We don’t think about it much but we live happily and symbiotically with trillions of bacteria every day. They exist on our skin and in our intestinal, genitourinary and respiratory tracts. These bacteria are generally referred to as the human microbiome. The fine balance between these friendly and other disease-causing bacteria helps to keep us well.
Think of the bacteria that live within you as the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon is teeming with a vast variety of animals and plants that are intimately connected. Deforestation and pollution may cause the loss of a particular species and the delicate ecosystem of the Amazon is no longer as robust as it once was. This is true for the gut too. We need a diverse range of bacteria, in high enough numbers, to maintain the health of our digestive systems and for general wellbeing.
Diet has the greatest influence on the gut microbiome and our health. When making decisions about a healthy eating pattern, it’s worth considering what foods are also good for gut microbes. The important goal is to encourage microbial diversity. A diet containing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables helps to create a diverse and rich microbiome, while a diet that’s low in nutrients and fibre—such as calorie-laden fast or processed foods—is associated with poor microbial diversity.
Some researchers have warned that a diet that’s high in processed food and low in plant diversity (namely whole fruits and vegetables) is potentially more damaging to the gut microbiome than antibiotic use.1
Supplementing with live bacterial strains may fill any gaps for people who do not get enough beneficial or friendly microbes from their diet, or who are looking for support for occasional lifestyle stressors. Research suggests that certain live bacterial strains may support digestive and immune health.2,3,4
When considering supplementing with live bacterial strains bear in mind that not all strains confer identical benefits. Make sure you choose the right live bacterial supplement for your needs.