Probiotics – Truths And Myths

Whenever scientists and researchers discover a new food or new health benefits of diets, foods, sports activities, all sorts of stories start to do the rounds as a result. Some of them do talk about the real effects the product in question leads to whereas others are just advertisement for products that bring no real health advantages. This is how myths are created and potential consumers get confused. Probiotics have fallen prey to myths and are often erroneously associated with certain health advantages. That’s why we’ll try to make some light in today’s post and find out more about truths and myths on probiotics.

Probiotics – what are they?

Our body is host to trillions of microorganisms both inside and outside. Some of them are good while some of them are bad. Probiotics fall in the first category as the name suggests it (probiotic means pro-life) and the greatest part of them is located in our gastrointestinal tract. Several research studies have found that probiotics can boost one’s digestive health and immune system. More often than not, probiotics reach levels that are too low in order for our body to function properly. When the bad and good bacteria balance is disturbed, all sorts of health issues occur.

Probiotics and marketing

We all know that sometimes money lust makes people do things they shouldn’t do and today’s society, unfortunately, seeks to get profit in all possible ways. It’s no wonder that the market is now full of all sorts of supplements that promise good, rapid results but fail to deliver them. You will find probiotic supplements in stores and online, supplements that include a rich list of health benefits you can enjoy if using them but few products actually help one enjoy those advantages. Plus, many manufacturers advertise their products making general health claims. You may often hear food manufacturers saying their products support digestive health but you will find no list including details on how exactly they do that.

Myths on probiotics

Before buying and trying probiotic supplements, it is best to see your doctor and get his recommendations. You should also consider the following on truths and myths about probiotics.

Myth: all probiotic supplements are the same.

Fact: There’s this general tendency to think that there is no difference between supplements but this is one of the most popular misconceptions according to health experts like Dr. Patricia Hibberd, a professor of pediatrics and chief of global health at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston. Some probiotics contain a single strain of bacteria while others combine various strains. Plus, the probiotic concentration varies from one supplement to another.

Myth: Probiotics can prevent cold.

Fact: More research is needed before knowing precisely how certain strains of probiotics help people with certain health conditions. The studies carried out so far have found little information that could link probiotics to cold prevention. Thus, researchers need to carry out more studies to know precisely how probiotics boost the immune system and help in keeping health issues such as cold at bay.

Myth: Probiotics can be used as a medicine substitute.

Fact: Most studies focusing on the health advantages of probiotics have used and studied probiotics in conjunction with drugs and not as their substitute. Dr. Patricia Hibberd says that probiotics should not be used alone in order to treat certain health conditions but in addition to a treatment in order to enhance the treatment’s results. However, they can be used as a preventive method in order to steer clear of certain health issues in the future.

Myth: The greatest part of yogurts contains probiotics.

Fact: Unfortunately, not all yogurts contain probiotics. Most of them do but there might be a difference between what you read on the label and what you actually get. Some yogurts do include live and active microorganisms but even if these naturally occurring bacteria are used in order to begin fermentation, many of them might die during the pasteurization process.

Even if the food hasn’t undergone any pasteurization process and it’s raw, there is still little information about the bacteria used for fermentation and it would now be impossible to know all the health benefits they can lead to.

Myth: All probiotics have the same effects.

Fact: This is very similar to the misconception that all supplements are the same. Three criteria are used in order to identify probiotics: genus, (e.g., Lactobacillus), species (e.g., acidophilus) and strain (e.g., CL1285). Some strains have been shown to help with certain health conditions but proved useless in the case of other health problems.

Studies have found that a probiotic containing Bifidobacterium infantis (35624) offered symptomatic alleviation to people with gut disorder while a probiotic containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus (GG) helped the people participating in the study to prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotics.

Probiotics have been studied extensively and although most conclusions link probiotics to several health benefits, more research is needed in order to know precisely how probiotics work, what strain is needed to treat or prevent a certain condition, the dosage that should be taken, for how long and the entire list of health benefits they can lead to.

Myth: Probiotic supplements include a list of accurate information on the bacteria used.

Fact: Unfortunately, more often than not, many food labels don’t indicate the number of bacteria the food contains. Labels usually include general information saying that the product contains live bacteria. High-quality supplements coming from well-known manufacturers generally include accurate information on the species, genus, and strain of the bacteria used.

You need to keep in mind one important thing, though. The information on the label refers to the bacteria contained at the time of the manufacture. This means that the number of bacteria used initially might get smaller when it reaches your system because there are many factors that will affect the microorganisms such as the storage conditions and cultures used. In order to get the best out of such products, make sure you go for the ones your health care provider prescribes you and store them appropriately.