In theory, the way to treat a disturbed gut flora is to repopulate the gut with the ‘good’ bacteria, and so exclude the more damaging bacteria and yeasts. Unfortunately, a reliable treatment of this sort will be impossible to devise until more is known about the gut flora. At present, the best treatment is to eat live yoghurt, which includes one-of the important bacteria in the gut, Lactobacillus. There are also commercial preparations of bacteria which are intended to restore the normal flora of the gut. Some of these have been tested by Dr John Hunter of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, who found very few live bacteria in them, making them less useful than live yoghurt.

To ensure that the brand of yoghurt you are buying really is live, add a spoonful to some warm milk that has been heated to boiling point and then allowed to cool. Keep the mixture in a vacuum flask for 6-8 hours. If it has not turned to yoghurt, then the original yoghurt was not live. The best way of ensuring your yoghurt is live is to make your own — starter cultures are available from some health-food stores, or by post.

If you cannot eat yoghurt, because of a sensitivity to milk, then commercial preparations of bacteria might be worth considering, but ask to see a bacteriological analysis showing how many live bacteria there are per gram (there should be several million) before buying.

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