Response To 60 Minutes Segment: Do Probiotics Actually Do Anything
By Ross Pelton, RPh, CCN, PhD, Scientific Director for Essential Formulas
The weekly TV program 60 Minutes aired a very disappointing segment on probiotics on Sunday, June 28, 2020. The segment, which was titled Do Probiotics Actually Do Anything? was highly critical of probiotics and essentially claimed that probiotic supplements are virtually useless. Instead of answering questions, the one-sided 60 Minutes segment seemed designed to create doubt and confusion among viewers and consumers.
It is regrettable that 60 Minutes chose to produce a program that seemed designed to promote several common myths and misconceptions regarding probiotics. For example, the experts that were interviewed questioned the safety and efficacy of probiotic supplements, claimed that probiotics are not well-regulated and suggested that perceived benefits from probiotics may be due to the placebo effect. The 60 Minutes program ignored the fact that thousands of scientific studies have been published on the benefits of probiotics.
Probiotics are here to stay. The U.S. government has funded hundreds of millions of dollars for research into the benefits and effects of probiotics and the human microbiome. Also, millions of Americans use probiotics regularly to help treat gastrointestinal problems such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.
What Does The Research Say
Probiotic doses are listed as colony forming units , which means the number of live strains in each dose.
Different brands will have different suggested doses and uses, so its important to understand the information listed.
Recent research found that the type of microbe strain, health condition, product formula, dose, and the quality of the product are all important for effectiveness.
The condition or symptom youre trying to treat can affect how the probiotic works and when youll see results. If youre taking a probiotic for general gut or immune health, youll need to take it awhile to see results.
On the other hand, if youre taking a probiotic for relief from diarrhea, you may see faster results.
For example, has shown that, when used in combination with rehydration therapy, treatment with probiotics can reduce the duration and frequency of infectious diarrhea in as little as 2 days.
Another study demonstrated that people who consumed a high-dose probiotic drink containing Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus casei, and Lactobacillus fermentium for 12 weeks experienced significantly less upper respiratory infections and flu-like symptoms compared to a placebo group.
Plus, it was shown that the probiotic drink boosted the immune system of the participants by increasing levels of antibodies including sIgA in the gut after 12 weeks.
Depending on what youre taking probiotics for, you may see symptom improvements anywhere between a few days to a few months.
How Popular Are Probiotics
The 2012 National Health Interview Survey showed that about 4 million U.S. adults had used probiotics or prebiotics in the past 30 days. Among adults, probiotics or prebiotics were the third most commonly used dietary supplement other than vitamins and minerals. The use of probiotics by adults quadrupled between 2007 and 2012. The 2012 NHIS also showed that 300,000 children age 4 to 17 had used probiotics or prebiotics in the 30 days before the survey.
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Are There Any Risks Related To Probiotics
Probiotics are generally considered safe. However, there are some risks linked to the supplements. These risks are increased if you have a medical condition that weakens your immune system, have recently had surgery or have other serious medical conditions.
Unlikely, but possible, risks can include:
- Developing an infection.
- Developing a resistance to antibiotics.
- Developing harmful byproducts from the probiotic supplement.
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The Side Effects Of Probiotics
Probiotics are safe for those who are healthy. If side effects occur, they are usually mild digestive issues, like gas. Just like before starting any new drug or supplement, you should talk to your healthcare provider before starting a probiotic. This advice is especially important for those with suppressed immune systems. Serious complications, like infections, have been reported in some people.
How Long Do Probiotics Take To Work
The time it takes for probiotics to work depends on the probiotic strain being used, the composition of the gut microbiome of the individual and the symptoms the individual is experiencing. Everyone is unique with different gut microbiomes, each as unique as our fingerprints12. Therefore, it can be difficult to predict how quickly an individual will respond to a particular probiotic supplement.
When it comes to specific probiotic strains, each strain has a different effect on the gut microbiome. For example, significant improvements in a range of digestive symptoms were seen within 2 weeks when Bifidobacteria lactis HN019 was supplemented daily13. Other strains such as Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14® and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1® when taken daily have been detected in the vaginal flora 7 days14 after starting probiotic supplementation. However, improvement of symptoms when taking these strains was noted after a month of supplementation15. In contrast to this, Saccharomyces boulardii, the probiotic yeast, has been shown to have beneficial effects quite quickly, notably in one trial, within 3 days16. Find out more on this topic by reading Are all probiotics the same?
Bifidobacteria lactis HN019 can be found in Optibac Every Day MAX.
Healthcare professionals can read more about the research behind Bifidobacterium lactis HN019, Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14®, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1® and Saccharomyces boulardii on the Probiotics Database.
