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What Are Probiotics? Your Frequently Asked Questions ... Answered

  • 6 min read

What Are Probiotics?

Interested in probiotics? You're not alone.

With 68% of UK adults considering gut health to be essential to overall health, it’s no surprise to see growing interest in probiotics and the beneficial role they play in supporting health and wellbeing.1

The medical community is learning more about gut health every day. We researched the latest developments to prepare this guide and answer your questions.

Whether you are looking to improve your general health and wellbeing or to alleviate the symptoms of a tricky digestive issue, look no further …

What are probiotics and how do they work?

Probiotics are live bacteria that promote positive health benefits.2 They work by helping to restore the natural balance of gut bacteria and by increasing the quantity of ‘good bacteria’ in your gut.3

Your microbiome, the scientific term for your gut, is where most of these live bacteria  (‘microbes’) live in your body.  And there are trillions of them!

The good bacteria in your gut can help keep your body healthy and happy by contributing to digestive health, immune health, serotonin production (‘the happy chemical’) and disease prevention.4,5,6

We like to think of our good bacteria as our ‘live active friends’ on the inside. Looking after them is essential!

Consuming probiotic bacteria to support a balanced microbiome has been shown to improve overall health. Whereas, an unbalanced gut can lead to digestive issues, allergies, weight challenges and more.7,8,9

What are the benefits of probiotics?

Probiotics help restore the natural balance of gut bacteria. Restoring the natural balance of gut bacteria has been linked to a range of health benefits.

Probiotic bacteria may help:

  • Improve your digestive health

Probiotics bacteria have been linked to reduced bloating and increased stool regularity.  They have been used for decades to help alleviate the symptoms of digestive disorders such as bloating, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis and diarrhea.10

If you suffer from digestive health issues … don’t worry, you’re not alone! An NHS study found at least 40% of us suffer from symptoms of tricky digestive issues!11

  • Boost your immune system

Did you know, 70% of the cells that make up your immune system are found in your gut?12

Having a healthy and balanced microbiome is one of the best things you can do to protect and strengthen your immune system. A healthy gut is linked to benefits including resistance to infections and colds, and recovery after illness.13

In addition to containing billions of live active cultures per serving, Biomel contains Vitamins B6, D and Calcium. These vitamins also support the protective activities of the immune cells (which make up your immune health!).14

  • Protect your mood

Have you ever heard of ‘the gut-brain connection’?14

Your gut is often referred to as your second brain because it’s the only organ in your body, besides your brain, with its very own nervous system. Your gut even contains more neurotransmitters than your brain!

This is why many researchers believe your gut can affect your mood.16 In fact, 95% of your serotonin (the ‘happy chemical’) is produced in your gut.17

Many researchers believe our emotions are influenced by the nerves in our gut. This may explain the science behind ‘gut feelings’ and why we feel butterflies in our stomach when we’re nervous …

How should I take probiotics?

To make it easier to incorporate friendly bacteria into your diet, we recommend adding probiotic foods and drinks to your daily routine.

Probiotics can be consumed daily through a wide variety of sources. These include fermented foods, probiotic supplements and probiotic foods & drinks.

You can read more about the sources of probiotics here:

  • Fermented foods

Fermentation is an ancient technique for preserving food, which involves breaking down the carbs and sugar with bacteria and yeast, creating lactic acid. This promotes vitamin and bacteria production. Fermentation typically results in a strong, tart or sour taste.18

Common fermented foods include kombucha, tempeh, kefir, pickles, yogurt and sauerkraut.

  • Probiotic Supplements

Like vitamins, you can find probiotics in supplement form.

Probiotic supplements are typically dry tablets that contain dormant probiotic cultures. They are not all the same, the types of probiotic strain and quantity of probiotic cultures will differ from supplement to supplement.

  • Probiotic drinks

Probiotic drinks like Biomel are functional beverages that contain live and active bacteria to support gut health, particularly digestive and immune health.

Unlike many fermented foods, Biomel has a subtle taste and is vegan friendly and are easy to incorporate in your diet.

When should I take probiotics?

An unbalanced gut occurs when there’s an imbalance of bad to good bacteria in your digestive system. This means, there is not enough friendly bacteria on the inside looking out for you!

This can happen if you have a poor diet, have recently been ill or been taking certain medicines, such as antibiotics.

