“I am a 60-year old lady in relatively good health. However, I do suffer from digestive upsets – intermittent constipation and diarrhoea – for no apparent reason, occasionally. I’m planning to visit family over Christmas, so my diet will be different to my normal rather bland one. I sometimes take probiotics to balance my gut bacteria but wonder if I should take specific ones to help minimise any upsets while I’m away? I also suffer frequent urinary tract infections.”
Suzie Sawyer, Clinical Nutritionist, answers.
I understand your concerns especially if you’re away from home. Plus, slightly richer foods over Christmas can play havoc with the digestive tract.
Our beneficial gut bacteria or ‘friendly flora’ are easily upset by sugary foods, stress, alcohol, insufficient fibre or medication. However, their importance in gut and overall health should never be overlooked. They play key roles in the immune system, healthy skin and brain function, hormone production, liver detoxification and, of course, digestive wellness.
The resident strains Bifidobacterium bifidus and Lactobacillus acidophilus are the most prevalent in the gut, and therefore the most frequently supplemented. However, there are literally billions of bacteria happily living in the tract, and more research is being carried out all the time. We are now understanding more and more about specific strains.
I would suggest you go for a probiotic, which contains a range of strains. As well as those above I think you would benefit most from Lactobacillus plantarum GG which has been well researched in cases of irritable bowel and inflammatory bowel conditions. Lactobacillus GG is also very protective of the immune system.
To help protect against UTIs I suggest you try to find a probiotic also containing L. rhamnosus (Lactobacillus rhamnosus). This seems to be effective when it comes to preventing and treating these outbreaks.
Sugar in whatever form suppresses the immune system and creates a welcome environment for unwanted bacteria that frequently cause UTIs. I know it’s difficult over Christmas but make sure you drink plenty of water (at least six to eight glasses a day). This will help both the bowel and urinary tract to stay healthy and hopefully will prevent any unpleasant outbreaks.