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Probiotics: All you need to know

Probiotics is a term used to describe bacteria within the body that can provide a health benefit. Often referred to as 'friendly bacteria', there are a number of different strains of probiotic, each providing its own unique properties.

The digestive system is home to trillions of these friendly bacteria but they can become depleted when the body is put under stress or illness. When depleted, health issues can arise and the absorption of nutrients from the diet can become compromised.

Probiotics are available in many different supplement forms and there is a growing field of research into their benefits for sport.

The benefits of Probiotics

There are multiple benefits associated with probiotic supplementation which are largely dependent on the specific probiotic strain. The two most commonly researched strains are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium which provide digestive and immune health benefits. It is suggested that these specific strains may combat health conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diarrhoea.

Within sport, probiotics help to repopulate the 'good bacteria' within the gut which can become depleted during exercise. Maintaining a healthy environment in the gut helps athletes avoid digestive issues, but also ensures optimal absorption of macronutrients such as carbohydrates and protein which are vital for performance and recovery. The digestive system is also one of the first lines of defence for the immune system.

Probiotics also help to protect travelling athletes from symptoms suffered when exposed to unfamiliar foods and bacteria such as the dreaded 'Delhi Belly'.

How much Probiotic should I take?

If you are looking for a truly effective probiotic supplement you need to choose a product that provides a minimum 'friendly bacteria' count of 5 billion. The most important thing is to choose a supplement containing both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

When should I take Probiotics?

You can take probiotics at any time of day, although taking it with breakfast may be beneficial.

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Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace
medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.