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Can probiotics recolonise my gut?

Can probiotics recolonise my gut? Naturopath Kirily Thomas

This is a question I get asked *all the time* and a statement I hear bandied about on a regular basis – there is a huge amount of confusion out there about this subject! So, can probiotics recolonise my gut?

The short answer is no, you can’t permanently recolonise your gut using probiotics. Although the correct probiotic prescription for your specific health issues can definitely be helpful, any colonisation is only temporary. Thus, probiotics should be used as a specific tool with a particular outcome in mind, which a qualified, highly trained, gut-savvy practitioner can help you with (you may already know one ;-)). Sometimes, probiotics are needed long term to help manage a chronic illness (for example), however sometimes probiotics may only be needed for a few months to help things get back on track.

How long do probiotics hang around in the gut?

On average, general probiotic strains only hang around for about 6 weeks after you stop taking them and then they’re gone. The best way I can describe it to my patients, although it’s not as precise as I’d like, is that the bugs in your gut are constantly jostling for the best position. Think about the most popular carparks that are close to the door of a supermarket. Cars are moving in and out all the time and new arrivals are hoping they will be able to score the prime spot! The probiotics you take as a supplement will take up some of those valuable carparks in the gut (for the time that they are there) and, if you use the right one, support the good guys and elbow out the bad guys, helping to restore balance. However, this needs to be done alongside supporting and nourishing the populations of the beneficial commensal microbes that make up your unique gut microbiome. 

NBH The role of probioitcs. Ma et. al 2023.

Do probiotics nourish and feed my unique gut microbiota?

Not always directly, however they help them enormously when times are tough with supporting the gut environment and performing specific tasks. And as one of my favourite reads in the last few weeks Ma et. al (2023) so beautifully discussed in their review (1), probiotics can help to:

·      Improve intestinal homeostasis/balance (by supporting the good guys, elbowing out the bad guys, holding valuable space in the gut)

·      Improve the function of intestinal barrier/protective mucous layer

·      Support intestinal immunity

·      Modulate the gut microbiota its beneficial metabolites (like short-chain fatty acids SCFA e.g. butyrate).

Thus, probiotics can be a very important support when we are trying to restore balance.

So, probiotics don’t recolonise the gut, not all probiotics do the same job (see my previous blog on strain specific prescribing) and I need to do other things alongside probiotics to nourish the beneficial flora in my own gut microbiota?  → Yes, exactly! 

What does nourish and feed our beneficial microbes directly then? → Specific PREbiotics and nourishing foods alongside *selectively* antimicrobial herbs (when required), depending on the balance of your own gut microbiome. I’ll be writing a blog about prebiotics soon, and you can read more about microbe-nourishing foods in my previous blogs on polyphenols and the importance of fibre.

How do I know what will work best for me? → Have a consultation with someone like me, who is degree-qualified and has a special interest in all things gut! You will receive very specific advice that’s tailored to your current situation and the balance of your unique gut microbiota.

So, I hope that answers the question for you, can probiotics recolonise my gut? The gut really is a complicated part of our anatomy and any treatment needs to be individualised for you.

Need some support? Book a consult here. I would love to help you!

1.     Ma, Teng & Shen, Xin & Shi, Xuan & Sakandar, Hafiz & Quan, Keyu & Li, Yalin & Jin, Hao & Kwok, Lai-Yu & Zhang, Heping & Sun, Zhihong. (2023). Targeting gut microbiota and metabolism as the major probiotic mechanism – An evidence-based review. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 10.1016/j.tifs.2023.06.013.

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