Simplifying Science

Bug Fix

Probiotics aren't bad for you at all. And some might even be helpful. But as this study shows, one of the most common types available doesn't make a bit of difference in healing the gut during an episode of stomach flu. That's important info, especially when a parent is trying to get something into the intestinal tract of their child who is nauseous or worse. If it doesn't help, there is no good reason to push the remedy.

One thing this article doesn't address is the fact that many probiotics don't contain quite what they claim to. Probiotics are regulated as nutritional supplements, not drugs, so no one is regularly checking inside the bottle to make sure that what is advertised on the label is really in there. Plus, if you consume your probiotics in dairy foods, like yogurt, and the dairy is pasteurized to reduced the likelihood of bad bacteria, then you can bet the population of good bacteria (AKA probiotics) is reduced during pasteurization as well. Again, there's no guarantee that what the label claims ("1 gazillion active live cultures!") is at all true.

I am a big fan of the right probiotics made by companies dedicated to transparency and given in the right instances. Looks like a bout of stomach flu is not a time to try this remedy...

A widely-used probiotic therapy is ineffective against the diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain of gastroenteritis, two large studies in the U.S. and Canada have concluded.

Five days of treatment with a key ingredient in many products, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, was no better at stopping symptoms than placebo among children ages 3 months to 4 years.

In the Canadian study, a second probiotic added to the mix also showed no benefit.