Forging Ahead on the Problem with Probiotics

If you have a gut problem, then you’ve probably heard these 2 pieces of dietary advice: eat more fiber and try probiotics.

But GI disorders are highly personalized and vary from person-to-person, so what works for one doesn’t always work for another.

This is certainly the case with probiotics – where ingesting probiotics can lead to no relief in GI symptoms for some, and claims of a miracle cure for others.

Probiotics are microbial species that convey health benefits – most notably with regards to digestion.

You can find probiotics in supplement form, in foods with bacteria such as yogurt, and in fermented foods.

The problem with probiotics is that so far, nobody can really agree upon what is a recommended dose, what are the best sources, or what they’re really effective at treating.

One group is trying to change that though: the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics. ISAPP is an international non-profit collaboration of scientists who are dedicated to advancing the science of probiotics and prebiotics.

The group recently met to help clarify information for consumers about possible side effects, effectiveness, dosing, and validity of products. The full published consensus statement from the meeting can be accessed here.

A summary of their work was declared in the following conclusion statement about probiotics:

  • Include in the framework for definition of probiotics microbial species that have been shown in properly controlled studies to confer benefits to health
  • Any specific claim beyond “contains probiotics” must be further substantiated
  • Keep live cultures, traditionally associated with fermented foods and for which there is no evidence of a health benefit, outside the probiotic framework
  • Keep undefined, fecal microbiota transplants outside the probiotic framework

To read more about the report calling for a stricter definition of probiotics, including my comments on probiotic confusion, click here.