Probiotics: Are They Really That Good for You? [UPDATED Jan. 2020]

Probiotics: Are They Really That Good for You? [UPDATED Jan. 2020]

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Probiotics: they’re in our yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, pickles, etcetera. They are cultures of bacteria which can have health benefits when consumed.


Article summary:

  • What are probiotics?
  • What are the dangers?
  • Who are the experts?


Probiotics: they’re in our yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, pickles, etcetera. They are cultures of bacteria which can have health benefits when consumed. These bacteria include lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. 

Probiotics are popularized due to the belief that they can assist with many ailments including gastrointestinal issues and acne. No longer found only in food, but probiotics are now sold over the counter as supplements as well. 

But are these bacteria as harmless as they seem? Could your morning parfait with yogurt be causing more harm than good?

Some scientists believe that probiotics could be hurting more than helping. A recent preliminary study was published about cancer patients and probiotics. Those who took probiotic supplements daily were 70% less likely to respond to immunotherapy.

Those with cancer have an extremely weak immune system, and immunotherapy helps fight cancer. It is extremely damaging if someone with cancer does not respond to immunotherapy. 

This 70% was found to be because the “good” bacteria in the gut were fighting the medicines given for immunotherapy. This interferes with immune response. 

Dr. Jennifer Wargo, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of surgical oncology at MD Anderson, claims that “probiotics sold over the counter are completely unnecessary.”

Dr. Pieter Cohen, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an internist at Cambridge Health Alliance, claims that there are too many unknowns to tout probiotics as completely “safe” in thisstudy published in JAMA. 

Much like other supplements, probiotics are loosely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. This means that even if there is no scientific evidence backing up the claims of the supplement, it can be sold and advertised as they please. 

The way probiotics are made are also loosely regulated. This leads to wildly different bacteria per batch or different amounts of strains of bacteria, not just from bottle to bottle but even pill to pill. 

Probiotics being unregulated mean it’s easy to get a hold of them. Scientists are now urging the public to think twice about taking a supplement with possibly negative side effects. 





  • Gut health
  • Probiotics
  • Cancer

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