Truths and myths about gut friendly probiotics revealed
Every time you visit a store you see shelves lined up with pills, powders, drinks and yogurt infused with probiotics, which are marketed as “friendly” bacteria that aid digestion.
Dr. Eamonn Quigley, an expert in gut health, heads the gastroenterology and hepatology division at Houston Methodist Hospital has addressed 5 common claims about probiotics.
1. Probiotics decrease the incidence of colds, allergies and eczema.
Probiotics, which contain live organisms may provide health benefits, like shortening the duration of a cold. They can also help with common intestinal symptoms and decrease urinary tract infections in women.
However, not all have been tested adequately to show that they contain live organisms.
2. All probiotics on the market have proven health benefits.
Most of the valid products contain bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium that already live in your gut and help keep you healthy and digest your food. We still need to determine what are the best bacteria strains and doses for particular situations.
3. Examples of “valid” probiotic food products.
The types of foods on the market claiming to deliver probiotics has expanded greatly over the past several years to include granola and candy bars, frozen yogurt, cereal, juice and cookies. Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 is the strain in Align, but Lactobacillus may be one of the most commonly known probiotics that comes in a variety of strains:
• Lactobacillus GG (often called LGG), which can be found in the diet supplement Culturelle, as well as some milk products in Finland;
• L. casei DN114 001 can be found in Dannon products; and
• L. casei Shirota is included in Yakult, a popular probiotic drink from Japan.
4. Probiotics can relieve everything from irritable bowel syndrome to high cholesterol.
If you boost the populations of good bacteria in your gut, it makes sense that you’re not only improving your gut health, but also benefitting other aspects of your health linked to the gut – including your immune system.
This is because the gut encounters foreign substances every day in the food we eat, making it a major line of defense against potentially harmful pathogens.
Irritable bowel syndrome, with its range of unpleasant symptoms including bloating, flatulence and diarrhea, is a condition often treated over the counter with probiotics. There is growing evidence that gut flora plays a significant part in these diseases.
5. Fecal transplants can be an effective mega-probiotic.
We already know gut infections can be treated by introducing good bacteria. Now, more research shows that a reliable source of healthy bacteria may be healthy people’s feces to help restore the balance of bacteria.
Fecal transplants can be performed in a number of ways. Once the feces is diluted with a liquid, like salt water, it is pumped into the intestinal tract via a colonoscope, a tube run through the nose into the stomach or small intestine, or an enema.