In the gut, there are millions and millions of various kinds of micro-organisms. Some are harmful whilst others have numerous health benefits they offer to the body. To help the gastrointestinal tract work properly, it must have both protective and harmful bacteria. The good or helpful micro-organisms are called PROBIOTICS. Probiotics are defined as live bacteria, with a proven beneficial effect on the health of the host.  These live micro-organisms help repair or restore gut flora or gut microbiome when taken in sufficient amounts,  thus creating a balance in the digestive system, as too many bad bacteria can cause an imbalance of gut bacteria (DYSBIOSIS) and become harmful especially when they outnumber the good ones, causing a decline in health.

Higher percentage of bad bacteria can cause a number of health issues such as digestive issues, fatigue,  heartburn, vaginal infection,  bloating, obesity,  diabetes, cancer, allergies, cardiovascular problems, inflammation and mental health issues.

Imbalance of gut bacteria occur:

  • when the gut loses good bacteria.
  • when there is too much growth of harmful bacteria.
  • when both good and bad bacteria are lost or absent in the gut.

Sources of probiotics include FOOD (fermented foods) and SUPPLEMENTS. Supplements may be in the form of tablets, capsules, powders and liquids which contain the lide bacteria.

Foods which are rich sources of probiotics include: yogurt, kefir drink, kombucha tea, tempeh, miso soup, and greek yogurt.

Supplements containing live microorganisms (probiotics) include Acidophilus Digestive Support,  Ultimate probiotic, Digestive Advantage Enzyme with Probiotic, Kid’s chewable Probiotic, Cranberry+ probiotic with vitamin C, Probiotic Gummies.

Gut health is linked to overall health so its importance cannot be overemphasized. Healthy guts contain healthy bacteria and immune cells that fight infectious agents like harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi. A healthy gut communicates with the brain through nerves and hormones which help maintain general health and well-being.

The causes of imbalance in gut bacteria include:

  1. Poor diets - eating foods high in refined sugar, refined carbs e.g. pastries, cakes, pizza and foods high in unhealthy fat like processed meat.
  2. Prolonged intake of antibiotics and some other medications.
  3. Excessive alcohol consumption.
  4. High stress level.
  5. Lack of exercise.

Bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, nausea and vomiting are all signs of an unhealthy gut. A doctor should be consulted if these symptoms persists.


  • Probiotic supplements can improve some mental health disorders.
  • Some probiotics may reduce inflammation.
  • They help keep the heart healthy by lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) and cause an increase in good cholesterol (HDL).
  • They help in weight loss thereby preventing obesity.
  • They may lower blood pressure modestly or slightly.
  • They help in digestive health.
  • Probiotics may reduce the risk and severity of certain allergies such as eczema in children and infants who are fed with probiotic supplemented milk.
  • They help in immune function by giving the immune system a boost and inhibit the growth of certain bacteria.
  • They may help skin look hydrated and healthy-looking as it is speculated that skin health and gut health might have a very close relationship.


Gut health can be improved by:

  • Eating proper diet - Eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits low in sugar like apples, fish especially oily fish, lean meat, nuts, seeds and healthy oils. Consume moderate portions of good carbs like brown rice, oats and sweet potatoes.
  • Having adequate sleep - At least 7 hours of sleep has a lot of benefits for an adult which include impacting the microbiome.
  • Exercising - A study found that exercise promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
  • Avoiding unnecessary or excessive intake of antibiotics - this can  help create a balance in gut bacteria.
  • Lowering stress levels - Studies show that high stress levels can affect gut bacteria. Even mild stress can cause a slight imbalance in gut bacteria making the host more vulnerable to infectious disease.
  • Stay hydrated - Drinking plenty of water has been shown to have beneficial effects on the balance of good bacteria in the gut.
  • Taking probiotics - A great way of improving on gut health is by consuming probiotic-rich foods or drinks or taking probiotic supplements.
  • Adding prebiotics to diet or taking prebiotic supplements - Prebiotics serve as food for good bacteria in the gut and help promote their growth. They can be in form of food or supplements.

Optimal doses of probiotic supplements are still unknown. However, most of the studies showing benefits used dosages of 1 billion to 100 billion live organisms per day. To take a safe and healthy amount of probiotics, it is good to talk with your doctor about the right dose for you.

Some side effects of taking too much probiotics including bloating and nausea. Diarrhea may also occur in worse cases. Individuals with serious medical conditions should consult their doctors before taking probiotics.

Christiana Mere,


IGH Gambia Staff.

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