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ProVen Glossary

Have you come across a term or phrase that you donโ€™t understand? Welcome to our Probiotics Glossary โ€“ designed to help explain the long list of jargon associated with the gut in general and probiotics in particular.
Caesarean section

A Caesarean section or C-section is the procedure in which the baby is delivered by surgical extraction from the uterus, as opposed to vaginal birth. C-sections are normally performed when complications arise in pregnancy or labour meaning that vaginal birth is no longer the safest option for mother and/or baby.
Interestingly, a direct positive correlation has been shown between babies born by caesarean-section and babies and infants with digestive problems; possibly due to the fact that caesarean babies do not absorb friendly bacteria from the mother’s birth canal during the birthing process.


Candida albicans (often simply referred to as Candida) is a yeast-like fungus which feeds on sugar. It can be found in the flora of the mouth, skin, intestinal tract and vagina; many people have small amounts of Candida albicans in the body without experiencing any negative side effects or symptoms. When allowed to overgrown, however, Candida albicans can cause inflammation and itching, leading to infections such as thrush. Candida overgrowth cannot be treated by antibiotics as it is fungal, therefore doctors often prescribe anti-fungal medicines, or opt for natural supplements including probiotics.


Capsules consist of an outer casing that is filled with a powder or liquid, whereas tablets are manufactured by compressing and compacting ingredients together. Capsules usually contain fewer excipients or fillers than tablets and are easier to swallow because of their shape.

Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease or CVD is a general term that refers to a disease of the heart or blood vessels. It includes coronary artery diseases (CAD), such as angina and myocardial infarction (commonly known as a heart attack).

Cerebrovascular disease

Cerebrovascular disease refers to a group of conditions that develop due to problems with blood supply to the brain. This happens when there is either limited or no blood flow to affected areas of the brain. Hypertension and atherosclerosis are among the main causes. Cerebrovascular disease may be better known as stroke, transient ischemic attack, subarachnoid haemorrhage or vascular dementia.


Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the body, in the liver. It can also be found in some foods. Cholesterol is carried around the body by two lipoproteins, LDL and HDL. LDL (known as the โ€˜bad’ cholesterol) carries cholesterol from your liver to your cells, and HDL carries cholesterol back to the liver for excretion from the body. Too much LDL in the blood can cause a build-up in the arteries and can increase the risk of heart disease and raised blood pressure.

Circadian rhythm

A circadian rhythm is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats on each rotation of the earth roughly every 24 hours. It can refer to any biological process that displays an endogenous, entrainable oscillation of about 24 hours.

Clinical trial

Clinical trials are research studies that involve patients with the aim of exploring various medical treatments for an identified health problem or testing new means for the prevention of certain illnesses. These research are carried out under strict conditions to establish the safety of these trials for the general population. Possible side effects and safety cautions are identified in many clinical trials. There are different types of a clinical trial, based on the study design. Randomised control trials, cohort studies, and ecological studies are examples of clinical trials.


Members of this ancient genus of bacteria are found throughout the environment in places such as soil and include some species which are pathogenic to humans. They are responsible for causing tetanus and some forms of food poisoning. Clostridium difficile is a member of this genus.

Clostridium difficile

Also called C. diff or C. difficile, Clostridium difficile is a bacteria that occurs in small amounts in many people’s large intestine. If the number of Clostridium difficile bacteria increases greatly however, it can lead to infection. People suffering from C. difficile infection experience varied symptoms, from mild or severe diarrhoea to severe inflammation of the bowel. In some cases, particularly amongst the elderly, it can cause death. C. difficile infection is often thought to be caused by antibiotics, which can diminish probiotic levels in the gut and allow for overgrowth of C. difficile. The bacteria can be contagious and is often referred to as a superbug.

Coeliac disease

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition caused by an immune reaction to gluten (gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye). According to Coeliac UK, the disease affects 1 in 100 people, although only 24% of sufferers have been diagnosed. The ingestion of gluten by a person suffering from coeliac disease causes damage to the intestinal lining, resulting in an array of symptoms including bloating, nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, fatigue, anaemia, and in some cases hair loss. The only treatment for coeliac patients is to follow a completely gluten-free diet.

Cognitive function

A term referring to a human’s ability to process thoughts. It is defined as ‘the ability of an individual to perform the various mental activities most closely associated with learning and problem-solving’.


Infant colic is a general term for a condition where the baby cries very often, for long periods of time, with no obvious reason as to why. Colic is often associated with digestive problems such as indigestion, food allergies, gas or intestinal cramps.

Colonic inertia

Colonic inertia is a motility condition that affects the muscles in the colon, meaning that waste is passed abnormally through the gut. Colonic inertia is relatively common and often associated with constipation. The condition can sometimes be caused by the long-term use of stimulant laxatives.


Microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast live all over the body, in the gut, in the vagina, on the skin etc. When microorganisms stick onto the body, start multiplying, and growing in number they are said to have colonised. Not all bacteria are able to colonise in all areas of the body. Some probiotics are good at colonising in the gut whereas others are good at colonising in the vagina. The ability of a probiotic to colonise can be measured in a lab by assessing how well the probiotic strain sticks onto intestinal cells in a glass dish. Or it can be measured by taking a vaginal swab to see how well the probiotics taken orally have colonised in the vagina.

Commensal bacteria

These non-pathogenic types of bacteria naturally coexist with humans in a non-harmful symbiotic relationship, which does not impact negatively on the health of the human host.

Competitive exclusion

This principle refers to the idea that when two different organisms which require the same resources exist in the same environment, eventually one of them will be eliminated or displaced by the more dominant organism.


Constipation is defined as having difficulty in passing stools or having hard and dry stools. Many people now define constipation as having less than 3 bowel movements per week. Constipation is thought to be caused by factors such as lack of fibre in the diet, lack of physical activity, lifestyle changes such as pregnancy, stress and ageing, and by dysbiosis.

Coronary heart disease

Coronary heart disease is a condition of recurring chest pain. This happens when part of the heart is not receiving enough blood. Coronary heart disease is sometimes called ischemic heart disease. Coronary heart disease usually develops when cholesterol particles in the blood start to collect in the arteries and stick to the artery wall. Eventually, these deposits of cholesterol become hard and form plaques which may narrow the artery. This can then decrease blood flow and therefore the amount of oxygen which is supplied to the heart muscle. Signs and symptoms of coronary heart disease can either develop slowly or quickly. Some people have no symptoms at all, but more often than not people experience severe chest pain (angina) and shortness of breath. This can, of course, pose a risk of a heart attack.

Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in which parts of the digestive tract become swollen and develop ulcers. Generally located in the small intestine and/or colon, Crohn’s can in fact develop anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus.


Cystitis is an infection of the bladder particularly affecting women, causing symptoms such as a burning sensation during urination as well as a frequent need to urinate. Cystitis is usually caused by pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli entering the urethra and travelling to the bladder. Evidence suggests that maintaining healthy levels of friendly bacteria help promote balanced levels of vaginal flora.


Cytokines are cell-signalling molecules that modulate the immune system response. Cytokines can either be peptides, proteins or glycoproteins, and they include the sub-groups: interleukins, interferon and growth factors. Their main purpose is to initiate the movement of cells towards sites of either trauma, infection or inflammation.

Additions to our Probiotics Glossary

If you come across a term you feel should be within our Probiotics Glossary, please do not hesitate to reach out to us and we will endeavour to research and add them. Email us at: [email protected]

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