Probiotics – drinks and foods that contain so-called ‘good bacteria’ – have become a staple part of many people’s diets. The belief is that they afford a number of health benefits and help boost the operation of the gut. But new research from Israel not only suggests that probiotics are “quite useless,” but they could actually do some people harm.
Inside Your Gut
There are at least 1,000 different species of bacteria living in our gastrointestinal tract (gut). Tens of trillions of microbes helping us digest foods and ensuring we get the nutrients we need. Furthermore, some gut bacteria are also known to help with the production of certain vitamins and play a key role in the continued function of our immune systems.
The bottom line is the bacteria in your gut are absolutely crucial for your continued health and risk of disease. It’s no wonder then that probiotics have become so popular.
There’s a strong chance that the natural balance of bacteria in your gut will be disrupted following an illness. Probiotics, which comprise live bacteria and yeasts, are thought to help restore said balance. Which is why many people today turn to probiotics in the belief that they are benefiting their health.
So Why Are The Benefits Of Probiotics Being Questioned?
Because a group of scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel have discovered that probiotics often go in one end and straight out the other. In other words, the good bacteria fail to colonise inside the person’s gut and, therefore, provide zero benefits.
The team from Israel actually conducted two studies, both of which saw participants consume a cocktail of common good bacteria. But while the first study, which involved 25 healthy volunteers, found probiotics afforded little to no benefit much of the time, the second study was much more damning.
For the second study, 46 health people were asked to take probiotics after the use of antibiotics. The researchers found the probiotics actually hindered and delayed the regrowth of healthy bacteria, which had been killed by the antibiotics. In other words, the probiotics interrupted the natural recovery of the gut.
However, study participants who were given a pill containing their own natural bacteria recovered a lot quicker. It’s a reality that calls into question the effectiveness of a one-size-fits-all approach to probiotics and suggests that the future of probiotic supplements could lie in specifically tailoring them for individuals.
Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Eran Elinav, an immunologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, said: “Although all of our probiotic-consuming volunteers showed probiotics in their stool, only some of them showed them in their gut, which is where they need to be.
“If some people resist and only some people permit them, the benefits of the standard probiotics we all take can’t be as universal as we once thought.”
Both studies were published in the journal Cell.
Until more research is conducted and the benefits/risks associated with probiotics are definitively known, always consult your doctor if you’re unsure about using them.
I joined Premier Choice Group as a Healthcare & Protection Consultant in 2017, where I now look after the needs of over 200 clients nationwide. Prior to joining the Premier Choice Group, I worked for a large Private Healthcare Insurer, VitalityHealth, and managed SME and Individual clients across the country.