Is your probiotic poisoning you?

It was only a matter of time before the backlash against probiotics started.

In fact, new research wants you to think your probiotic is poisoning you!

According to a new study, probiotic use was linked to significant build-up of bacteria in the small intestine, resulting in disorientation, brain fog, and rapid, significant belly bloating.

This study is ALL WRONG. And I’ll tell you why in just a moment.

But first, let’s have a look at this supposed “study” to try to piece together how they came to this misguided conclusion…

A laundry list of problems

This new study was conducted by the Digestive Health Clinical Research Center at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, and published in the journal Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology.

The study consisted of 30 participants who were taking some form of probiotic — though researchers never indicated if the participants were all taking the same bacterial strains and amounts, or colony-forming units (CFUs). Of those participants, 22 reported the following problems:

  • Bloating
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Gas

Researchers found large colonies of bacteria breeding in the patients’ small intestines, as well as high levels of D-lactic acid, which is produced when bacteria like lactobacillius ferments with sugars in food.

High levels of D-lactic acid are known to be temporarily toxic to brain cells — interfering with cognition, thinking, and sense of time. Researchers found that some patients had two to three times the normal amount of D-lactic acid in their blood.

Symptoms ranged from temporary to severe — while some participants state having to quit their jobs due to the severity of their symptoms.

Participants’ symptoms stopped after discontinuing their probiotics, and starting a course of antibiotics.

A curious case of overgrowth

So what’s really going on in this study?

First of all, a study of 30 people or less is useless and should never be published. But that’s far from the only thing wrong with this research.

Here’s the second issue: All probiotic bacteria — and particularly lactobacillius, which is what these patients were taking — have the ability to break down sugar and produce D-lactic acid, as I mentioned earlier. Which, in excess, leads to lactic acidosis — a condition that causes severe brain fog and all of the symptoms listed above.

So the researchers warn that colonizing your small intestine with a probiotic supplement sets the stage for potentially developing lactic acidosis.

But they’re missing the big picture…

First of all, the primary underlying problem here isn’t the probiotic supplement. It’s excess sugar consumption. (As my dear — and brilliant — friend, Doug Kaufman says: “You know what else is linked to brain fogginess and severe bloating? Too much ice cream.”)

Of course, excess sugar consumption is followed closely by excessive use of prescription drugs (especially antibiotics) that destroy the body’s natural bacterial balance.

That said, you should never take a probiotic supplement that only contains one strain of bacteria. Your microbiome is home to hundreds (possibly thousands) of different microorganisms. Which is why I always recommend a multi-strain product.

It’s equally important not to go overboard on probiotics. In fact “probiotic abuse” happens a lot. Big doses — which are listed in terms of “colony forming units” or CFUs — may seem like a good way to get more bang for your buck. But this is one instance where you can have too much of a good thing. The number of CFU’s in a probiotic pill should never be above 1 to 2 million of any specific strain — and never in the billions.

So what we’re really talking about here is small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This results in a lot of undigested carbohydrates, leading to high levels of D-lactic acid.

And of course their symptoms disappeared when they stopped taking probiotics and went on a course of antibiotics. That’s exactly how SIBO is treated (along with a low-sugar, low-carb diet).

I almost forgot to mention that participants in this study without symptoms were also asked to halt probiotic use and stop eating yogurt, which they consider one of the best sources of probiotics. If you ask me, that statement alone completely negates their argument. Yogurt is NOT a good source of probiotics. It’s packed with sugar! You can’t do good nutritional research if you don’t know nutrition 101.

Scare tactics can’t squash science

Listen, I know this topic can be confusing. Scientists are still uncovering all the ways bacteria affect our health. But don’t let poorly designed studies like this scare you away from taking a high-quality, multi-strain probiotic supplement. Research shows it’s one of the best investments you can make in your health.

And choosing the right formula doesn’t have to feel like “Mission Impossible.”

In fact, in the April 2016 issue of my monthly Logical Health Alternatives newsletter, I wrote extensively about the easiest way to find a quality probiotic (“My three-step plan to ensure you’re taking the highest-quality, most effective probiotic”).

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