It’s way way way too soon to jump on the probiotic wagon

We live in a world in which the vast majority of people seem to believe that there are quick-fix solutions to health problems, which explains, I think, the amazing popularity of the many media medical magicians who continually promise that this newest magic whatever that has come to their attention – a green coffee bean, a herb, a vinegar, something “natural” you never heard of but which someone somewhere has done a small non-scientific study on – will help you achieve whatever it is you want to achieve – long life, better health, weight loss, cognitive retention – everything but world peace (so far).

This magic maelstrom needs constant refreshing, of course, when the previous preventive potent potion turned out to be not-so-potent after all, which helps explain in part why so many people have become so enthusiastic about probiotics, formulations of healthy bacteria that in theory will replace (or counteract) most of the unhealthy bacteria we all harbour (in theory, some of the burden of chronic illness that is so prevalent among us is due to unhealthy bacteria).

Now it may be that probiotics turn out to be useful in certain situations – for example, after using antibiotics.

But the simple truth is that we simply have no idea as yet about what kind of probiotics may prove useful (there are thousands and thousands of potential candidates) nor the appropriate doses nor the appropriate circumstances where they might help.

The most recent example of probiotic failure in a situation where it was thought probiotics might prove useful comes from a study in the journal Pediatrics in which researchers gave probiotics to very young kids in day care (a group at high risk for infection) and they discovered that this intervention “did not reduce the number of days absent from child care in healthy infants at the time”.

In other words, giving probiotics to healthy kids didn’t reduce the number of infections they got, and if it didn’t work in kids, there is no reason to believe it will work any better in adults.

Best way to try to fight infections?

Wash, wash, wash.

And follow as healthy a lifestyle regime as you can manage (without any green coffee beans).