Updated: Dec 29, 2020
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that when consumed allegedly give us various health benefits and as a result can improve our quality of life. These bacteria strains are usually found in natural yoghurts, fermented foods or taken as probiotic supplements, they are often described as containing "good" or "friendly" bacteria.
The main purpose of consuming a probiotic is to reach our gut and to deliver these good ‘probiotic’ bacteria strains. Once they are in the large intestine they help us by improving our digestion, helping aid absorption of nutrients and improving our immune system. Historically it has been difficult to prove these probiotic products would even reach the gut 'alive' as when consumed they had to pass through our stomach acid which may have damaged the live bacteria along the way. This is where Symprove comes in, Symprove claims to be able to deliver the probiotic bacteria to the gut without the stomach and digestive processes damaging the bacteria in the delivery process.
Symprove’s claim has been verified from an independent study from UCL which tested the probiotics ability to reach the gut. Upon reaching the gut, this is where the strains work their magic by delivering the healthy bacteria 'alive'. In doing so Symprove has since gained a reputation in the nutrition and dietetic world for its evidence-based testing as their approach reassures users that the bacteria they purchase remains intact when it reaches the gut.
Before we go further, why would we take probiotics – what are the benefits?
Sadly, we live have in past been overprescribed the use antibiotics for certain conditions that perhaps didn’t require them. Antibiotics work by killing the bad viruses that make us sick which then helps us recover but sadly a course of antibiotics will also kill a lot of our beneficial bacteria in our gut.
Beneficial bacteria in the gut is essential for us absorbing and making certain vitamins. Good bacteria consumption has been linked to an improved immune system, improved quality of sleep, and helping us feel generally healthier. Also fundamentally having a better balance of good vs bad bacteria can improve our digestion, reduce constipation and reducing the incidence of loose stools.
Are probiotics and prebiotics the same?
You may have heard of the term pro and prebiotics. Think of prebiotics as food for probiotics the ‘pre’ biotics create the food for the probiotics to eat when in the gut. Prebiotics are present naturally in foods such as onions, vegetables and a variety of whole grains.
Probiotics by contrast are a collective term to describe the ability to deliver healthy bacteria into the gut. There are many strains are bacteria and it is thought each strain has different benefits on each individual.
Do I need probiotics / prebiotics or can my diet accommodate for this?
If you eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of whole grains, vegetables and fruits then you should be naturally consuming enough prebiotics. Probiotics however have been harder to prove that they can reach the gut which is why choosing a supplement that can reach the gut still intact is very beneficial.
Fermented foods, natural yoghurt and fermented drinks such as kefir and kombuchas all contain healthy bacteria but the bacteria strain and active numbers present all play a role in the benefits of consumption meaning a dose-dependent relationship (you may have to drink a lot of kefir to deliver the same numbers as a probiotic supplement)
Now the question I wanted to uncover was does Symprove actually work? For me personally, I’ve had digestive issues for a considerable length of my adult life which until recently was compounded by a diagnosis of coeliac disease and lactose intolerance. So understandably, I was very excited to get the opportunity to try Symproves 12-week program. Symprove sent the 12-week programme to me on the basis that I would kindly review the product whether positive or negative.
So, what is symprove and what does the evidence say?
Symprove is made from an extract of germinated barley where they cultivate there 4 strains of probiotic bacteria are produced at their site in Surrey.
The probiotics within Symprove are 4 live strains of bacteria as seen in the image below. The more diverse and varied the strains of good bacteria the more balanced our gut microbiome or environment.
Symprove is water-based which enables the bacteria to avoid activating from the digestive processes in the stomach. This means that a large number of bacteria reach the gut and have a far better opportunity to deliver the live bacteria to where it’s needed. Unlike Symprove, some supplements are freeze-dried to ensure the bacteria within them survives through the stomach. However, this means the bacteria have to be reactivated within the stomach to have any effect and many passes right through your digestive system before they’ve had a chance to wake up and work.
