What are Probiotics

What on earth are Probiotics and do you need to take them?

What are ProbioticsI’ve heard people talk about Probiotics for years.  I bet you’ve seen them on the TV talking about yogurt that has this special stuff in it.  You might even have heard of Prebiotics as something slightly different.

The main thing I’d heard was that you should take them after antibiotics, but when I went to investigate I got very confused and ran away from the health food shop.

Then last year I met a lovely blogger at an awards ceremony (which you are welcome to vote for me again for *hint hint*), who mentioned how they had helped settle her son who has aspergers.  I mentioned that the big hairy northern one had just come of antibiotics due to having shingles, Curly Headed Boy sometimes seemed to get into a bit of a tizwaz and that I’d been having regular stomach cramps.  She immediately put me in touch with OptiBac on twitter.

I had a long chat with the OptiBac lady and she explained somethings that I didn’t know:

  • There are lots of types of Probiotics.  So you might need different ones, depending on your situation.
  • Probiotic yogurts have sugar in them, so are kind of counteracting the good they can do.

They kindly offered to send me enough for the whole family to try, and we then faffed around for a good few months before taking them.  Eventually my stomach cramps got so bad that I did start, and when there was an obvious change quite quickly I popped my son on them.  Within a month or so husband was taking them too.

So did they make a difference?

For me with my stomach cramps – YES.  It took about 3 months for a complete fix, but I noticed a difference immediately.  I reckon I must have had the beginnings of IBS (which I’ve had before) because I often had an upset stomach too.  When this stopped I realised I had to drink a lot more water, to not go the other way, so I must have been a bit dehydrated.  Very soon my tummy was behaving perfectly and I didn’t have to watch what I ate as much.  Also, I could now drink wine again – yay!!!  By the way, if you are an IBS sufferer, and also have PCOS and also sometimes get hyperglycaemic, that’s because they are inter-related.  Check out my ‘healthy eating for rubbish cooks‘ section for ideas on ways to eat which will help all three.

For Curly Headed Boy – I’m not sure.  But I would definitely give him these powders again after antibiotics.  He complained of stomach pains a few weeks ago, and literally a couple of weeks of the children’s powders seemed to have him back up to scratch.  It’s great that he didn’t mind the taste mixed in with orange juice.

For the Big Hairy Northern one – again I’m not sure, but would definitely give him them again after antibiotics.

BTW I lost lots of weight last year, but hurt my back and was worried about putting it back on.  I have a sneaky suspicion that the improvement in my gut is what enabled me to keep my weight sorted until I was back up to exercising again.  I can’t prove it, but my intuition suggests it might be good for anyone wanting to lose weight.  The hairy one has definitely lost weight over the last 2 months, and although he is (ATLAST!) following my tips, I do think that there could be a connection with the probiotics.  I don’t think he takes them reliably though.

Also I was watching the ‘Food Hospital’ on Channel 4 last year and they had an amazing case of a girl with Alopecia caused by stress (they said it could also be from lack of zinc or genetic causes), who after taking the Probiotics grew her hair back.  This is because there is a relationship between some kinds of stress and stomach problems.  Isn’t it fascinating that supporting the gut helped reduce her stress?  If you want to know what other supplements might work for you, I did a post here.

Ultimately, the final proof is that I’m now spending my hard earned cash, despite cutting costs, on buying my own.  Now here I’m going to admit something terrible.  After OptiBac being so kind, I was then really lazy and bought my second pack from the health food shop who didn’t have OptiBac.  But I got my own just desserts as my stomach cramps came back.  Shhhh, don’t tell them!

Obtibac probiotics are available from them or super drug and there is tonnes of much more in-depth information on their site for you including research on how it has helped with reducing childhood infections, constipation, eczema, food intolerances, weight loss, and stress mgmt.  They have different ones for:

  • Daily well being
  • Daily well being extra strength
  • Daily immunity
  • Flat stomach (you know that bloated feeling!)
  • After antibiotics
  • Travelling abroad
  • Maintaining regularity
  • Childs health

Have you ever taken probiotics, I’d love to know what you think?


