Are Probiotics Unnecessary?


Health advice changes frequently, which can be super-confusing if you’re trying to do the right thing. (Remember when eggs were bad and margarine was good? Yeah, us too.) Last spring, a widely publicized review cast some doubt on the value of taking probiotics. At least that’s how it got covered in the media.<1>,<2> The real story is more nuanced.

The review was led by Dr. Saman Khalesi of Central Queensland University in Australia and published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It provided a comprehensive look at the results of 45 studies of probiotic use by healthy adults published between 1990 and 2017. The researchers considered how taking a probiotic changed the overall balance of bacteria in the body and looked for potential health benefits too.

They concluded that taking a probiotic:

  • Improves the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut and vagina*
  • Strengthens immune response*
  • Enhances regularity and bowel comfort*

The only catch is that the improvements are “transient,” meaning they only last as long as you take the probiotic.

Gut bacteria are delicate flowers. The study notes they’re “sensitive to multiple factors, such as lifestyle, aging, and disease.” Changes in diet, as well as alcohol consumption, can upset the ratio of beneficial to harmful bacteria in your system. Plus, as you age, your population of gut bacteria changes. That’s why proactive steps to maintain a good bacterial balance—like taking a probiotic supplement—are so crucial to your health.

There are two practical takeaways here.

  1. Unless you’re addressing a temporary digestive challenge, taking a probiotic is like taking a multivitamin. It’s a long-term commitment to protecting your overall wellness.*
  2. To help the beneficial bacteria in a probiotic supplement survive and thrive in your gut, it’s important to down enough fiber from whole grains, beans, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Why? Because fiber is what bacteria eat. They’ll stick around longer if you feed them.

A probiotics primer

Probiotics are not all the same; different strains have different benefits. To get an idea of which probiotic is right for you, take a look at this list of some of the most-studied strains:

Bifidobacterium bifidum

  • Promotes healthy weight gain and gut health in babies*<3>,<4>
  • Helps relieve gas, bloating, and occasional constipation/loose stool in grownups*<5>
  • Works in the young, middle-aged and elderly to give the immune system a boost*<6>,<7>,<8>

Bifidobacterium breve

  • Helps open up the airways so kids can breathe easy*<9>

Bifidobacterium longum

  • Promotes digestive comfort for tiny tummies*<10>,<11>

Lactobacillus acidophilus

  • Helps folks suffering from lactose intolerance enjoy dairy products again*<12>

Lactobacillus casei

  • Provides nasal comfort and sinus relief*<13>
  • Firms up occasional loose stool*<14>
  • Supports your pearly whites by improving the bacterial composition of your mouth*<15>

Lactobacillus plantarum

  • Soothes dry, irritated skin*<16>

Lactobacillus rhamnosus

  • Comforts sensitive skin and firms up loose stools*<17>,<18>
  • Protects kiddos’ teeth by improving the bacterial composition of their mouths*<19>
  • Supports vaginal health and comfort*<20>

Lactobacillus salivarius

  • Makes you more regular*<21>

Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. boulardi

  • Firms up occasional loose stool*<22>,<23>

A full line of probiotics

Flora offers a wide array of refrigerated and shelf-stable probiotics—11 in all—with strains tailored for people of every age, from our Toddler’s Probiotic to our Advanced Adult’s Probiotic. We also make customized blends for specific times in your life, such as Pregnancy Care Probiotic and Travel Care Probiotic.

Probiotics work, but only if you make them a regular habit. Just like eating right and exercising.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


<1> Chu W. Nutraingredients. 2018 Apr. 17.

<2> Khalesi S, et al. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018 Mar 26. doi: 10.1038/s41430-018-0135-9.

<3> Yamasaki C, et al. Pediatr Int. 2012 Oct;54(5):651-6.

<4> Janvier A, Malo J, Barrington KJ. J Pediatr. 2014 May;164(5):980-5.

<5> Guglielmetti S, et al. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011 May;33(10):1123-32.

<6> Rerksuppaphol S, Rerksuppaphol L. Pediatr Int. 2012 Oct;54(5):682-7.

<7> Schiffrin EJ,et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Aug;66(2):515S-520S.

<8> De Simone C, et al. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 1992;14(1-2):331-4.

<9> van der Aa LB, et al; Synbad Study Group. Allergy. 2011 Feb;66(2):170-7.

<10> Guerra PV, et al. World J Gastroenterol. 2011 Sep 14;17(34):3916-21.

<11> Olivares M, et al. Br J Nutr. 2014 Jul 14;112(1):30-40.

<12> Vandes CF. J Appl Nutr. 1989;41:50-64.

<13> Giovanni M, et al. Pediatric Res. 2007 Aug;62(2):215-20.

<14> Pedone CA, et al. Int J Clin Pract. 2000 Nov;54(9):568-71.

<15> Yadav M, et al. J Clin Pedtratr Dent. 2014 Fall;39(1):23-6.

<16> Han Y, et al. Pediatric Allergy Immunol. 2012 Nov;23(7):667-73.

<17>Passeron T, et al. Allergy. 2006 Apr;61(4):431-7.

<18> Vanderhoof JA, et al. J Pediatr. 1999 Nov;135(5):564-8.

<19> Näse L, et al. Caries Res. 2001 Nov-Dec;35(6):412-20.

<20> Bohbot JM, Cardot JM. Infect Dis Obstet Gynecol. 2012; 2012:503648.

<21> Sierra S,et al. Anaerobe. 2010 Jun;16(3):195-200.

<22> McFarland LV, et al. 1995 Mar;90(3):439-48.

<23> Szajewska H, et al. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2014 Apr;58(4):531-9.