We interviewed Camilla Gray a qualified Nutritional Therapist who specializes in digestive health and discussed the benefits of probiotics, her great tips on nutrition and gut health.
What are the benefits of taking a probiotic supplement?
Probiotics are friendly bacteria; they not only help to keep our microbiome (gut) in check, but they can aid different areas of health! Probiotics have been studied to positively impact:
- Digestive health; helping with bloating, constipation and loose stools
- Vaginal health; helping with UTIs, thrush, BV
- Immune health; boosting resistance to URTIs
- Lowering cholesterol
- Pregnancy; reducing the risk of post-natal depression, gestational diabetes
- Children’s health; supporting colic, eczema, asthma.
There are so many different probiotics out there, but you really must look for a supplement that lists the probiotic strains. The strain is the part after the genus/species and it usually consists of some letters and numbers, for example, Lactobacillus acidophilus is the genus/species and LA-05 is the strain. By knowing the strain (LA-05) you can use this to identify what action that strain has within the body. For example, Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-05 has been especially trialled in regulating bowel function and improving H. pylori eradication alongside triple therapy. If you were to take a whole bunch of Lactobacillus acidophilus on its own, you may be getting tons of different strains and therefore, you won't know what the effect on the body will be. One acidophilus is not equal to another!
How often should you take one? When choosing a probiotic what should you look for?
Probiotic strains work in different ways - it is not a one size fits all approach. So, it really depends on what condition you are looking to support as to how long you should take it. Tips for choosing a probiotic supplement:
- Pick one that has the strains listed, not just the genus/species
- Pick one that has strains studied to support the health condition you are looking to support
- Pick one that has strains which have been tested in gold-standard clinical studies
- Use Google Scholar to search for studies on your strain if you are unsure
- Look at the reviews on an independent platform (Trustpilot, Feefo)
If you’re just looking for a probiotic to support all round gut health, you could choose to include different probiotic foods in your diet instead of taking a probiotic supplement. Probiotics are in things like sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, sourdough bread, kombucha or kefir. Make sure they are raw and unpasteurised, contain no added sugars or preservatives and are organic wherever possible. If you’ve never had probiotic foods before, start low and slow! You may get some digestive disturbance if you go in with too much right away. But remember, it is very hard to know what strains are in probiotic foods and drinks, so if you’re looking to support specific conditions, it's prudent to take a supplement with strains studied to aid that health concern.
In particular, how do women benefit from taking a probiotic supplement and is there a specific one you would recommend?
Not many people know that there is a vaginal microbiome too! Keeping your vaginal microbiome balanced and in check can be paramount in reducing vaginal infections like UTIs, thrush and BV. There are a couple of strains: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1® & Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14® which have been studied in clinical trials on thousands of women and have shown to be effective in supporting these conditions. I personally used to suffer from chronic UTIs and have been taking a probiotic supplement called For Women which contains these 2 strains (plus another strain for vaginal health) for the past 4 years as a preventive, this has stopped re-occurring infections. Since using this product, I have only had 1 UTI in 4 years, and I used to get them monthly. You can also use the product to help the active infection, you just double the dose.
What are your key nutrition tips? What are your tips for gut health?
- Eat the rainbow - Eat as many different plant foods as possible, BUT there is a few caveats. If you suffer from digestive issues, plant foods that contain prebiotics (onions, garlic etc) can cause you discomfort in the form of gas and bloating. If this is the case for you, you may want to work with a practitioner to try a low FODMAP type diet which can help resolve digestive issues. Foods high in lectins can also be problematic (lentils, beans, corn etc) sprouting or cooking these in a pressure cooker breaks down lectins which means they can be better tolerated.
- Gentle fasting - Try not to eat anything after 8pm and avoid snacking in between meals. This helps your gut process your 3 main meals and gives your digestive organs a rest.
- Calm down - Eat your meals in a calm environment, away from screens. If you eat in a ‘stressed’ state your gut will struggle to break down food, leading to digestive issues like bloating, gas and indigestion.
- ‘Drink’ your meals - Digestion starts before you start eating, the smell, sight and sound of your food cooking will stimulate digestive juices. If you grab food on the go, you skip this part so you must chew food properly, to ensure optimum digestion. Chew each mouthful until it is purely liquid before you swallow.
- Go natural – Eat food in its most natural state as possible, your gut will thank you for avoiding foods that are refined and ultra-processed.
- Spice it up – Add as many different herbs and spices as possible to your foods, these all contain huge benefits to gut health and overall health. My top 3 picks are turmeric, ginger and oregano.
- Go green – Green bananas are full of something our gut bugs love – resistant starch! You can also find this in cooked and cooled rice and potatoes (good for lunch boxes).
- Breathe! - Mediation and yoga are proven to reduce IBS symptoms such as pain and bloating. Something as simple as taking 10 deep belly breaths before eating can help knock you into the ‘rest and digest’ nervous system state which aids digestion.
- Clean up – Check out PAN-UK’s yearly dirty dozen list, which highlights the fruits and veg which are the most heavily sprayed with pesticides. Unfortunately, pesticides can be harmful to our gut health and overall health, so it’s a good idea to buy these organic where possible.
- Rest easy – Just a few nights of poor sleep can alter the microbiome in a bad way, so try and set up a good nightly routine to ensure you get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Magnesium bath salts can be helpful for those who suffer from insomnia (would pair nicely with a Spritz Wellness candle!).
Wishing you great gut health,
Camilla would be delighted to offer readers of the Spritz Wellbeing blog 20% off her gut health MOT which is usually £180 (making it £144) for bookings made in September. The gut health MOT includes 2 sessions with where you work together over 2 months to get your gut feeling good again. Just mention this offer when making your booking, if you would like more information on the gut health MOT and other services she offers, you can book in for a free 15-minute discovery call via her website.
Camilla Gray is a qualified Nutritional Therapist who specializes in digestive health. Camilla worked as international cabin crew for 10 years which wreaked havoc on her gut and made her unwell. She helped herself back to vitality through good nutrition & lifestyle changes which sparked an obsession with gut health. In 2015 she decided to change careers and embarked on a 3-year course in Nutritional Therapy. Since qualifying, she has worked exclusively on helping clients overcome all manner of digestive issues in her clinic which is now purely online. She is also Nutrition Team Leader at the U.K & Ireland’s top probiotic supplement company Optibac Probiotics. Camilla has been featured in ‘The Mail Online’, ‘Women's own', ‘Net doctor’, ‘The Sun’, ‘The Daily Express’, ‘Metro’ and other publications. She lives in the seaside village of West Wittering and enjoys fermenting her own food and drinks, paddleboarding and yoga.