We’ve long considered probiotics a miracle cure for a whole range of health probs: bad bloating? Kaching! Sucky skin? Kaching! Anxiety playing up? Kaching, kaching! But when it comes to one ailment in particular, you’d be better off saving your pennies (if new research out of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science is anything to go by):
Two studies published in the journal Cell looked at how well probiotics work and if they do in fact help the bacteria in a person’s gut recover after taking a course of antibiotics.
In the first study, participants were split into two groups: with one given a commercial probiotic and the other a placebo. They then had their gut bacteria analysed through an upper endoscopy and colonoscopy.
Interestingly, researchers found that the probiotic caused one of two responses. The bacteria either moved from one end or the other without ever attaching to the gut (meaning it was kinda pointless) or it caused only minor changes to the microbiome.
For the second study, three groups were given antibiotics, one following their course up with commercial probiotics and another given a transplant of their own gut bacteria (which was taken before the probiotics were consumed.) The third group received no further treatment.
In comparison to the first study, this time the commercial probiotics were significantly better at colonising in the gut post antibiotics.
However. The researchers found that the probiotics prevented the microbiome from returning to its original, healthy state.
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“This was worse than not doing anything. It was significantly bad and persistent,” Professor Eran Elinav, the lead author for both studies explained.
Because of these findings, he recommends society move away from the “one-size-fits-all approach” to commercial probiotics and shift to signature combinations, tailored to each individual.
“People have thrown a lot of support to probiotics, even though the literature underlying our understanding of them is very controversial,” Professor Eran added.
“We wanted to determine whether probiotics such as the ones you buy in the supermarket do colonise the digestive tract like they’re supposed to, and then whether these probiotics are having any impact on the human host. Suprisingly, we saw that many healthy volunteers were actually resistant in that the probiotics couldn’t colonise their gastrointestinal (GI tracts.)
Bottom line? Speak to your GP/naturopath/dietician before dropping your dosh on a dose.