Let’s get this straight once and for all. They are transient. They help while they are there and then pass on through.
Two studies (see below) are causing a bit of a kafuffle because they claim to prove what is already known – that probiotics don’t colonize and therefore, they are useless. Some strains in some people do colonize after ingestion, according to one study, but if they had followed up, they would have found that none colonize past two weeks – this includes human strains which hang around longer than any other type.
But of course, they didn’t. Or maybe the researchers are planning to follow-up, but the media jumped the gun, which often happens. Researchers often don’t make the conclusions we read in articles.
In one of the studies, they gave healthy people antibiotics. Then had them take probiotics after the course of antibiotics. In some of the people, they found the “probiotics” replaced the residential. But they should have waited two weeks – they would have found they eventually would leave, too.
The article claims this made probiotics harmful – yet there is no proof of harm. More importantly – it’s pretty harmful to be giving healthy people antibiotics. At least the probiotics tried to fill the void.
Good studies, looking at antibiotics and probiotics, have participants take the antibiotics with the probiotics. Not just after. Antibiotics can only kill so much. Taking probiotics with the antibiotics just provides more in the system. Studies have shown that the probiotics with the antibiotics help with decreasing the incidents of antibiotic-associated diarrhea, decrease the ability of pathogenic bacteria to proliferate and help recovery of the residential bacteria.
They also picked healthy people in both studies – why would healthy people need probiotics?
Our own residential bacteria are what we need to build and colonize. Thousands of strains – far more than any probiotic could duplicate. This is accomplished by feeding them prebiotic foods. There is much more to consider when building good bacteria levels. The environment needs to be ideal for our residential bacteria and we need a healthy intestinal lining.
There is also what we eat. Different foods feeds different types of strains. It is not a simple process to build our good gut bacteria if we have health issues or maintaining them if we are healthy.
This is where probiotics can be helpful. They help us in a functional way while they are there. When assessing probiotics, it’s about results. Did they help with symptoms such as diarrhea, headaches, depression cholesterol, blood sugar etc.?
Many studies (see below) have been conducted assessing the benefits of probiotics with specific conditions and issues. Generally, studies look at specific strains for specific conditions. This is the proper way to assess value.
It’s also complicated when translating results to usable information for consumers. We have to remember that this research is still in its infancy. There is so much more to learn about the gut.
If taking probiotics is not your thing, fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, wine and kombucha also provide transient beneficial bacteria. Fermented foods have added benefits, too. They contain prebiotics which can feed our residential bacteria.
And food is the best way to help the gut and more fun, too.
In the meantime, we can take probiotics or eat fermented foods and see how they make us feel. In the end, that is what really matters.
Articles Questioning the Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics with Antibiotics
Benefits of Probiotics
Benefits of Fermented Foods