement for a period of six months. The study was double-blind, meaning that neither the researchers nor the children or their parents knew whether each child was taking the supplement or a placebo.

The results at the end of the six month period were promising. The children who received the probiotic and vitamin C supplement had experienced fewer upper respiratory tract infections (ie common colds), and as a result had fewer absences from preschool and fewer visits to the doctor. The probiotic and vitamin C group were also less likely to have taken antibiotics, painkillers, cough medicines or nasal sprays compared with those children in the placebo group.

Both probiotics and vitamin C are known to modulate the immune system. Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, reverses oxidative damage caused by infection. It is also believed to support production of phagocytes, cytokines and lymphcytes – cells that battle infection.
Healthy probiotic bacteria ramp up the body’s production of antibodies and lymphocytes, defending the body against infection (2).

In fact, around 70% of the body’s immune system resides in the digestive system which is home to around 100 trillion (about 3lbs) bacteria.

This particular study used 50mg of vitamin C alongside Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium lactis strains of probiotics. Other strains of probiotics have also been linked with increased resistance to infection, though more research needs to be done in order to determine which particular strain is most effective. Hopefully this study will pave the way for larger trials to be carried out. In the meantime, probiotics have repeatedly been demonstrated as a safe supplement for children, and so trying a probiotic supplement with vitamin C would seem a sensible measure for parents of children who seem to have one cold after another.

Ideally, all children should all eat a diet which is rich in vitamin C and other anti-oxidants, and encourages growth of healthy bacteria. This means eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and avoiding foods that deplete levels of healthy bacteria such as sugar and white grains. Unfortunately children’s sugar intake is consistently above the maximum recommended amount, and only around 10% of children in the UK manage to eat their ‘5-a-day’ requirement of fruit and vegetables (3).

Especially good sources of prebiotics – foods which feed and therefore boost probiotic bacteria – include leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus and bananas. Natural probiotic yoghurt can also help to support children’s levels of healthy bacteria. Most added sugar comes from breakfast cereals and soft drinks, and so parents should look out for these items in particular, and read labels to check from hidden sugars.

Boosting vitamin C intake and reaching the 5-a-day recommendation means adding fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks – for children, small changes such as adding blueberries to breakfast or pureeing vegetables into pasta sauces are simple changes that can make a huge difference, ensuring that children are happy and healthy both in and out of school.

  1. Garaiova, I. et al (2014) Probiotics and vitamin C for the prevention of respiratory tract infections in children attending preschool: a randomised controlled pilot study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  2. Resta SC. Effects of probiotics and commensals on intestinal epithelial physiology: implications for nutrient handling. J Physiol. 2009. 587:4169-4174.
  3. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: results from Years 1 to 4 (combined) of the rolling programme for 2008 and 2009 to 2011 and 2012. Public Health England and Food Standard Agency. 14 May 2014
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Natural Remedies for Women’s Intimate Health

Want natural remedies for women’s intimate health? Try Probiotics.

Us women are great at talking about nearly everything you can think of. However, despite the fact that most women will suffer from thrush, cystitis and / or bacterial vaginosis (BV) during their life time, it appears that intimate health is something we are all apparently too shy to talk about.

The facts are that 75% of women suffer from thrush once in their lifetime, 50% suffer from cystitis at least once and BV affects 1 in 3 women with a high rate of recurrence. Typically these are treated with topical ointments which tend to give just temporary relief, or antibiotics and antifungals which can result in recurrence and can make you feel unwell.

So how and why does having a good balance of friendly bacteria in the intimate area help alleviate and prevent these conditions? Well there is a lot of research behind this.

Thrush is usually caused by the yeast fungus Candida albicans which usually lives harmlessly on the skin and in the mouth, gut and vagina. However, sometimes this yeast becomes overgrown, resulting in thrush. The causes of BV are similar, stemming from a change in balance of bacteria in the vagina as well as a more alkaline pH. And again cystitis is caused by a bacterial infection and interestingly occurs more often in menopausal women due to the lower oestrogen levels.

