The mainstream loves probiotic supplements. They claim these pills support your GI microbiome, the environment in your gut where billions of healthy probiotic bacteria thrive. And they recommend taking them following a course of antibiotics or when battling the flu.
But as I often report, the hype about probiotics never made much sense to me. These supplements just aren’t that effective — period. And two new studies back me up…
Despite the hype, probiotics fail to improve symptoms
In the first study, researchers with Washington University in St. Louis divided nearly 1,000 children with acute gastroenteritis into two groups. One group received 20 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) of Lactobacillus rhamnosus each day for five days. The other group received a placebo.
Gastroenteritis presents as diarrhea and vomiting due to irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It’s typically caused by a viral or bacterial infection. And the children in the study had all been taken to the emergency room for treatment.
It turns out, the children who received the probiotic supplement didn’t fare any better than those who received a placebo.
This was a very well-designed study that considered many different factors. They even tested different scenarios to see if the probiotics would give a boost to certain groups. For example, they looked at:
- Infants’ response to the probiotics compared to toddlers
- Whether or not the child had taken antibiotics
- Whether probiotics worked better for bacterial or viral infections
- The duration of illness before the probiotics were given
Researchers also went the extra step to test the probiotics independently for potency and purity. (More research studies should take this step — because quality does matter with any and all supplements, as I always point out!) And they reached the same conclusion each time: Probiotics don’t help children with gastroenteritis.
In the second study, Canadian researchers with Alberta Children’s Hospital again divided nearly 1,000 children with gastroenteritis into two groups. This time, the first group received two strains of probiotics — Lactobacillus rhamnosus and L. helveticus — for five days. And the second group received a placebo.
It turns out, even with this broadened approach, the children who received probiotics didn’t recover any faster than the children who received the placebo.
Now here’s where we hit a wall…
Scientists ignore their own data
It really astounds me when mainstream medicine bashes a science-backed supplement like vitamin D (and the mounds of research supporting its effectiveness in various capacities)…yet it promotes taking probiotics, for which there is no reliable science.
In fact, despite this clear data from two rigorous studies, these scientists still can’t seem to accept the fact that probiotics don’t work. In fact, the lead researcher of the Canadian study stated that they chose not to extrapolate their negative findings…I assume that’s because they feared this would dismiss the use of probiotics altogether.
Plus, in an editorial published alongside the new studies in the New England Journal of Medicine, the authors cited some poorly designed studies that found probiotics can prevent or treat various forms of acute or chronic diarrhea.
Thankfully, lead researcher Philip Tarr from the Washington University study brought some logic to the discussion. He stated: “The results of the U.S. and Canadian studies were not ambiguous. Probiotics had no effect on the children. Parents are better off saving their money and using it to buy fresh fruits and vegetables for their children.”
And Professor Tarr is right on track with my recommendations…
Support GI health by eating prebiotic and probiotic foods
As I reported in the December 2018 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter (“WARNING: New research shows probiotic supplements may be doing more harm than good”), many fruits and vegetables — as well as other foods — have “prebiotic” effects. Which means they “feed” the healthy probiotic bacteria in your GI tract.
What it boils down to is this: Your body knows what it needs. And by feeding it properly, you’ll support the normal, natural probiotic bacteria in your gut.
So when it comes to research on probiotics, we don’t actually need any more of it. We have two new rigorous studies right here that show these supplements simply don’t work the way the mainstream says they should. Plus, another study I recently reported on even found that probiotics can cause cognitive damage!
The mainstream just needs to accept the results, acknowledge the merits of a healthy diet, and move on.
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“Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG versus placebo for acute gastroenteritis in children,” N Engl J Med 2018 Nov 22; 379:2002
“Multicenter trial of a combination probiotic for children with gastroenteritis,” N Engl J Med 2018 Nov 22; 379:2015
“Probiotics for children with gastroenteritis,” N Engl J Med 2018 Nov 22; 379:2076 1