Choosing a Probiotic? Some Things to Consider First

by | May 23, 2019 | Supplements & Remedies

bottle with capsules spilling outNo doubt, you’ve heard plenty about the wonders of probiotics. Maybe you’re taking them yourself.

After all, they’re well-known to diversify the gut’s microbiome, able to help create a healthy balance of bacteria – a state of affairs that brings its own benefits, from relieving IBS symptoms to improving mental health to preventing certain infections.

But probiotic supplements can have a downside if you use them indiscriminately.

We looked before at research which showed that overuse of probiotics may cause brain fog in some individuals. Since then, other studies have highlighted other potential problems, particularly in those with compromised immune systems, sick babies, and those recovering from surgery.

In these populations, there is evidence to suggest that taking probiotics can lead to severe side effects, including dangerous infections.

Furthermore, recent research from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, suggests that probiotics can evolve in the host gut after administration, becoming less effective and perhaps even harmful.

In this study, researchers analyzed the evolution of probiotic organisms under different stressors in laboratory mice. They found that probiotics can evolve antibiotic resistance.

They also demonstrated that these microorganisms can adapt to grow on a larger number of available sugars, which, in turn, allows them to stay in the gut longer and grow unchecked.

Yes, too many beneficial bacteria can become a problem. Maintaining balance is key.

Research presented earlier this spring shed light on yet another potential problem: probiotics may interfere with cancer immunotherapy.

Taking over-the-counter probiotic supplements correlated with a 70 percent lower chance of responding to checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy. Almost half (42 percent) of the participants reported taking such supplements.

The researchers also noticed a relationship between probiotics and lower gut microbiome diversity. Scientists had already seen this in people with cancers that respond poorly to immunotherapy.

“The general perception is [that probiotics] make your gut microbiome healthier,” says first study author Christine Spencer, a research scientist at the Parker Institute. “While more research is needed, our data suggest that may not be the case for cancer patients.”

A separate area of concern is the quality of some over-the-counter supplements. Reports have indicated that certain over-the-counter probiotics may not be exactly what you think they are.

Studies organized worldwide and summarized in this article have shown that inconsistencies and deviations from the information provided on the product label are surprisingly common. Frequently strains are misidentified and misclassified, products are occasionally contaminated, sometimes with even facultative or obligatory pathogens, strains are not viable, the labeled number of colonies cannot be verified, or the functional properties are diminished to the extent that preclude the proposed health benefit.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that all over-the-counter probiotics are terrible and that you should never include such supplements in your daily regimen.

What it does mean is that the wise way to include them – or any nutritional supplements – is to work with a knowledgeable and well-trained integrative physician and create a plan that’s right for you and your specific needs.

We know how vitality and wellness are a priority for our patients here in the West LA area. We also know that the most well-intentioned, educated person may inadvertently reach for supplements that may end up not helping them toward their health goals and could even set them back.

This is why we offer nutritional analysis and individualized supplement formulas that cater to individuals looking to obtain youthfulness and optimal health. It’s a key part of our commitment to individualized care. Working with individuals and providing custom, personalized care is what we do.

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