So in a nutshell, it’s about bacteria! How can probiotics help? The issue with typical treatments are that they do not replenish the healthy bacteria and antibiotics not only knock our good bacteria further out of kilter but also multiple use can lead to antibiotic resistance. Probiotics help replenish our healthy bacteria. But it’s important to note that not all probiotics contain the correct strains of bacteria which are specifically required for these specific intimate issues.

Certain probiotic strains have been trialled and have been shown to increase the efficacy of standard treatments, as well as lowering the risk of recurrence. In particular 2 specific probiotic strains, L. reuteri RC-14® and L. rhamnosus GR-1® are well documented in women’s health, with over 30 years of scientific evidence. OptiBac Probiotics ‘For women’ is a brand new, unique supplement that contains these specific strains and has had significant trialling in itself.

In one trial, participants with thrush took an antifungal capsule with either ‘For women’ daily or placebo for 4 weeks. At follow-up those who had been taking ‘For women’ had 70% fewer symptoms and yeast cell counts than the placebo group.1

In another trial, 252 women who suffered with recurring UTIs took ‘For women’ or antibiotics (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole) for one year. After 12 months the number of UTIs had more than halved in both groups, with ‘For women’ being almost as effective as antibiotics. (An impressive result for a natural remedy)2

OptiBac Probiotics ‘For women’ works via several mechanisms: It colonises the vagina, crowds out candida by competing for space and nutrients, fortifies women’s natural defences against Candida , inhibits E. Coli, produces bactericocins which kill pathogens and E. Coli, restores a healthy pH of <4.5, and produces a substance which breaks down the pathogens defensive biofilm.

Taking these strains of bacteria is clearly an impressive start to improving symptoms as well as preventing recurrence. But are there any other natural remedies which can help?

  • When rebalancing our bacteria it’s always a good idea to stay away from sugar and yeast containing foods and drinks which can feed the growth of yeast and bad bacteria, this of course includes alcohol and fruit juices, except low sugar Cranberry which can help in the case of cystitis
  • Drink plenty of water and reduce your coffee
  • Ideally if you have thrush, try to include antifungal foods in your diet such as garlic, coconut oil, ginger and cinnamon among others.
  • Avoid using soaps and douches in the intimate area and swap nylon for cotton underwear and avoid perfumed sanitary products
  • Urinating before and after sex can help with cystitis.
  • The pill can sometimes upset intimate flora – talk to your doctor about alternative contraception

OptiBac Probiotics ‘For Women’ can be taken alongside standard treatments to increase the effect of standard treatments, but is also recommended as a continual method of prevention if a recurrence is an issue. So, if you’re looking to support your intimate health, take a look at OptiBac Probiotics ‘For women’.

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Probiotics, our friends inside

The human intestinal tract is home to trillions of “friendly” bacteria that are crucial in maintaining good health. These bacteria are instrumental in protecting against tummy problems, supporting digestion and absorption of nutrients. The balance of this gut micro flora is also intrinsically linked with immunity, ensuring a positive balance of beneficial gut bacteria will give your immune system a fighting chance of beating off the majority of opportunistic pathogens.

Antacids, antibiotics and low fibre refined diets all disrupt this delicate balance. This is possibly why an estimated 1 in 5 adults in the UK suffer from gastrointestinal complaints. Rebalancing the gut micro flora through the diet or by taking a “probiotic” supplement containing strains of friendly bacteria has been shown to help maintain the health of the intestinal tract and aid digestion, reduced bloating and the establishment of a regular bowel habits.

A change of food may upset a sensitive tummy

Our immune system is used to dealing with bacterial or viral challenges on a regular basis, but when we travel we can encounter different or possibly more pathogenic strains that then cause us to become ill. A change of food may also upset a sensitive tummy, as well as traveller’s diarrhoea people may also suffer from bloating or discomfort. You can reduce your chances of falling ill by giving your immune system and gut flora extra support by taking a probiotic supplement before jetting off to exotic destinations. Closer to home evidence continues to grow that probiotic supplements are a key element in the management of IBS, a combination of L.plantarum and L.acidophilus has been found to be especially effective.

Choosing a probiotic supplement

The effectiveness of probiotics is linked to their ability to survive the transit from stomach to small intestine; to do so they must be able to resist both acidic and alkaline conditions.

