It has become common knowledge that bacteria in our gut helps us process nutrients and strengthen our immune system. Preserving live bacteria (probiotics) for healthy consumption goes back to consuming live cultures or fermented foods such as sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, and cheeses, and not so much the over-the-counter pills (1).
However, there is a subset of individuals who may benefit from probiotic supplements. These come in the form of capsules, gummies, powders and pills that contain live microorganisms believed to boost gut health, according to a March 28 2023 report by the Washington Post (3).
The belief among microbiome researchers is that people suffering from gut related ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome or those affected by consuming antibiotics (known to harm microbiome diversity) can benefit from taking probiotic supplements.
How can these supplements prove effective? Azcarate-Peril recommends that consumers “rotate the probiotics.” Azcarate-Peril is a member of the Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease at University of North Carolina.
In a randomized clinical trial, patients who were given Lactobacillus rhamnosus which decreased the amount of Prevotella and Dehalobacterium bacterium, coincided with an improved cognitive function, according to Azcarate-Peril and John Gunstad, PhD, of Kent State University (2).
Lorenzo Cohen, professor and director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston warns that taking concentrated doses of a few strains of bacteria can upset the balance in your gut, and inadvertently cause dysbiosis. Consuming probiotic supplements known to offer an abundance of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, for example, can create an imbalance by crowding out other good bacteria needed in order for the gut to thrive. Since everyone’s body is different and respond to supplements differently, doctors generally recommend their patients focus more on eating a healthy diet that includes fermented foods (3).
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