Are Probiotics Really “Quite Useless”?

Are Probiotics Really “Quite Useless”?
There have been some negative stories about probiotics in the media lately. These stories are based on a study out of the Weizmann Institute of Science, that made a conclusion that probiotics do not colonize in the gut, and do not provide benefit.

If you’ve read any of the stories, and are now questioning whether probiotics are useless, please keep reading.

At Genuine Health, our moonshot goal is to have a world where natural health is no longer seen as the alternative—and sensationalistic headlines about supplements show us that we’ve still got a long way to go. So we took a dive into the study, and we found a few problems.

1. This was a small study with a sample size of only 25 people, but larger and more significant studies have shown probiotics to be beneficial – time and time again.

  • There’s plenty of research to support the use of probiotics for improving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), reducing antibiotic-associated diarrhea, reducing incidence of upper respiratory tract infections and supporting vaginal health. Plus, there’s emerging research that supports the role of the gut microbiome in sleep, obesity and the gut-brain axis.

  • A comprehensive review on probiotics looked at current evidence from randomized controlled trials and guidelines from Health Canada, the World Health Organization, and internationally recognized expert committees and concluded that probiotics “their use should be considered in patients of all ages.”[1]

  • One study found that taking a probiotic could help save up to 84,000 courses of antibiotics, 500,000 sick days, $9 million in direct health care costs and $100 million in lost productivity[2].

  • Another study showed that oral probiotics could influence the makeup of the microbiome all the way up to the nasal cavity[3].

2. The ability for a probiotic to colonize doesn’t mean it’s more effective.

In the study, participants were given a probiotic supplement for one month. They were then sedated, and samples were surgically taken from their stomach, small and large intestines. The researchers found that the bacteria did not appear to colonize.

But colonization of bacteria does not equal efficacy – the human gut is home to both resident and transient strains of bacteria, and while transient bacteria don’t linger long, they still provide benefits. Learn more about the difference between resident and transient strains.

3. The outcome depends on the type of probiotic used.

In another study done by the same group out of the Weizmann Institute, volunteers were given a probiotic following antibiotic treatment. Although many probiotics have been clinically validated to repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria following antibiotic treatment, this study somehow found the opposite.

It’s worth pointing out that the probiotic used was not formulated for post-antibiotic use – it was a generic formula with 25 billion CFU. The International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics adds that the study author Eran Elinav, “generalizes the study findings to all ‘probiotics’ as a class – a generalization that ignores that specific probiotic are meant for specific purposes.”[4]

So, are probiotics useless? Heck No!

The study that these media outlets have referenced was small, and didn’t consider that both resident and transient strains of bacteria can provide benefit. Plus, another study done by the same group made the generalization that all probiotics are the same, although probiotics can differ in terms of quality and formulation.

Dr. Gregor Reid is the scientist who worked to define the term “probiotics.” He is a good friend, esteemed colleague and Town Hall Medicine speaker. Dr. Reid wrote a response in Microbiome Times to the study’s conclusions and the sensationalist media coverage that followed. Reid said:

One can only hope that consumers either don’t read these news articles, have strong enough will-power to reject or investigate what is being conveyed, or realize that some headlines are really fake news. As researchers continue their attempts to understand how the human microbiome (not just the microbes but also their metabolites and host-induced responses) functions and responds to drugs, beneficial microbes, food and supplements, it is critical that care is taken on how studies are designed, analyzed and reported, and how journals and reviewers take steps to minimize generalized or unsupportable conclusions.”[5]

So… what does this mean for you?

Yes, you should take a probiotic, but you should make sure that you’re taking the right one. When shopping for a probiotic, it’s important to look for one that is…

  • Designed to deliver more hearty probiotics to your gut

  • Made from multi-strains, because your gut is home to many different species of bacteria, not just one

  • Made with both resident and transient strains, as each provides different benefits

  • Free from allergens, like wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, peanut & tree nut, sesame, fish, eggs, corn, sulphites, shellfish/fish, mustard

  • Made with a guaranteed CFU, so you know how much probiotic bacteria you’re getting

  • Of human origin and guaranteed non-GMO

  • Encapsulated in an acid- and bile-resistant capsule that delivers the probiotics to the gut intact

  • Is shelf-stable, and can be kept out of the fridge

We created advanced gut health probiotic with one goal: to seed the gut with more healthy and hearty bacteria. So we worked backwards to accomplish it.

We know that the gut contains many different species of bacteria. That's why we formulated advanced gut health probiotic with 15 human probiotic strains in a balanced formula – to promote a healthy and diverse gut ecology.

The probiotics are grown with care in a temperature and humidity controlled environment. Then, we triple-clean them to remove toxins and weak cells for an allergen-free, stable, and pure probiotic blend.

We pack advanced gut health probiotics with a generous overage of bacteria so even by the time they expire, they still contain the guaranteed CFU printed on the label.

Probiotic capsules must survive the harsh acidic environment in the stomach in order to deliver the probiotic bacteria to the gut alive. So we use a vegan and delayed-release acid-resistant capsule that is free of plastic. This capsule delivers the probiotics to the gut intact.

A human clinical study found that our capsules make it to the small intestine 45 minutes after standard capsules, and our caps deliver up to 10x the bacteria to the gut.

And finally, light and humidity can cause probiotics to degrade faster – so we thoughtfully chose to package advanced gut health probiotics in a shelf-stable blister pack.

Our goal is for alternative medicine to no longer be seen as the alternative.

Sensationalistic headlines remind us that we still have a long way to go.

But in the meantime, if you see a negative headline about a supplement, take it with a grain of salt. Remember that:

  • Probiotics have been shown to be effective, time and time again.

  • But not all probiotics are the same, and it’s important to find one that is high quality, and created to deliver more healthy and hearty bacteria to where they are needed—your gut!




[1] Taibi, et al. Practical approaches to probiotics use. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014 Aug;39(8):980-6

[2] Wijnkoop, I et al. The Clinical and Economic Impact of Probiotics Consumption on Respiratory Tract Infections: Projections for Canada. PLoS One. 2016; 11(11): e0166232.

[3] Cross, M.L. Immune-Signalling by Orally-Delivered Probiotic Bacteria: Effects on Common Mucosal Immunoresponses and Protection at Distal Mucosal Sites.


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