To confer health benefits probiotic supplements must contain live bacteria capable of adhering to the intestinal lining and colonise in the colon. Always choose products by trusted and established manufacturers.

Lyophilised (freeze dried) bacteria are stable at room temperature so do not need refrigeration.

Look for a delayed release product, delaying the release of the bacteria until they reach the small intestine protects them against the acidic environment of the stomach and delivering them directly where they are needed.

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Probiotic Lactobacilus rhamnosus aids weight loss in overweight women

A study published recently in the British Journal of Nutrition has found that supplementation with the probiotic L. rhamnosus encourages weight loss in overweight women.

Weight Loss
A probiotic supplement may encourage weight loss and healthy metabolic changes when used alongside a healthy, balanced diet.

A group of 125 overweight men and women were placed on a calorie restricted diet for 12 weeks, followed by a further 12-weeks of a ‘weight maintenance’ diet. While half of the participants were given a placebo supplement, the other half were given two capsules of L rhamnosus probiotic supplements at a total daily dosage of 1.6 billion L rhamnosus bacteria.

Both body weight and body composition were measured at the beginning of the study and then at 12 and 24 weeks. The probiotic supplement did not appear to affect weight loss in the men at all. However, the effect of probiotics on the women in the study was more marked. Compared to the women in the placebo group, those women taking probiotics experienced significantly more weight loss at the 12-week mark. While the placebo group managed a loss of 2.6 kg, those women on probiotics experienced an average loss of 4.4 kg.

After 12 weeks, all of the women were placed on a weight maintenance diet. As expected, the women in the placebo group maintained their original weight loss. In contrast, the women in the probiotic group continued to lose weight and body fat, losing an average of 5.2 kg by the end of the study. These women were also found to have lower levels of circulating leptin, a hormone that helps to regulate appetite and satiety.

It is particularly interesting that the women taking the probiotic continued to lose weight despite eating at maintenance. The study’s results suggest that the L. rhamnosus strain may encourage metabolic changes that favour weight loss. The researchers suggest that probiotics may act by altering the permeability of the intestinal wall. Because probiotics can prevent certain proinflammatory molecules from entering the bloodstream, they might therefore help prevent the chain reaction that leads to glucose intolerance, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. This mechanism of action suggest that other strains of probiotics could have a similar effect. Indeed other studies have encountered similar successful results with probiotics such as lactobacillus fermentum, lactobacillus amylovorus, akkermansia muciniphila and lactobacillus gasserei (2-4).

It is not clear why the rhamnosus probiotic appeared to benefit the women but not the men in the study. The researchers suggested that the men may have needed a higher dose or a longer period of supplementation.

Clearly maintaining a healthy weight requires a healthy, balanced diet. For those wanting to lose weight, this study suggests that a probiotic supplement may encourage weight loss and healthy metabolic changes when used alongside a healthy, balanced diet. The link between probiotics and weight loss is a particularly fascinating one, and hopefully this study will encourage further research in this area.

References

Sanchex M et al (2014) Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women B J NutrApr 28;111(8):1507-19.

Omar et al (2012). Lactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus amylovorus as probiotics alter body adiposity and gut microflora in health persons. Journal of Functional Foods.

Everard A et al (2013) Cross-talk between Akkermansia muciniphila and intestinal epithelium controls diet-induced obesity. PNAS 110:22, 9066-9071.

Reference: Kadooka, Y. et al; ‘Regulation of abdominal adiposity by probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055) in adults with obese tendencies in a randmomized controlled trial.’ European Journal of Clinical Nutrition., June 2010, Vol. 64, No. 6, Pp. 636-643.

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Festive Digestive: Eat, drink and be merry this festive season

Did you spend last Christmas with a queasy, acid, bloated and uncomfortable stomach?

The combination of family events, rich foods, alcohol and late nights can be stressful and normal stomach enzyme secretion can be impaired by the influence of stress hormones. Avoid the misery of acid indigestion by taking a high potency Digestive Aid with a powerful combination of enzymes to aid digestion. Certain enzymes aid in the breakdown of fats, proteins and carbohydrates ensuring your digestion is at peak performance, working hard when you are playing hard.

