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Can Supplementing with Probiotics be Bad for You?


There has been a lot of buzz about gut health recently.

The health of your intestines is undoubtedly important - they make up an incredibly complex system that communicates with your brain, giving and receiving feedback, creating hormonal responses, and more. Gut health also has all kinds of correlations with disease. "Disease starts in the gut" is a phrase which is reverberating through the medical community.

As more science commentary and public discourse begin to highlight these concepts, more people are trying to somehow take advantage of this information to improve their own health.

This leads to using probiotic supplements. But it's possible that supplemental probiotic use isn't good for you, as found recently in a journal called Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology. It looks like a small study, but its results were upsetting. The bacteria in the probiotic supplements colonized the patients' small intestines TOO effectively.

Bacteria live by breaking down sugar and producing lactic acid. If there are too many bacteria living in the gut, they can produce a glut of lactic acid which can be toxic to brain cells, ultimately causing "brain fog". The patients in the study had way too much lactic acid in their blood and it was very clearly harming their cognitive function and ability to think clearly.

The article cautions against "excessive and indiscriminate use" of probiotics, which is wise. It notes there are times when supplemental probiotics are a great tool - like when one needs to replenish stomach flora from a strong course of antibiotics. But they should be treated more like a drug and less like a supplement.

We've seen supplement use play out this way time and time again. One isolated ingredient or compound is touted to have health benefits, everyone starts taking it, and later finds out it had more negative effects than positive effects.

We stand by our mushroom supplements because they're made directly from "superfoods" - whole fruiting body mushrooms. When supplements are food-based it's easier for the body to assimilate the nutrients because they're packaged as nature intended. Consuming large amounts of heavily isolated ingredients - like a specific strain of bacteria - can create imbalances like we see in this study. A much safer and more effective way to optimize gut health is to eat fermented foods like kimchi.  Just be very cautious with the supplements you take!