University College London carried out an independent study on eight leading products containing bacteria. The study subjected each product to three tests. These assessed if the bacteria arrived in a live state, survived stomach acid transit and thrived in the target area of the gut. Symprove was the only product to pass all three tests.
How to take Symprove?
It’s recommended to undertake the 12-week program as it takes this long for the full effects for the bacteria to do its job. However, prior to receiving the 12-week program, I did purchase an individual 2 week supply out of curiosity which cost £20 from a health store which may be more manageable cost-wise.
Once your 12-week order is placed, the order process is quite seamless. Your 12-week program arrives via DPD on next day delivery. The bottles can be stored at room temperature until they are opened and then they need to be stored t in the fridge to maintain the active properties of the bacteria. Symprove comes in two flavours – original and a mango flavour. It’s down to personal preference, but I personally preferred the mango as it had less of an after taste.
The difficulty or point to note is that you have to take symprove before any water or other food in the morning. Symprove comes with a measuring cup and you give the bottle a shake and then pour the symprove up to the 70ml mark and then simply take it like a shot.
You then need to wait 10 minutes before eating and drinking anything else, so it’s wise to time it at first just until you get into a habit. A suggestion is to use this free time to get ready rather than sat waiting for your usual cup of tea or coffee.
Drinking Symprove at the correct dosage won’t cause any immediate negative reactions so if you have visions or worries of running to the toilet, rest assured this will not happen. It is a gradual programme that takes days to weeks for your gut to rebalance its bacteria and adjust the good to bad ratio.
What did Symprove do for me?
Over the years my digestion has been a contentious issue. For years GPs diagnosed my symptoms as IBs and medicated me with over the counter fiber sachets and natural laxatives. However especially as studying nutrition at university they never really helped diagnose the cause as it wasn’t like I was eating unhealthy and always made sure to include fibre and test whether soluble or insoluble fibre made a difference. Roll on nearly ten years of frustration and experimentations and I started an elimination diet and found lactose played a key role in causing severe bloating exacerbating my constipation. I then was found to have a family history of coeliac disease. All in all, I’ve tried lots of things to improve my digestion.
Prior to starting Symprove I was following a healthy balanced gluten and lactose-free diet but my bowel habits were still at best once every 2-3 days.
So, what did the first month look like?
Surprisingly for me personally day 1 I started to have daily movements which for anyone that rarely goes to it not only made me feel happier but gave me more energy and just in general, I was more upbeat. This continued for me for the first month, however, after a few rich meals eating out and once or twice having cross-contamination risks of foods whilst eating out this once daily effect starting to return to every 2-3 days
After now finishing the 12-week programme and just purely for the benefits I felt in the first 4 weeks I would recommend to anyone with similar digestive problems. I feel I have a complicated story being coeliac and having lactose intolerance, but it did give me short term benefits.
However, being a nutritional scientist at heart I will now abstain from taking Symprove for approx. 12 weeks and then re-introduce it after the gap and will comment as a separate post on how this has affected me for the second time. I would be keen to see if the first reaction was because my body was reacting to the new healthy bacteria strains and if the effects dampened down once my body got used to it.
New comment: 18th Oct 2020
I have restarted taking Symprove for the past 2-3 weeks after a few months off. During this gap, I have tried a few other probiotics ( tablets) and they also didn't really seem to improve my symptoms. I have also added flaxseed to my breakfast cereal and this has really helped ensure my digestion is as regular as it can be.
I have to say that it is hard to comment on whether symprove this second time is helping as it hasn't made a considerable difference after introducing the flaxseeds (more fibre). I would though still recommend anyone who was had IBS, digestive issues or chronic constipation to follow a few simple changes;
Add more fibre to your diet, perhaps try adding ground flax seeds ( 2 tablespoons) at breakfast for a month
Then trying symprove or probiotics for the full 3 months
I hope this helps you with your digestive symptoms. Please reach out to me though if you are still in discomfort as we can review your overall diet and make simple, practical suggestions. Contact us for IBS and gut health support today.