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Are probiotics really good for you?

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By Rachel Dubrovin - Posted on 03 November 2011

Think twice before you start a "two week challenge" with probiotics. Although they are known as the "friendly bacteria", taking supplements of them may not be as kind to your system as the ads might suggest.

Probiotics are one of the biggest trends in the realm of nutrition. The companies claim that probiotic-infused food and capsules can regulate the digestive system, boost the immune system, and replenish the natural bacteria that is already found in the gut.

The reality is, none of these health claims are backed by the FDA because there is not sufficient evidence to prove them. Research has been inconclusive, and some has even shown some concerning side effects due to over-consuption of probiotics.

The most common probiotics found on the shelves are not the same strains as the ones that naturally grow in the gut. Therefore, consuming them will not replenish the body's natural supply. People must continue taking them in order
to keep the supplemental probiotics in their system.

The problem with continued probiotic use is that it can cause inflammation in the immune system due to an overload of bacteria. Inflammation can lead to digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome, which is something that probiotics are supposed to prevent,

According to Sue VanReas, Owner and Operator of Boulder Nutrition, people who may need to look into probiotic supplements are infants, the elderly, those returning from vacation to a foreign country, and people on a large dosage of antibiotics. In these cases, a few cups of yogurt will not do the trick. These people need to consult a professional to find out which specific strain and dosage to take.

Healthy people have no need to supplement their diets with probiotics. Pam Vagnieres, Master in Nutrition, says that simply eating a healthier and including lots of vegetables and whole grains should be the first step to solving any minor irregularity.