Help restore your gut balance of good bacteria. Probiotic formulas add a combination of good bacteria to aid digestion and boost immunity. Perfect to aid recovery from the festive season’s culinary excesses.

Provided you have enough of the health-promoting bacteria, they act as your first line of defence against unfriendly bacteria and other disease-producing microbes including viruses and fungi. The good bacteria make some vitamins and digest fibre, allowing you to derive more nutrients from otherwise indigestible food, and also help promote a healthy digestive environment.

Keep your New Year’s Resolution this year with a few helpful tips from Viridian Nutrition:

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Higher levels of vitamin B5 can help support energy levels
  • Don’t think of yourself, think about your poor old dog! A stroll with the dog for half an hour can make a big difference after a few weeks to both your physical and emotional fitness and will cheer the dog up too. Wrap up warm and enjoy the simple and loving company of your furry friend. If you don’t have a dog, offer to walk a neighbour’s.
  • Big meat eater? Try one day a week without meat and see how your energy levels and digestion improve.
  • Veggie or vegan? Top up with B12. Vitamin B12 can contribute to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue and also supports immune function.
  • Feeling under-the-weather? Choose a multivitamin & mineral like High Five Multivitamin and Mineral Formula from Viridian Nutrition. The higher levels of vitamin B5 can help support energy levels, normal mental performance and boost overall vitality.

Emotional Health

  • Help others. There is no better pick-you-up than helping others. Volunteer, be a good listener or write letters to friends to bring them cheer.
  • It can be hard to keep your spirits up in the dark winter months, try some extra vitamin D. Vitamin D has been the subject of a wealth of research studies and has been shown to contribute to the normal function of the immune system as well as essential in the health of bones, muscles and teeth. Sometimes called the Sunshine Vitamin, we often miss it most in the winter months.
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Beat the winter bugs with beneficial bacteria

As the weather worsens and the season of colds and coughs approaches, our thoughts turn towards ways in which we can support our immune systems to help keep us fighting fit throughout the winter.

A current theory in medicine, known as the ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’, states that our obsession with household cleaners and overzealous hand washing with anti-bacterial agents may be to blame for a rise in infections, as well as conditions such as asthma.

Our immune system is designed to fight infection from bacteria, viruses and parasites as well as recognise foreign substances as allergens. As our bodies no longer need to fight germs as much as they did in the past, we no longer have to elicit an immune response. The theory indicates that bacteria can in fact be helpful for supporting our immune systems.

So, how can we use bacteria to help boost our immunity? Health experts suggest we should allow children to be children by letting them play outside in mud and with their friends, and worrying less about them coming into contact with dirt and germs. There is also an increasing body of evidence supporting the use of probiotics (beneficial bacteria) for immune support. Our digestive tract functions as a barrier against potentially harmful bacteria and food. It is known that supplementing with probiotics can help mediate our immune response, reducing inflammation and protecting us against exposure to potentially harmful bugs.

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OptiBac Probiotics contains beneficial probiotic strains

Here we explore some of the OptiBac Probiotics’ products and their potential benefits for immune health.

OptiBac Probiotics For daily immunity, a blend of probiotics and antioxidants, contains targeted probiotic strains to help support immunity. If you feel you catch colds too frequently, this is a product to consider, or for those who have lower levels of friendly bacteria such as the elderly and those who lead active, demanding lives.

OptiBac Probiotics For daily wellbeing is a daily supplement that promotes a healthy balance of friendly bacteria throughout the entire intestinal tract. For daily wellbeing is suitable for anyone seeking probiotic support on a daily basis (aged over 4 years and over).

OptiBac Probiotics For daily wellbeing EXTRA strength is dairy-free supplement extra strength formula with 20 billion live microorganisms per capsule. It may benefit those with a severe imbalance of good and bad intestinal bacteria, skin conditions, or those with particularly busy lifestyles.

OptiBac Probiotics For your child’s health is a natural symbiotic supplement to support digestion and immunity in infants and children, and pregnant & breastfeeding women. For your child’s health is suitable for babies and children from 6 months of age.

