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Probiotic supplements claim to boost gut health, but may do opposite

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probiotic supplements are multi-billion dollar industryspurred claims that the product populates your gut with bacteria and improves your health in a number of ways.

But beware of the hype. In healthy people, probiotic supplements have little effect and can be potentially harmful.

Studies show that taking probiotic supplements, either for overall health or to counteract the effects of antibiotics, alters the composition of the microbiome and increases the level of microbial diversity in the gut. may decline. It is associated with many health issues.

Probiotic supplements come in capsules, gummies, powders, and tablets that contain live microorganisms believed to promote gut health. There is a subset of people who may benefit from taking them, including those with gastrointestinal ailments. According to research What Probiotic Supplements Can Do reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. They can Prevent traveler’s diarrhea Reduces the side effects of antibiotic drugs.

But for most people, there are more reliable ways to nourish their gut microbiome.

First, eat a variety of vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains to provide the fiber-rich fuel your gut microbes need to thrive. and others have found that eating fermented foods containing probiotics and other beneficial compounds has positive effects on health and the gut microbiome.

Best Foods to Feed Your Gut Microbiome

Supplements may keep out the wrong microbes

Gut microbes are part of a vast ecosystem of bacteria, viruses, archaea, and fungi that reside mostly in the colon. People with diverse gut microbiota are more likely to age healthily and develop disease.

These microbes thrive on the fiber found in fruits and vegetables, transforming it into new compounds or “postbiotics” including butyric acid, acetic acid, and other short-chain fatty acids that are thought to be very good for your health.

However, like other community residents, the microbes in your gut can cooperate and compete with each other. is as dysbiosis.

There are numerous brands of probiotic supplements, but many of them contain a limited number of bacterial strains, mainly from lactic acid bacteria, bifidobacteria, and a few other groups. Microorganisms are very common and have been associated with many health benefits.

But taking concentrated doses of a few strains of bacteria can throw the gut out of balance, said Lorenzo Cohen, professor and director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. increase.

“If you have too much good stuff, you can inadvertently cause some sort of gut dysbiosis,” he said. It keeps them out and increases the diversity of the microbiome.”

taking probiotics when taking antibiotics

It is common for people to take probiotics along with antibiotic medications. Antibiotics treat bacterial infections, but they can also wipe out beneficial bacteria. Probiotics along with antibiotics The idea behind taking supplements is to rebalance your gut microbiome and minimize side effects. I’m here.

but One study of probiotic and antibiotic use yielded astonishing results. Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science recruited a healthy adult and put him on antibiotics for a week.

One group then took a popular probiotic supplement containing at least 10 species of bacteria for four weeks. Another group received fecal transplants containing their own gut microbes, collected before antibiotics were administered. A third group served as a control.

The microbiome of people in the control group returned to normal about three weeks after taking antibiotics.

However, the microbiomes of those who took probiotics did not return to normal after five months. I also found that it is less sensitive.

Effects vary from person to person

another Recent clinical trialsscientists at Stanford University recruited adults with metabolic syndrome, a combination of risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides, and divided them into two groups. A second group received no probiotics and served as a control.

After 18 weeks, some people taking the probiotic supplement were found to have improved blood pressure and triglyceride levels. However, others in the probiotic group showed worsening blood sugar and insulin levels.

The researchers say dietary differences may have influenced the results, but it’s not clear. emphasizes that there is

“It’s a common theme,” she added. “Probiotics can be beneficial for some people. But for some individuals, they seem to make things worse.”

Incorporate fermented foods into your diet

So what should you do? If you are prescribed antibiotics or have a digestive ailment, ask your doctor if it makes sense to take a probiotic supplement and, if so, what brands or products. Due to the risk of developing infections, it is advisable to skip probiotics altogether if you have a severe illness or a weakened immune system.

Some doctors may recommend adding fermented foods to your diet instead of taking supplements. When I recommend live microorganisms, it’s often associated with fermented foods. “Fermented foods are like nature’s probiotics.”

What you need to know about kefir, one of the original gut-friendly foods

One of the benefits of fermented foods is that they usually contain not only probiotics (living microorganisms), but also prebiotics (fiber that microorganisms eat) and postbiotics (vitamins and other nutrients produced by microorganisms). is thatin a study Published in Cell magazineSonnenburg and her colleagues at Stanford University found that assigning people to eat fermented foods daily for 10 weeks reduced the level of inflammation and increased the diversity of the gut microbiota.

If you’re new to fermented foods, Damman recommends introducing them gradually.

Try using sauerkraut or kimchi to garnish your meal. Have a glass of plain yogurt for breakfast. Snack on unsweetened kefir or make a fruit smoothie.

“I don’t take probiotics, but I do eat a variety of fermented foods, and that’s generally the advice I give people,” Dunman said.

Questions about healthy eating? Email EatingLab@washpost.com I may answer your question in a future column.

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