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How Do Probiotics Work In The Body
You might be wondering what happens in your body when you use a probiotic, and how they actually generate a health benefit. Probiotics can improve health through any of several specific mechanisms:
- Interact with other microorganisms in our microbiome
- Stimulate growth of beneficial bacteria in our microbiome
- Inhibit growth of harmful bacteria in our microbiome
- Interact directly with our bodys organs, such as the intestine
- Produce compounds that reduce inflammation or alleviate leaky gut
- Modulate our immune system
One way some probiotics work is through modulating our microbiome. Probiotics can affect the growth and activity of bacteria in our microbiome to change what they make and do. Studies have shown that these changes are possible even when the probiotic does not colonize for long periods of time. The consequences of probiotic-induced alterations to the human microbiome may be to then change how the microbiome affects organ function. For example, some probiotic strains of Bifiobacterium and Lactobacilus make antimicrobial compounds and organic acids that inhibit, endotoxin containing, potentially harmful bacteria in the intestine. Reductions in the numbers of those harmful bacteria results in reduced inflammation and disruptions to barrier integrity. This mechanism is indirect because probiotic efficacy is dependent on the resident microbiome at that particular body site.
Should You Take Probiotics
It might be that certain strains of probiotics are helpful, but not others. Perhaps, as the Cell study suggests, whether people stand to benefit from probiotics depends on the composition of their microbiome. Scientists dont even know whether probiotics need to be alive when we ingest them. It could be that even dead microbes secrete molecules with beneficial properties. More research is needed to answer these questions.
This brings us back to the grocery store and the multitude of probiotic options that line the supplement aisle. How is one to decide? Can science offer any guidance to the average, healthy consumer? Unfortunately, not really, Chang says. Not only do we lack the evidence to determine which bugs are beneficial and which arent, but there is little regulation of these supplements. Because theyre not considered a drug that treats a certain disease or condition, probiotics dont go through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Still, even after making an informed decision, consumers should be aware that the claims on the grocery-store shelves arent totally based in science, Clemens adds: From my perspective, thats misleading for the general public.
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How Probiotics Might Be Bad For You
Because these good bacteria already exist in the body, theyâre considered safe for most people. But there are some things to consider.
They can trigger an allergic reaction. They might cause mild stomach problems, especially the first few days you start taking them. You might have stomach upset, gas, diarrhea, or bloating. Those symptoms usually go away after your body gets used to them.
If you have an immune system problem or another serious health condition, you may have a greater chance of issues. Some reports have linked probiotics to serious infections and other side effects. The people most likely to have trouble are those with immune system problems, people who’ve had surgery, and others who are critically ill. Don’t take probiotics if you have any of those issues.
Always talk to your pediatrician before giving probiotic supplements to your child. If you’re pregnant or nursing, you should also talk to your doctor before you try one.
Most probiotics in the U.S. are sold as dietary supplements. That means the companies that make them don’t have to test their products and show that they work or that they are safe. More research is needed to confirm that probiotics are safe and effective.
Ask your doctor which probiotics are the right ones for you. Be sure to stop taking them if you have any problems.
How Safe Are Probiotics
Because microbes used as probiotics already exist naturally in your body, probiotic foods and supplements are generally considered safe. They may trigger allergic reactions, and may also cause mild stomach upset, diarrhea, or flatulence and bloating for the first few days after starting to take them.
There are certain people who need to use caution when using probiotic supplements. There is a risk of infection in some people. These people include those who have:
- A weakened immune system .
- A critical illness.
Caution should also be used when giving probiotics to very sick infants.
Always talk to your healthcare provider before starting a probiotic supplement.
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How To Ensure Your Probiotic Will Work
The most important way to make sure the probiotic you choose will work is to find a reputable brand and follow the label directions suggested on how to take it. Each brand will have specific information based on the product.
Manufacturers are constantly trying to improve probiotic effectiveness by using different methods such as microencapsulation to protect probiotics from the environment, increasing chances of survival and potency.
tips for effective probiotic use
For a probiotic to work for you, it should be:
- Good quality . Choose one that shows proof of effectiveness.
- Stored correctly. Read labels and store as the label states .
- Taken as directed. Read labels and take as suggested .
- Able to survive in the body. The probiotic must be able to survive the trip through stomach acid and bile and colonize your gut.
- Safe for you. Read the label and note added ingredients. Watch out for added fillers and binders which might cause reactions.
A typical label will have the name of the specific probiotic , the dose in CFU, an expiration date, and instructions for use and storage.
The expiration date is important because it should have the use by date, which is how long the product will have live cultures.
Avoid products that list expiration as time of manufacture. The cultures may not be active or be less than listed by the time you buy it.