References

Cazzola, M. et al. (2010) Efficacy of a synbiotic supplementation in the prevention of common diseases in children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study; Therapeutic Advances in Respiratory Disease 0(0) pp. 1-8

Rautava, S. et al (2002). ‘Probiotics during pregnancy and breast-feeding might confer immunomodulatory protection against atopic disease in the infant’. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Jan Vol. 109 (1), pp. 119-121

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Back to School: Immune-boosting tips for kids

The start of the new school year is upon us, and this can cause worry for some parents whose children seem particularly vulnerable to illness. Coughs, colds, ear and chest infections are commonplace in schools, with the average child catching between 8 and 12 colds or flu viruses each year. This is not surprising when we consider that the school environment is the perfect breeding ground for infection – up to 90% of children with a cold are carrying the virus on their hands, and germs can survive up to three days on surfaces.

Fortunately there are some simple measures that can help support your child’s immune system, helping to lessen the duration of an infection or even avoid illness altogether.

A good night’s sleep
Children need more sleep than adults, with primary school children needing at least 9 hours each night. Any less than this can compromise the immune system. Sleep deprived children have lower levels of germ-fighting T-cells, leaving them vulnerable to infection (1). Tips to improve sleep include keeping a regular bedtime routine, ensuring that televisions are kept out of the bedroom and reducing sources of caffeine such as chocolate and sodas.

Immune-boosting antioxidants
Another way to help support your child’s health is to ensure that his or her diet provides plenty of immune-boosting antioxidants. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C boost production of interferon, helping to prevent infection from taking hold (2). Vitamin E and carotenoids help to increase production of natural killer cells, B cells and T cells, increasing antibodies against specific germs (3).

Fruit-Bowl
Kiwi fruit and strawberries can provide a welcome vitamin C boost.

Finally, nutrients called bioflavonoids actually work to block cell receptors so that germs cannot get access to cells. Present in whole foods such as fruit, vegetables and grains, flavonoids have been shown to exert both anti-inflammatory and anti-viral activity (4). Flavonoids are not easily absorbed from foods we eat. For the best sources of well-absorbed flavonoids, make sure your child eats plenty of blue and purple fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries and red grapes.

If infection has already taken hold, then steps to reduce the length of an infection can be helpful. During an active infection, the body’s requirement for Vitamin C is increased dramatically. A fruit salad made with oranges, kiwi fruit and strawberries can provide a welcome vitamin C boost. During an active infection, taking a vitamin C supplement 3-4 times daily can also be a helpful measure to speed up recovery.

Protective probiotics
Probiotic supplementation offers a further protective measure for children who suffer with repeated infections. Probiotics reduce the risk of allergies, tummy upsets and diarrhoea, and have recently been found to prevent the common cold (5). They give the immune system a boost by increasing natural killer cell activity and phagocytosis, both important mechanisms for protecting against infection. In children in particular, probiotics work to ramp up levels of mucosal immunoglobulin A, the first line of defence against harmful pathogens that enter the body (6).

Probiotic supplements designed especially for children offer a safe way to support your child’s immune system. Adding some probiotic yoghurt to fruit salad or breakfast muesli can help keep your child’s levels of immune-boosting bacteria topped up.

While children can’t be shielded from every bug in the classroom, these simple measures can help ensure that your child building blocks of a strong immune system and feels fit for the new school year.

References

1. Diwakar Balachandran, MD,  director, Sleep Center, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.

2. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold (Review) Hemilä H, Chalker E, Douglas B. Cochrane Review. 2010. Issue 3.

3. Hughes DA: Antioxidant vitamins and immune function; in Calder PC, Field CJ, Gill HS (eds): Nutrition and Immune Function. Wallingford, CAB International, 2002, pp 171–191.

4. Middleton E (1998) Effect of Plant Flavonoids on Immune and Inflammatory Cell Function. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology Volume 439, pp 175-182.

5. En-Jin Kang et al (2013) The Effect of Probiotics on Prevention of Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trial Studies. Korean J Fam Med. 2013 January; 34(1): 2–10.

6. Lomax & Calder (2009) Probiotics, immune function, infection and inflammation: a review of the evidence from studies conducted in humans. Curr Pharm Des. 15(13):1428-518.

7. Image courtesy of vanillaechoes.

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