Probiotics: Boost or Bunk?
I’m sure everyone reading this has heard of probiotics. It’s in your yogurt, it’s in your cereal, it’s in kid’s juice box straws. But what is it? The companies putting this stuff into every food you can imagine would have you believe it’s a power pack for your immune system and digestive system. But are their claims valid or is this just another pseudo-scientific health craze.
Probiotics are supplements of friendly bacteria (usually Lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria). The thinking is that if you have more bacteria along your digestive track not only will the supplemental bacteria break down food but they will also help crowd out not so friendly microorganisms. Of course the probiotics in products like Activia (seen above) are really simple and dilute. It is not a good replacement for floral gut bacteria. Prescription probiotics are given to people that have undergone a particularly harsh anti-biotic regiment. So harsh that their bodies natural restoration of intestinal bacteria is not enough .The average person usually has a healthy amount of bacteria in their digestive track. Furthermore the body has a limit to the bacteria it can have. You can’t just pop a pill, or a yogurt in this case, and infinitely increase the level of friendly bacteria in your gut.
Will any harm come to you if you eat Probiotic yogurt? Probably not, but keep in mind food corporations love to jump on the latest health crazes. They don’t really care if their claims are supported by science or not. They will weave past the few quality control regulations that remain so they can slap “supports your immune system” and “clinically proven” to fool well meaning but, through no fault of their own, ignorant people.
Mark Crislip writes an excellent article on Science Based Median Blog, not specifically about probiotics but about “boosts your immune system” claims in general. He obviously knows more about what he’s talking about than I do and explains it much more eloquently than I can. Read the article.
If I may summarize his article very briefly, the immune system doesn’t really need to be boosted or supported. If you have a healthy diet, exercise, are maintaining stress and get regular sleep, you’re probably pretty well off. And, if you don’t do these things, if you really care about your immune system, you will get much better results doing these things then you will eating yogurt.