- Over the years, medical professionals have touted the benefits of probiotics to many patients.
- Recent research, however, has prompted a shift in the opinions of gut health experts regarding the effectiveness of probiotic supplements.
Improving your gut health doesn’t require relying on probiotic supplements.
Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, a prominent gut health specialist and the medical director at Zoe, a pioneering nutrition startup, has taken a new stance. He recently shared on a podcast that routine probiotic supplementation is no longer his recommendation.
Previously, Bulsiewicz, like countless other gastroenterologists, would suggest probiotic supplements to patients, particularly following antibiotic courses that can disrupt gut flora.
Times have changed.
His perspective shifted after a 2018 small-scale study revealed that probiotic supplements might impede gut recovery post-antibiotics.
Unexpectedly, the use of probiotics could hinder gut recuperation, he stated. “In most cases, I no longer prescribe probiotics after antibiotics.”
Interestingly, there’s a more economical and delightful approach to fostering your microbiome—through the consumption of living foods.
Fermented foods are teeming with live bacteria that actively break down bacteria, yeasts, and sugars. This preservation process extends the freshness of perishable items like produce and milk.
Beyond their role as natural preservatives, the live bacteria and active cultures found in fermented foods are adept at cultivating a thriving gut microbiome. Bulsiewicz suggests that they might even outperform probiotic supplements in this regard.
Embrace choices like kimchi, yogurt, and kefir.
According to Tim Spector, a genetics professor, epidemiologist, and Zoe co-founder, taking a probiotic supplement disrupts your distinctive microbial community by introducing a potent, specific, and foreign element.
He advocates for a preference towards fermented foods over commercial probiotics. These foods are essentially probiotics—live microorganisms—incorporated into your diet rather than encapsulated.
Fermented foods have been cherished worldwide for millennia and include:
While their potency may not always match that of probiotics, fermented foods exhibit a greater microbial diversity—an advantage highlighted by Spector. Varieties like kefir, kimchi, and kombucha encompass 20 to 40 distinct live bacteria and yeasts, as opposed to yogurt’s usual three.
Spector reveals that consuming several small portions daily over a few weeks can potentially reduce inflammation and fortify your immune system.
Nurturing beneficial gut bacteria can also be achieved through a fiber-rich diet, abundant in plant-based fare such as fresh vegetables and whole grains.
Probiotic Food Label Caution
Even within the realm of fermented foods, one should exercise caution to avoid deceptive products, warns Spector.
Select items free from pasteurization and excessive additives. Opt for pickled items comprised of simple ingredients—plants, water, and salt (sans vinegar). Look for kombuchas with ample sediment and effervescence.
Food labels proclaiming “live active cultures” or “live probiotics” generally signal quality, as affirmed by Bulsiewicz.
Strategies to Consider
Dr. Bulsiewicz suggests that while probiotic supplements might not be universally beneficial, exceptions exist for individuals with a family history of issues such as C. difficile or other gut anomalies.
Nonetheless, his approach to specific probiotic supplement usage remains highly deliberate, aimed at achieving optimal gut health.