Taking probiotics can help restore the natural balance of gut bacteria and increase the quantity of good bacteria in your gut.19

Though some research suggests that more bacteria survive if you take probiotics before a meal, consistency is more important than specific timing when it comes to supporting your gut. A month-long study found that probiotics caused positive changes in the gut microbiome regardless of whether they were taken with a meal.20

The best thing about probiotic drinks is they can be easy and fun to incorporate in your diet. We enjoy drinking Biomel every day with breakfast and as an afternoon snack!

LOVE YOUR GUT TIP: For an easy and delicious way to boost your breakfast, add Biomel to your overnight oats, pour it straight over your breakfast cereal or mix it in a protein shake or smoothie.

Do probiotics survive stomach acid?

Many of us have questions about whether the probiotics we consume actually survive their journey into our guts. This is an important question, because our friendly bacteria have a pretty tough journey and they must survive to be beneficial!

To reach our gut, probiotics must pass through acidic environments in your digestive tract, before they reach the small intestines and start multiplying. Once they are in your small intestine, the probiotic bacteria can start their beneficial job.21

The quantity of probiotic cultures (CFU’s – or Colony Forming Units) that survive this journey differs from product to product. This will depend upon the probiotic strain used and quantity present. Different sources can be tested in clinical trials to ensure they survive.

In every serving of our delicious dairy-free probiotic drinks, we use billions of live active cultures that have enhanced survival chances and are coated in a protective spore, which shields our good bacteria during their journey to your gut.  This ensures they survive and thrive!

We test Biomel regularly to ensure our probiotic cultures reach their destination (your gut!).

Trusted Sources

1. Mintel: Healthy, Ethical and Experiential: The Holy Trinity of British Consumer Spending
2. McFarland LV. Department of Medicinal Chemistry, University of Washington, Seattle. From yaks to yogurt: the history, development, and current use of probiotics.
3. Joint FAO/WHO Working Group Report on Drafting Guidelines for the Evaluation of Probiotics in Food
4. Chapman CM1, Gibson GR, Rowland I., Health benefits of probiotics: are mixtures more effective than single strains?
5. Brown AC1, Valiere A., Probiotics and medical nutrition therapy.
6. Natalie Terry and Kara Gross Margolis, Serotonergic Mechanisms Regulating the GI Tract: Experimental Evidence and Therapeutic Relevance
7. Moayyedi P, Ford AC, Talley NJ, Cremonini F, Foxx-Orenstein AE, Brandt LJ, Quigley EM, The efficacy of probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review.
8. Michael D. Kappelman, corresponding author Kristen R. Moore, Jeffery K. Allen, and Suzanne F. Cook, Recent Trends in the Prevalence of Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis in a Commercially Insured US Population
9. Angelakis E1, Merhej V, Raoult D., Related actions of probiotics and antibiotics on gut microbiota and weight modification.
10. Moayyedi P1, Ford AC, Talley NJ, Cremonini F, Foxx-Orenstein AE, Brandt LJ, Quigley EM., The efficacy of probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review.
11. NHS, Inflammatory bowel disease
12. G Vighi,* F Marcucci,‡ L Sensi,‡ G Di Cara,‡ and F Frati‡, Allergy and the gastrointestinal system 
13. King S, Glanville J, Sanders ME, Fitzgerald A, Varley D, Effectiveness of probiotics on the duration of illness in healthy children and adults who develop common acute respiratory infectious conditions: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
14. Silvia Maggini, Eva S. Wintergerst, Stephen Beveridge and Dietrich H. Hornig, Selected vitamins and trace elements support immune function by strengthening epithelial barriers and cellular and humoral immune responses
15. Adam Hadhazy, Think Twice: How the Gut's "Second Brain" Influences Mood and Well-Being
16. Messaoudi M, Lalonde R, Violle N, Javelot H, Desor D, Nejdi A, Bisson JF, Rougeot C, Pichelin M, Cazaubiel M, Cazaubiel JM, Assessment of psychotropic-like properties of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and human subjects.
17. Natalie Terry and Kara Gross Margolis, Serotonergic Mechanisms Regulating the GI Tract: Experimental Evidence and Therapeutic Relevance
18. Harvard University Health, How to get more probiotics
19. Joint FAO/WHO Working Group Report on Drafting Guidelines for the Evaluation of Probiotics in Food
20. Tompkins TA, Mainville I, Arcand Y., The impact of meals on a probiotic during transit through a model of the human upper gastrointestinal tract.
21. B.M. Corcoran, C. Stanton, G. F. Fitzgerald, and R. P. Ross, Survival of Probiotic Lactobacilli in Acidic Environments Is Enhanced in the Presence of Metabolizable Sugars

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