Healthy guts need healthy bacteria
After his ruptured appendix my husband was on antibiotics for almost a month. His surgeon, physician and several nurses all suggested he take probiotics to help restore his gut’s healthy bacteria. The surgeon even recommended a popular brand of probiotics on Amazon.
“No problem,” I told them all. “My husband loves to ferment and makes his own probiotics—kefir, kombucha, yogurt, sauerkraut, ginger ale, etc. Our house is a homemade probiotics factory!”
Good thing, too, because just a few days ago researchers in Israel published the results of a study that showed store bought, or off-the-shelf, probiotics (capsules or foods) don’t work and may actually do more harm than good.
What the study showed
The researchers used three groups of healthy adults. All took an identical course of antibiotics.
Group 1 received probiotics. Group 2 was given a placebo. Group 3 was given a dose of their own microbiome harvested before treatment from their own feces. (This sounds gross, I know, but the poop is somehow turned into a capsule that is okay to swallow, and fecal transplant is actually a thing and it works!
In Group 2, the healthy gut bacteria returned as expected. In Group 1, the probiotics slowed down the regeneration of normal gut bacteria by up to 6 months! Eventually, though, the store-bought strains of bacteria were crowded out by the individual’s own healthy bacteria.
I’m glad we didn’t follow the surgeon’s advice and buy probiotics!
The people in Group 3 who were dosed with their own poop did the best—their healthy gut bacteria returned the fastest.
The best probiotics, the researchers concluded, will be those that are tailored to the individual—not mass-marketed yogurts, kombucha teas or probiotic pills.
The probiotics con
I’ve posted about this before. Our intestines are lined with trillions of micro-organisms, including hundreds of strains of bacteria.
Bacteria are everywhere! They are on our bodies, food, kitchen counter tops…we eat them every day so we are constantly replenishing our body’s natural flora.
Bacteria are also unique to our environment. The normal, good bacteria found in my gut in Seattle, for example, will be different from my cousin’s in Chicago (Hi, D!)
That’s why homemade probiotics are better. Store-bought probiotics usually contain only a few strains of bacteria, and most likely not those typically found in your own personalized intestinal zoo.
At best, store-bought probiotics may help minimally. Is that worth the cost?
At worst, they may interfere with your unique gut bacteria.
But if you make your own probiotics—and there are so many different fermented foods and beverages to choose from—they will contain the good bacteria that naturally live in your home.
And it’s so easy and inexpensive to make these products. It’s fun, too, to experiment with different foods and flavors.
I’ve written several posts on probiotics and fermentation, and below are some great books on the topic! Enjoy.
- The health benefits of fermented foods
- Homemade yogurt—easy, healthy and delicious!
- Overnight oatmeal with a probiotics twist