Should I Give Probiotics To My Kids
Probiotics can be beneficial for both adults and kids. If your child has an illness that requires an antibiotic medication for treatment, taking a probiotic can help shorten symptoms. Probiotics can also be used to help relieve constipation, acid reflux, diarrhea, gas and eczema in children.
Introducing probiotics into your childs diet through food is typically a safe way to give them probiotics. Foods like yogurt and cottage cheese are often part of a balanced diet and can add in good bacteria without much risk.
There are commercially available probiotic supplements specifically designed for infants and children. However, it is important to talk to your childs pediatrician before giving them any probiotic supplement or changing the childs diet to include probiotic-rich foods.
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What Do Probiotics Actually Do For Gut Health
Dr. Ekta Gupta explains what probiotics are and who benefits from them most.
By Rachel Hinch |
Chances are youve already heard of probiotic-rich kombucha drinks or have seen the many brands of probiotic supplements at the pharmacy. But, what do probiotics really do for gut health? We asked Dr. Ekta Gupta, the director of endoscopy at Johns Hopkins Knoll North, all about it.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are the new kid on the block, surfacing in new research just within the last 20 years. Its the good bacteria in the gut that helps to stop harmful bacteria from growing in the gut lining, send signals to barrier against infection, and maintain general health.
Can anyone start taking probiotics?
Yes and no. Talk to a health care provider for guidance because there can be some side effects, especially if someone has a weakened immune system. In some cases, it can cause diarrhea, gas, bloating, and discomfort. A healthy individual can take probiotics, but ensure you take the appropriate dose.
So who benefits most from probiotics?
If someone is suspected of having small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or whats called a leaky gut, those conditions are helped with probiotics. They can also help with antibiotic-related diarrhea, constipation, or with inflammatory bowel disease.
With so many over-the-counter supplements, what should we be looking for?
Are there cases where probiotics help outside the gut?
How can we incorporate probiotics in our daily diet?
WHAT YOU NEED:
Probiotic Vs Prebiotic Foods
You can also boost your gut health by eating foods that contain good bacteria. Probiotic foods are fermented, so they contain the same beneficial living microorganisms that come in supplements.
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Probiotics In Skincare: Do They Actually Do Anything
As it goes, a trendy ingredient finds its way onto the front page of social media platforms and then into the aisles of grocery stores. As soon as possible, skincare companies begin pumping out these trendy ingredients into skincare products and we are left to wonder if the internal application of these ingredients serves any benefit atop our skin. Though not new, probiotics are certainly trendy right now. There are claims that probiotics can heal the gut, improve our immune system, and maybe even treat depression. Probiotics started making their way into the grocery stores in the form of kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt. Now, as expected, it is in cleansers, toners, and moisturizers. We find ourselves in the same position once again Do probiotics belong in skincare products?
Probiotic skincare is skincare containing live bacteria. These bacteria are meant to improve the health and integrity of the skin through a symbiotic relationship created between the skin and these bacteria. Probiotic skincare may help in treating acne.
That being said, probiotic products are often misleading with their labeling. In fact, many probiotic supplements do not even contain the bacteria that is advertised on their label. If oral supplements are unreliable, how can we expect skincare to be any different. Well, you cant. But, if you know what you are looking for and how to decipher ingredients, then you can be successful in finding the right probiotic skincare product for you!
What Has Science Shown About The Effectiveness Of Probiotics For Health Conditions
A great deal of research has been done on probiotics, but much remains to be learned about whether theyâre helpful and safe for various health conditions.
Probiotics have shown promise for a variety of health purposes, including prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea , prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis and in premature infants, treatment of infant colic, treatment of periodontal disease, and induction or maintenance of remission in ulcerative colitis.
However, in most instances, we still donât know which probiotics are helpful and which are not. We also donât know how much of the probiotic people would have to take or who would be most likely to benefit. Even for the conditions that have been studied the most, researchers are still working toward finding the answers to these questions.
The following sections summarize the research on probiotics for some of the conditions for which theyâve been studied.
Summary Of How Probiotics Work
- A probiotic can only work if it is capable of surviving the harsh stomach environment. If you have selected a strain that is proven to reach the gut alive help it out by taking it in the morning with your breakfast.
- The probiotic will take up short term residence in either the small or large intestine depending on the conditions in these areas.
- Once in situ the probiotics can crowd out any bad bacteria by competing for their food sources and space.
- Probiotics will also provide certain vitamins and short chain fatty acids which are known to be beneficial for our health.
- Depending on the specific strain chosen, changes to the gut can be noted from as little as 3 days.
You should now feel confident that you have the knowledge to answer the following commonly asked questions: