Commonscience by Barry Smith

I was recently asked by a friend, a sportsman, to give reasons why someone who is well should take our probiotic, Symprove.

For the last ten years we have tended to focus on how to show that Symprove can help people who are unwell, but to explain its potential benefit in those that are well, we must look back 25 years to our company’s founding principle; proactive health maintenance is better than crisis health management. At that time we were treating farm animals and we reasoned, (and still do), that if you supplemented their feed with beneficial bacteria you could avoid a lot of the illnesses associated with intensive farming practices, and negate the overuse of antibiotics. Unfortunately, 25 years ago, our approach for livestock was a bit ahead of its time, and apart from a few exceptions, stockmen responded to the sick animal (crisis management) rather than think ahead to avoid the problem. Modern living can be likened to intensive farming practices but today we are better at understanding these pressures and are more in tune with health maintenance and the use of human food supplements like Symprove. So our principle is the same; to keep well and in top form, use Symprove as a food supplement to boost beneficial gut bacteria and ensure a balanced microbiota. Just as everyday teeth flossing can help maintain oral health and prevent disease, everyday consumption of Symprove can help maintain gut health and overcome some of the adverse effects of modern living (poor diet, stress, over-use of pharmaceutical preparations etc.)

But, not all probiotics are the same and if the principle of using a probiotic is to work at all then the bacteria have to be able to successfully establish and multiply within the volatile conditions of the digestive tract. In my view, the majority of probiotics on sale at present cannot do this; their contents are either killed during transport through the stomach, or they are unable to grow within the gut. The bacteria in Symprove have a head-start; they are both protected and fed by a Unique Delivery System (UDS) TM that ensures they survive transport through the gut.

This view was recently confirmed when UCL-Pharmacy released their findings from a study into bacterial survivability at low pH. A paper from this work has been accepted for publication in Beneficial Microbes for December 2014, and 2 abstracts for this important work were awarded a podium position at PharmaSci 2014, at the University of Hertfordshire. We also have evidence of the success of our bacteria and our UDSTM from a placebo-controlled study using Symprove in patients with IBS. It was necessary to test Symprove in the ‘unwell’ because in these people it is possible to show evidence of the potential benefits by demonstrating measurable changes in specific symptoms – the results of this clinical study at King’s College, are now published in the AP&T Journal.

So we know that the probiotic principle works with Symprove and the main reason for taking Symprove when you are well is just this; because it works! A probiotic that works can help to maintain health and protect against the rigors of modern living. There are many, many ways in which this might be achieved; most experts now think that a balanced gut flora can help maintain a combination of crucial functions in the body, all of which contribute to general health.

For sportsmen and women in particular, physical training can influence immune function, health and ultimately exercise performance. Factors that need to be considered alongside the physical demands of an athlete’s training programme include potential exposure to pathogens, nutrition, immunity and health status, lifestyle and psychosocial issues.

Just some of the reasons for sports people who are already well, to take Symprove are outlined below:

•A healthy gut flora can defend against pathogens

Recurrent cases of infection and compromised immunity lead to early fatigue which can affect the performance of even well-trained athletes. A major function of the gut microbiota is protection against colonization by pathogens. The mechanisms by which commensal bacteria restrain pathogen growth are complicated and pathogens have also evolved strategies to escape from this restraint. Balance and interplay in this ecosystem are fundamental for the control of infection and disease.1,2

•A healthy gut flora can improve nutritional status

Athletes can suffer from instances of quick fatigue often because they become deprived of essential nutrients under conditions of excessive work. Emerging evidence suggests the gut microbiota may be important in the regulation of glucose and energy homeostasis via complex interactions between microbially-derived metabolites and specific target tissue cells.3 In addition, specific microbial species may be involved in the production of a number of micronutrient components, which could improve nutritional status in certain people.3

•A healthy gut flora can improve immune function

Periods of intensified physical training have been shown to chronically depress immune function, with leukocyte functions measured at rest still depressed 24 hours after the last exercise bout.4 Several studies indicate that the incidence of symptoms of upper respiratory tract illness is increased in the days following prolonged strenuous endurance events, this is thought to be due to the temporary exercise-induced depression of immune function. Accumulating evidence indicates that gut microbiota interacts with both the innate and adaptive immune systems, and plays a pivotal role in the maintenance and disruption of gut immune quiescence.5 When steps in this complex interaction fail, immune depression, infection and auto-immune diseases may occur.5

•A healthy gut flora can help overcome stress and anxiety

While a certain level of stress may help sports people prepare and perform at optimal levels, too much stress can be detrimental and lead to performance anxiety. Beneficial gut bacteria can alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety and could have an impact on the nervous system; a recent review has even suggested that they could become the antidepressants of the future.6

•A healthy gut flora can protect against oxidative stress caused by exercise

Current data suggest that there is a higher level of protein oxidation in individuals performing permanent physical exercise training. Results from a recent study have demonstrated that intense physical activity induces oxidative stress and that supplementation with probiotics can increase plasma antioxidant levels, thus neutralizing the damaging reactive oxygen species.7

•A healthy gut flora can reduce leaky gut syndrome .

One of the side effects of exercise is that it causes the cells lining the intestinal wall to pull apart allowing substances from the gastrointestinal tract to leak into the bloodstream. This can trigger various problems, including mid-workout bowel distress. Recent research suggests that probiotics can help correct the problem; a study analysed blood samples from trained cyclists before and after intense exercise and found significantly fewer instances of leakage in athletes who had taken probiotics.7

In summary, it is necessary in my view to nurture a new mind-set – maintenance of health is surely an improvement on waiting for things to go wrong, and then trying to fix them!

For full references, please email

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