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Probiotics: Sham or Do They Work?

Supplements pills zoomed in

If you believe the marketing claims, probiotics can help you with just about anything—IBS, leaky gut, diarrhea, brain fog, depression, skin conditions, and even fat loss.

But is this actually true?

Generally speaking, probiotics probably won’t hurt, and they might help. They also might be a complete waste of money.

The idea is that probiotics can help rebalance your gut microbes so the “good” bugs outweigh the “bad.”

Here’s where it gets tricky.

There are hundreds of strains of gut bacteria. And if consumers don’t choose the right probiotic for the right ailment, they’ll get no benefit. (That’s according to Gabrielle Fundaro, Ph.D., one of the world’s foremost experts on gut health and probiotics.)

In fact, based on research, there are only a few known conditions that probiotics help with. (Spoiler alert: Fat loss isn’t one of them.)

So what do probiotics work for?

How do you choose one? And how do you know if it’s working?

Here’s what we know from research:

Probiotics are most likely to help: IBS, ulcerative colitis, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, H. pylori, infectious diarrhea, and C. diff

Probiotics aren’t likely to help: metabolic health, digestion, mental health, fat loss, or “leaky gut” (+ more)

Probiotics DO NOT need to be refrigerated

It’s best to take probiotics right before meals

Symptoms should improve within 4 weeks (if it’s working)

The big takeaway here: If you’re considering a probiotic, you want to ensure the one you choose has the right strains for your ailment. So always ask your doctor first and use their recommendation and instructions.