Could taking a probiotic be doing more harm than good?
By now, many of us realise that good gut bacteria means a world of difference to our overall health. Now research suggests that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to maintaining good gut bacteria.
With scientists, nutritionists and health food companies placing a greater focus on healthy microbiota (the microorganisms that inhabit our bodies) in recent years, probiotic foods and supplements have soared into popularity.
Gut bacteria plays a vital role in maintaining our health on many levels: from boosting our immunity and managing weight to safeguarding our physical and mental health.
While eating natural yogurt is no bad thing, researchers from Victoria University say that taking a probiotic supplement without knowing how your individual system functions can be doing more harm than good, since more evidence is needed before researchers can definitively say what constitutes healthy microbiota.
“It’s a balance of bacteria and it’s all about achieving that balance,” says Amy Wallis, PhD student and lead researcher of a new paper. She also says that all “people have a balance that is healthy for them.”
Since some probiotics may improve one person’s balance but not necessarily another’s, it may be unwise for consumers to buy certain strains of probiotics based on a suggested study.
Dr Michelle Ball, who co-authored the study with Ms Wallis, suggests that consumers should be wary of over-generalising information and says that, “We now know that a good balance of bacteria for one person may not be good for the next person, so taking a probiotic without knowing what your individual system looks like may actually do more harm than good.”
In their paper ‘Support for the Microgenderome: Associations in a Human Clinical Population’, published in Scientific Reports, Ball and Wallis state that the same balance of bacteria can have significantly differing effects on men and women. This may be due to the differing connection men and women experience between their immune systems, hormone systems and microbiota.
In one example, it was shown that men with high levels of Streptococcus bacteria in their gut were more likely to show symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome than women. Wallis says this proves that “caution is needed when using probiotics”.
As always, the researchers suggest that until a more-personalised approach to bacteria can be reached, Australians should work to maintain a healthy weight and diet in order to achieve a healthy balance of gut bacteria, naturally.
Read more at smh.com.au
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