Paying close attention to what we eat can ensure great digestive health. Being more conscious of what we eat not only means getting the right amount of vitamins and nutrients from the food we eat, but getting our daily dose of probiotics too.
Probiotics are health-promoting bacteria that help fight bad bacteria in our gut. A healthy gut usually means there is an equal balance of good and bad bacteria in our digestive system. Excess bad bacteria can lead to discomfort and complications such as diarrhoea (12).
What causes diarrhoea?
Diarrhoea refers to loose stools that occur more than three times a day (1). It can come with other symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, headaches or fever.
Diarrhoea can be caused by a number of things including lactose intolerance, viruses, bacteria, or parasites that infect the stomach, such as what occurs with food poisoning (1).
It usually lasts for a day or two and goes away within a few weeks without needing any special attention.
Digestive support for diarrhoea
One of the best preventive measures for diarrhoea is to make lifestyle changes. This includes improving diet, hydrating, and consuming enough probiotics.
Here are the areas to consider in digestive support for diarrhoea:
Better food choices
Eating healthy and avoiding foods that strain your digestive system helps you maintain good digestive health. For instance, if you are lactose intolerant, be wary of dairy products as they can cause stomach upset. It also helps to learn about food allergies and triggers that can potentially upset your stomach.
Having sufficient fibre in your system also can help support good digestive health (6). You may consume a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and grains to achieve this. A variety in diet helps to make sure that we receive sufficient nutrients for a healthy gut (6). Some of these nutrients are vitamins C, K and A as well as folate (9).
If you are suffering from diarrhoea, the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) diet may be useful. It is effective in helping your stomach absorb necessary nutrients from easily digestible and non-irritating foods without causing it further stress (4). Foods high in potassium can also be added to the mix. Other options include foods with high salt content like pretzels, soup, and even isotonic drinks. This is because salt in moderation is believed to aid our bodies retain fluids lost in frequent bowel movement (3).
Dehydration is a common complication when you have diarrhoea. Drinking eight to 10 glasses of water a day or more can help when your stools are loose (3). Water helps in breaking down food so your body can absorb nutrients (4). It also helps in softening stools for more comfortable bowel movement (4).
While we can’t avoid having bad bacteria in our gut, we can increase the presence of good bacteria. This can be achieved by increasing our consumption of fermented and probiotic-rich foods. Such foods include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, kimchi, sourdough bread, and cheeses (5, 8).
The best probiotics for gut health
There are several strains of bacteria naturally found in our stomachs that can be considered probiotics. To strengthen your gut’s good bacteria, you can introduce probiotics as a regular addition to a well-rounded diet. The best probiotics for gut health combine multiple strains to decrease bowel discomfort, and support digestive system health (7).
Here are situations that underline the importance of increasing probiotics consumption:
Going to different places can mean eating and drinking food that your stomach isn’t familiar with. This can result in a condition known as traveler’s diarrhoea. Probiotics, specifically Saccharomyces, are effective in reducing and relieving symptoms of traveller’s diarrhoea (6).
Maintenance of intestinal health
Probiotics can help maintain intestinal health by making sure there is a good balance of healthy bacteria. Strains like Lactobacillus rhamnosus support the gut ecosystem so that it functions more optimally. They can also inhibit harmful bacteria and improve gastrointestinal barrier function (10).
While antibiotics can eliminate bad bacteria, they can potentially kill good bacteria too (7). This can create an imbalance of gut bacteria. It is common for those who take antibiotics to develop diarrhoea soon after (7). Taking probiotics allows you to restore friendly gut flora after antibiotic use.
Increasing our probiotics intake can help support gut health. Probiotics as part of a well-balanced diet can keep us safe from an imbalance of good and bad gut bacteria.
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Learn more about other areas that probiotics can help you with, plus other supplements that can benefit in different ways:
*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.
1. Diarrhea (2019), Retrieved August 14, 2021 from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/diarrhoea#treated
2. Health Benefits of Taking Probiotics (2020), Retrieved August 14, 2021 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics
3. When You Have Diarrhea (2019), Retrieved August 14, 2021 from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000121.htm
4. 6 Steps to Good Gut Health (n.a.), Retrieved August 14, 2021 from https://gutfoundation.com.au/6-steps-to-good-gut-health/
5. Mom’s Advice is Still the Best for Treating Diarrhea (2019), Retrieved August 14, 2021 from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/moms-advice-is-still-the-best-for-treating-diarrhea/
6. Caring for Your Gut While Travelling Abroad (2013), Retrieved August 14, 2021 from https://badgut.org/information-centre/a-z-digestive-topics/caring-for-your-gut-while-travelling-abroad/
7. Probiotics (2020), Retrieved August 14, 2021 from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14598-probiotics
8. How to Get More Probiotics (2020), Retrieved August 14, 2021 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-get-more-probiotics
9. 5 Foods to Improve Your Digestion (n.d.), Retrieved August 18, 2021 from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/5-foods-to-improve-your-digestion
10. Probiotics (n.d.), Retrieved August 23, 2021 from https://research.vitable.com.au/probiotics