Probiotics-How effective are they?

Probiotics are ‘live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’

There has been an incredible increase in the amount of research being done into the microbiome/microbiota. In humans it can be found in the oral cavity, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, genitourinary tract and the skin.

The most critical window for the development of the microbiota happens from birth to 2 years old. Things like the birthing process, skin and oral contact, breastfeeding, diet, antibiotic exposure and the environment all impact this.

This helps the development of immune, metabolic, hormonal and neuronal systems because of the crosstalk with the microbiome.

Did you know this about the microbiota?

+the microbiota is acquired at birth and it is with us for every day of our lives

+the microbiota has 3 times more bacterial cells than our own cells

+up to 1000 species of bacteria

+the genes in our microbiome outnumber the genes in our genome by about 150 to 1

+100,000 billion microbes in the intestine

+1,000 billion viable microbes on the skin

+the total weight of the intestinal microbiota is up to 1.5kg

+Approximately 50% of faecal mass is bacterial biomass

+Microbiota produces between 2-4 litres of ‘gas’ per day

What makes the microbiota go out of balance?




+Poor diet



Probiotics are being shown more and more now to have an incredible effect on our health. Looking at the diagram you can see just some of the proven areas of benefit. It is a very interesting area of research and development.

The small intestine is about 20 feet long and the large intestine is only 4 feet long so the names should really be swapped! However there are lower numbers and a lower diversity of microbes in the small intestine.

Your GI tract contains 100,000 billion microbes. This is a crazy number to imagine. Last time I checked the world population is around 7.8 billion!

So how do these probiotics have any effect? Surely it’s like a drop in the ocean?

Probiotics mostly range from 5-100 billion to give you an idea.

As there are far fewer organisms in the upper parts of the GI tract compared to the large intestine, probiotics are able to have a much greater effect in these areas. In the large intestine, it really would be a drop in the ocean. By having a positive and significant impact in the small intestine this will then impact like dominos the health of the large intestine.

When selecting which probiotic to take I recommend you get advice from a professional such as a nutritionist as it is really important to consider the strains you are taking, the quality of the probiotic and the quantity because all these factors vary depending on the individual.