Bottom Line/HEALTH: There’s so much hoopla about probiotics in the media. When should people be taking probiotics?
Andrew Rubman, ND: If they’ve had a problem with their GI tract…they’ve had a problem with a recent cold…if they’ve been taking antibiotics for anything more than a very short period of time. These are all really good reasons to take probiotics.
Bottom Line The GI tract being a problem—whether they’ve had gas…whether they’ve had indigestion, any of that—which basically means most everybody has indigestion problems of some kind or another, or digestive problems.
Dr. Rubman: Hopefully from time to time, but not on an ongoing basis. Particularly if they’re taking any sort of prescription to suppress stomach acid, then the whole GI tract goes rather kaflooey and probiotics become very important..
Bottom Line: Are there probiotics in particular that somebody should be taking if they are on acid-suppressing medications?
Dr. Rubman: The two things to look for are the genus, or the first names of the bacteria—lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. There are a number of different species, but those are the ones that you want to look for.
Bottom Line: How about if they’ve been on antibiotics?
Dr. Rubman: If they’ve been on antibiotics, it becomes a little bit more difficult. There is a lactobacillus strain that’s marketed under the name Culturelle that is a GG strain, which is particularly good for those people who have been on antibiotics. But consulting a knowledgeable source to get best direction for you as an individual is never a bad idea.
Bottom Line: That means that going to your basic Whole Foods or natural product store is not good enough. That in the case of probiotics, it’s best to be able to get professional advice?
Dr. Rubman It really is. But there’s no real problem in taking a yogurt, for example, that has nonhuman-compatible strains in it and expecting to get some benefit. But if you really have a profound problem and it’s longlasting, you’re really better off consulting a knowledgeable source.
Bottom Line: All right, hold on. Nonhuman-compatible strains in the yogurt? They’re selling all these yogurts that have probiotics in them.
Dr. Rubman Yes, most of them are derived from cow’s milk, and they grow very well in the intestine of the cow, but after two or three days in the human intestine, the immune system says “You look kind of like what I’m working for, but not good enough. Take a hike.” What does that mean? You go back and buy more product, so the manufacturer is delighted, of course.
Bottom Line: All those yogurts then are a scam?
Dr. Rubman: They’re not as helpful as they could be.
Bottom Line: If the yogurts are no good, do they just go to the Whole Foods counter and see which ones are the lactobacillus or the bifidos?
Dr. Rubman: That’ll be helpful, but there are some companies that produce the human-compatible strains that one can look for as opposed to the general, run-of-the-mill, commercially available ones.
Bottom Line: Amazing. So in the case of probiotics, don’t necessarily believe all the marketing hype. You really have to go to a professional, either a doctor or a naturopathic physician, to be able to know exactly which probiotics to get.
Dr. Rubman: Honestly, that’s the best medicine with all of this.
Bottom Line: All right, thank you, Dr. Rubman.