We’ve all come across health products on the internet that seem to promise something outlandish. With so many new health fads, it can be hard to separate what really works from what doesn’t. As such, it’s only natural that we’re skeptical about what we consume. A lot of people have been turning that skepticism on probiotics. Do they really have the benefits they say they do or are they a scam? Let’s take a look at what they can do, what they can’t do, and the evidence behind it all.
The role of bacteria in your gut health
Probiotics are, effectively, foods and supplements that contain active cultures commonly known as “healthy bacteria.” Their aim is to balance the ecosystem of bacteria in the stomach, making sure we have more of the bacteria that keep it healthy than the bacteria that can cause stomach problems.
The science behind the role of bacteria in our gut health is solid. It is well known and proven that we have actual bacteria in our guts that need to be taken care of. We’re taught to fear and wipe out bacteria because they can spread illnesses, but humans have trillions of bacterial cells, many of them playing crucial roles in our bodily functions. They’re part of the body’s natural ecosystem, just like our own bodily cells, and they all work together to ensure a healthy biome.
The impact of a healthy digestive system
The digestive system is full of bacteria, and today, many people have a higher amount of bad bacteria than good bacteria. Most often the cause is diet, but illness can also lead to the spread of bad bacteria. Also, antibiotics, while helpful in killing bacterial infection, can wipe out populations of good bacteria in the gut, allowing bad bacteria to replace it.
This imbalance can lead to digestive troubles, allergies, and a less efficient gut, which can play a role in both obesity and nutritional deficiencies. Probiotics are thought to support a healthy digestive system free from those issues.
Why would we need probiotics? Why aren’t our guts already healthy?
We all know that we need iron, calcium, vitamin C, and other nutrients to support the growth and function of different parts of the body. But, when it comes to an ecosystem of bacteria, why don’t we naturally have that healthy ecosystem? Why do we “supposedly” need probiotics?
In the past, our ancestors may not have needed to actively nurture and eat probiotics because we at much more “natural” foods. Some of the most effective probiotics on the market, for instance, are soil-based organisms that would have naturally ended up on the food we ate in some way, which would have ended up in our system.
Different types of probiotics can affect their effectiveness
One of the reasons that it’s hard to reach a consensus on whether probiotics really do as much good as they are purported to is that people are taking many different kinds of probiotics, and products that say they are probiotic. For instance, there is a lot of confusion that most yogurts are full of probiotics which isn’t the same. Some yogurts are specially made to have more probiotic cultures in them, but that doesn’t mean that all do.
Furthermore, maybe cultures labelled as probiotics do not grow as well in a high pH environment. So, there may be probiotic products that are broken down too much by the digestive process, so that they don’t have the chance to introduce the bacterial balance that they are supposed to.
However, food scientists and bacterial specialists are finding and nurturing specific kinds of probiotics that are more compatible with the human digestive system, such as MegaSpore, that can tolerate acidic environments.
Will it work for you?
There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that probiotics do, indeed, offer a lot of benefits, helping improve our gut health, which in turn can have a range of effects on our immune system, how we get nutrients from our food, and so on. But, it’s important to recognize that it’s not a cure-all for all problems, including digestive problems. Many different aspects, such as diet, will impact gut health. Probiotics can play a part in healing, but it’s important to make sure you don’t expect that it will do everything at once.
The spores in probiotic supplements and foods have the potential to grow into bacteria that can ensure a healthy balance in your stomach. However, they still have the potential to be killed off by pH levels in the stomach, interactions with other bacteria, foods that promote the growth of other, less helpful bacteria, and so on.
As such, it’s important to make sure that good food and good water are incorporated in your efforts to improve your gut health as these are what make healthy bacteria thrive. As mentioned, the gut (and the whole human body by extension) is an ecosystem. If you make the environment inhospitable to the beings that live in it, you’re going to have trouble introducing them into the ecosystem.
So, are probiotics a scam?
To answer it plainly: no. Probiotics are far from a scam and are, in fact, crucial for maintaining a healthy gut, especially when many of us challenge it with diets that are full of ingredients that aren’t natural and native to the diet our ancestors grew on. We have to support our gut biome because our diet alone no longer does the trick.
But, as mentioned, it means we also have to try and improve our diet and do other things to improve our gut health. Probiotics are not the only answer, but they do have a major role to play in improving our digestive health and immune system.