Disclaimer: I received a bottle for me, my husband and a packet of children’s probiotics from OptiBac, but no financial payment.  I’ve waited a long time before doing this review, so that I could really be sure how it had helped my family.  Luckily, they were very patient; in fact they didn’t actually request a review or demand that I did one in return for the products.



Is Supplementation Needed If You Are Eating Healthily?

SupplementsSo if you follow all my tips on eating healthily in my ‘Healthy Eating For Rubbish Cooks‘ Series, does that mean you don’t need to take supplements, minerals or vitamins?

The answer is: use your common sense (which isn’t the same as ignoring it or over-worrying about it).  You don’t need every supplement, and health food shops are full to the brim of ideas for you to spend your money on.

If you follow my tips on healthy eating, weight loss and exercise and you are feeling in tip top condition, then no, I doubt you need a supplement.

But if you are exhausted and have tried all my tips to get more energy, are sleep deprived and generally feel rubbish, then yes, maybe it would be a good plan.  The sorts of things that can be helped are PMT, joint pains, digestive issues, skin problems, depression, I even saw them help Alopecia on ‘The Food Hospital’ on Channel 4.

My top tip on supplementation is to ASK someone who knows more than you and knows more than the internet.  Sometimes the people who work in health food shops can be really helpful.  Sometimes you might actually want to talk to a nutritionist, homeopath or medical herbalist.  You might even have a great doctor who is willing to do a test for you to check how you are doing, as general exhaustion can also be a sign of deeper problems.  If they won’t do a check on your body’s nutrients, then you will find that there are private professionals who will; but make sure that you use someone with loads of experience who has come well recommended to you.

I think that the biggest question is whether to take a multi-vitamin or not.  Some people claim that you can get all the vitamins that you need from a healthy balanced diet.  Some claim that unless you eat totally organic, the quality of our vegetables and meat is not good enough any more and you will need vitamins.  My answer is; does your body feel healthy and vital?  If not, what’s wrong with it?  Maybe consider a supplement or vitamin.

I do use supplements, so I’m going to list what I use here or have used.  For all of them there is a really obvious reason, I’m not just supplementing for no reason.  Plus I have asked professionals about the combination of them.

Bear in mind that I haven’t slept through the night in 6 yrs, I have 2 young children (6yo and 2yo), I co-sleep and am an extended breast-feeder, as well as working from home when you look at my list!

1) Floradix: A liquid mineral and iron supplement: This is magic in a bottle for me when I’m breast feeding, and it doesn’t constipate you like iron can.  Without it I was getting HUGE bruises, but within a couple of weeks of going back on it I had tonnes more energy and the bruises were gone.

2) Vitamins: I take the ones for breast-feeding women as those little tikes do tend to suck all the good bits out of our bodies.

3) Omega 3, 6 and 9: My brain works better with these, REALLY noticeably!

4) Vitamin C: My body really likes me taking vitamin C, despite the fact that I pretty much always hit my 5 a day.  Maybe it’s habit, but I don’t feel as good starting the day without it.

5) Probiotic: A proper ‘pill’ one, rather than a yogurt with sugar.  Mine come from Optibac who kindly sent me a couple of packs to try for free.  I’d been having stomach cramps and this totally fixed it.  I’m going to write a proper post all about what probiotics are in the next couple of weeks for you.

I was talking to a friend today about the fact that she reckoned that supplements had helped her depression.  I know of loads of people who swear by whatever it is that they take.  There is a possibility that it is a case of the vitamins being a placebo.  But then there is research to show that even operations can be placebos because of the power of the mind.  I don’t really care, what is most important is that the proof is in the pudding.  There will be times in your life when you need a little extra help.  If the help is there and available, then I think it’s well worth it.

BUT, I’ll say again; it’s wise to get advise because herbs, vitamins, minerals and supplements are actually a lot more powerful than you might think.  You can take the wrong things that might make the symptoms worse or disagree with something else you are taking.

One final word: If you are pregnant, then it’s crucial that you take a multi-vitamin that is tailored for your needs and includes folic acid.  If you are pregnant with twins, get professional advice about whether you need more.

What are your favourite supplements?

Or do you think that it should be possible to survive without them?