Probiotics are becoming more and more popular, yet there are several myths about probiotics that are still prevalent among probiotic users! Let’s clear them up, once and for all!
MYTH 1: All probiotic brands and/or products will have similar effects. It doesn’t matter which one I choose.
Many people assume that any probiotic supplement will be beneficial and that they all pretty much ‘work the same way’. Well, the truth is that probiotics are not all created equally, for multiple reasons. We will be covering exactly what to look for in a probiotic supplement in another article, as well as very common red flags to watch out for.
For now, just know that choosing a high quality probiotic supplement involves far more than looking at the number of CFUs listed.
Truth: Probiotic supplements differ greatly in quality, potency, and bioavailability.
MYTH 2: Probiotics should be taken on an empty stomach.
Another common myth! When probiotics are taken on an empty stomach, they are destroyed by stomach acid before making it to the small intestine. Research has clearly shown that probiotics have greater survivability when consumed with meals. This is important because if they don’t survive before reaching the intestines, they won’t be doing any good.
Truth: Probiotics should be taken with meals, preferably the largest meal of the day.
MYTH 3: If taking antibiotics, it is best to wait until after the round of antibiotics is over to take probiotics.
Have you heard that you shouldn’t take probiotics if you’re taking antibiotics, because the antibiotics would just kill all of the probiotics?
Thankfully, this is a huge myth! In fact, research has shown that taking (the right) probiotics along with antibiotics not only reduces the negative side effects associated with antibiotics, but also reduces the damage to gut microbiome that antibiotics cause.
Truth: Probiotics should be taken while on antibiotics, just be sure to separate the doses by 4-5 hours. Note that probiotics should be taken for at least 6 weeks after antibiotic treatment, ideally longer (as the damage to microflora from antibiotics can last 18 months-4 years).
Related Article: The 5 Most Common Mistakes when Trying to Improve Gut Health
MYTH 4: Taking one round of probiotics is enough to permanently “repopulate” the gut.
Another common myth is that if we take one round of probiotic supplements, that is enough to permanently repopulate the microbiome with beneficial bacteria and we don’t have to take them in the future.
That’s kind of like saying that taking one round of a multi-vitamin supplement is enough for life or that whatever damage we do to the microbiome (through diet or lifestyle) can just be reversed by taking a round of probiotics.
Studies have shown that there is no probiotic supplement or probiotic species that will permanently “repopulate” the gut microbiome.
Truth: Probiotic supplements do not permanently “repopulate” the microbiome. They do help to restore and protect the microflora in our gut, but it is not a permanent ‘reinoculation’.
MYTH 5: Babies should only be given probiotics that are labeled specifically for babies.
If you’ve looked around for probiotics for infants, you’ve probably seen products that list “Bifidobacterium infantis” on the label, saying that this is a targeted probiotic strain for infants. You may have even heard the myth that babies should only receive probiotics from this species.
By one week old, infants (that are vaginally delivered) have multiple species of bacteria already populating their microbiome. These include bifidobacterium breve, infantis, bifidum, and ruminococcus and more. Breastmilk has been found to contain all sorts of species of bacteria (bifidobacterium longum, animalis, bifidum, and lactobacillus species), some of which babies cannot metabolize, but are designed to populate the baby’s microbiome. With this in mind, it starts to make sense that limiting a baby’s probiotic to only contain bifidobacterium infantis isn’t logical.
Truth: Babies do not need special “baby” probiotics.
Always check with your child’s pediatrician before incorporating any new supplements.
MYTH 6: Probiotic supplements are always more effective than probiotic-rich foods.
This one may be the most surprising because it seems logical at first to assume that probiotics in supplement form would be superior to probiotics found in foods (like fermented foods, yogurt, kimchi, etc). We assume that supplements must contain better strains of probiotic bacteria and that our bodies must be able to receive more benefit from supplements than probiotic-foods.
However, this isn’t the case. Fermented foods are excellent sources of beneficial, probiotic bacteria that promotes a healthy gut! Studies have actually shown that probiotic-rich foods are more effective and beneficial than probiotic supplements in some cases.
I am not saying that probiotic supplements are ineffective by any means! They do offer many benefits, but be sure not to fall for the myth that probiotic supplements are always better than getting your probiotics from food sources.
Truth: Consuming probiotic-rich foods is a powerful way to improve gut health and is a critical aspect of a healthful diet. If you’re currently not consuming any fermented foods, I encourage you to start (slowly).
Now that you know the 6 most common probiotic myths, which one surprised you most? Did anything change your understanding of probiotics or gut health?
Hannah is the founder of Healthfully Hannah and is a nutrition professional empowering women to live healthfully through science-based, step-by-step guidance. Read Hannah’s health journey that led her to discover the power of Functional Medicine and Nutrition. Get in touch with Hannah right here.
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