Probiotics are believed to be good for your gut health and they’re available in different forms across drug stores. They promise many health benefits, but are they necessary? Do we really need to be taking them every day?
The goal of probiotic supplements is to populate our large intestine, which is already full of trillions of bacteria, with the “best” stuff to improve digestion, help absorb nutrients and improve or boost immunity. Supplements can contain anywhere from one to a hundred different strains, with billions of organisms per dose. They’re often proprietary, meaning all manufacturers may claim their product is “stronger, better, faster, cleaner” based on their own blend. There is very few evidence to support these claims.
Registered dietitian Nishta Saxena weeds out fact from fiction below.
Probiotics are good to take after a course of antibiotics
They may help reduce the severity or length of time you have acute diarrhea you experience after using antibiotics, or if you are a patient in a hospital treated with antibiotics, they may help prevent Clostridioides Difficile (C DIFF) infections. Probiotics may also help improve symptoms in certain people with inflammatory bowel disease in a flare-up, certain strains may help with chronic constipation and they could possibly help with blood pressure (though more studies are needed).
The bacteria that comes in the bottle is the same as the one you’re helping grow in your intestine
The bacteria in a bottle or powder on the shelf is totally different and unrelated in form to that bacteria that lives deep in the acidic environment of your intestines! Bacteria in our bodies have all kinds of genetic and metabolic adaptations they make to live in that hostile environment, and nothing on a store shelve is similar to this at all.
Also, this bacteria may become less effective as it sits on stores shelves and it may not even make it past your stomach acid, to get to your large intestine where it needs to do that work.
Probiotics have to be refrigerated
They don’t all have to be. Some probiotics use dairy and those might have to be in the fridge, but some are shelf stable, especially those where the bacteria comes from soil.
Most yogurts are generally a good source of probiotics
They might be a source added in after the product is made, but its power is diminished when it sits on the shelf.