Since the conception of COYO® back in 2010, we knew that gut health had to be one of our fundamental focuses when creating dairy freedom. We were thinking about gut health and integrating probiotics into our products before it was cool, because we knew from the very beginning the way to living a healthy, wholesome life is by maintaining a healthy gut.
Although probiotics have received a lot of press in the past few years, we still think there are a few grey areas that need to be cleared up so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of probiotics with the knowledge that is backed up by science and gut health professionals.
So, let’s start with the basics. Here’s probiotics in a coconut shell!
Define probiotics for me.
As defined by a 2001 UN/WHO expert panel, probiotics are “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.¹”
Seems pretty straight forward right? Eat plenty of fermented products and whole foods and you should be dancing the gut health jig. Unfortunately it’s not that simple. Although enjoying a diet rich in fermented and whole foods is essential to your overall health, if you break down the probiotic definition you will notice some key words that separate probiotics from other beneficial bacteria that can be found in everyday foods.
Live microorganisms: live beneficial bacteria that are consumed to ensure the highest chance that these good bacteria survive the digestion process to the small intestine and onto the colon.
Adequate amounts: You can find the number of bacteria highlighted on the products label.
Health benefits: the bacteria must be scientifically proven to have shown beneficial health effects on the host.
Host: Whoever consumers these beneficial bacteria we call probiotics.
Good bacteria vs probiotics, does it really matter?
Well yeah, it really really does and we like to frame these as a series of checkpoint questions, because if even one of them you answer no to, then it ain't an accredited probiotic.
Do I know what bacteria strains this food contains and in what quantity?
Have these strains been studied and are known to survive the journey through my digestive system and arrive safe and alive in my small intestine and colon?
Have the quantities I'm consuming been scientifically proven to provide a health benefit?
These questions can help you differentiate good bacteria from probiotics. Probiotics will answer yes to all of the above, while good bacteria will answer no.
For example, fermented foods are great for you, but scientifically speaking, don’t qualify as probiotics as they don’t meet the criteria set out by the scientific definition. So while words like "live cultures" are fabulous it can also mean that those live cultures haven't been proven or scientifically validated to provide a benefit to you.
Benefits of probiotics
Okay, so we understand the definition of probiotics, but how do they actually work and why should you incorporate them into your diet? Probiotics benefit us in a number of ways. Some help protect our gut lining, strengthen our immune system and even improve our mental health. Probiotics work throughout your body, they’re not just confined to our digestive tract. Put simply, they benefit our whole body directly and indirectly through different channels. In fact, each strain of beneficial bacteria can provide their own separate health benefit. Science is still discovering new and amazing ways probiotics are benefiting us. We’ve only just skimmed the surface of these complex colonies of beneficial bacteria. Crazy, right!
1. You should only take probiotics if you have stomach issues
Probiotics can have powerful health benefits throughout the entire body, supporting your health and wellbeing. They do not just resolving stomach issues.
2. Probiotics have to colonise your gut to make an impact
Compared to the trillions of bacteria already living in your gut, probiotics don’t contain enough bacteria to make a real difference to your gut microbiome yet they still provide a number of health benefits throughout your entire body.
3. Probiotics only benefit the gut
We think we’ve covered this one already but just in case, probiotics benefit your whole body from maintaining skin health to prevention of bowl diseases and even balancing your intestinal microbes.
4. More is better
This isn’t always the case. The best probiotics are the strains that have been scientifically proven to provide health benefits. So it’s more about the right strains of bacteria.
It’s important to do your own research and ask questions about products that say they are probiotic. For a product to be classified as probiotic, it has to meet the scientific definition we mentioned above. Just like when we talk about organic products, we look for the certified organic certification, we should do the same quality check for products claiming probiotic benefits.
If you have any questions about probiotics that we haven’t answered above, feel free to leave a comment on our social media and start a conversation!