IT TURNS OUT NOT EVERYONE CAN STOMACH PROBIOTICS
It’s been a couple of years since probiotics exploded on to the health scene, and now you can’t walk down the supplement aisle of a chemist without seeing them dominating the shelves. Probiotics for liver health, for IBS, probiotics specific to women or babies.
They come in food or in tablet form and some claim to be the cure for all that ails you. Studies show various benefits – from improvement of auto-immune issues such as Crohn’s disease and from eczema, thrush and depression – but some experts are sceptical.
Just as there are bacteria that cause skin infections or make expired milk smell horrible, there are different strains of probiotic bacteria and they do different things.
Some claim to restore the natural balance of gut bacteria after an illness or antibiotics.
Some claim to ward off illnesses by supporting the immune system.
“Ultimately, they’re thought to help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut,” nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert told The Independent.
“Probiotics may be helpful for some, especially following an illness or treatment, but there’s little evidence to support them for the multitude of supposed benefits, including treating eczema and stress.”
Two recent studies published in the journal Cell looked at how effectively probiotics bought over the counter populated a healthy gut and how well they helped a person’s gut recover after antibiotics.
The first study showed people fell into two camps.
There were resisters, whose gut got no benefit from them, and persisters, who had some changes in their gut biome.
The second study split subjects into three categories: those who took nothing, those who took probiotics and those who were given a transplant of their own healthy gut bacteria.
The probiotics efficiently colonised in the second group, but stopped the original microbiome from returning to its healthy state.
“This was worse than not doing anything,” said study co-author Professor Eran Elinav.
The people who were given samples of their own gut bacteria went back to a normal microbiome within days.
So perhaps the truth about probiotics is that one size doesn’t fit all.