What is gut flora?
Gut flora, or intestinal flora, is the natural barrier defending your intestine. It’s located throughout your intestine and is important for a number of reasons:
- It plays a critical role in completing the digestive process.
- It enables the proper intake of nutritional elements from the food that you eat.
- It helps to maintain the regular movement of your intestine.
- It reinforces the intestinal barrier, making the whole body more resistant to infection.
What do probiotics do?
Often described as ‘good’ or ‘friendly’ bacteria, probiotics are thought to help restore the natural balance of your gut bacteria (part of your gut flora) when this is disrupted due to illness, stress, antibiotics or changes in diet.
Here are some health claims related to probiotics:
- They can reduce your chances of developing diarrhea when taking medication.
- They can slightly shorten (by about a day) periods of persistent diarrhea.
- They can help in treating travelers’ diarrhea.
- They can help in treating children with rotaviral gastroenteritis.
How can probiotics prevent diarrhea when taking medication?
The strongest evidence supports the claim that probiotics can reduce your chances of getting diarrhea when taking medication. Antibiotics are designed to kill harmful bacteria but, in the process, they can also wipe out the protective bacteria in your gut, which results in diarrhea. Taking probiotics alongside your antibiotics can help to safeguard the ‘friendly’ bacteria in your system.
Find out more about diarrhea when taking medication.
Where can I find probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts found naturally in your body. They’re also found in some yogurts and other foods, and you can take them as food supplements too.
You can find probiotics in certain yogurts and soy milks - just make sure it says ‘live and active cultures’ on the label. Other foods rich in probiotics include kombucha tea, miso soup, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, olives, pickles, tempeh and dark chocolate.
You can also take probiotics as food supplements, which are easy to find in most pharmacies and health food shops.25