Humans function thanks in large part to the billions of bacteria that live inside us. These friendly bugs—commonly known as the microbiome—help us digest our food, fight disease, and even regulate our mood. But it wasn’t long ago that we had little understanding of what these microorganisms did for us; even now, we are still only scratching the surface in our knowledge of their influence on our health and wellbeing. With this newfound knowledge came an increased public interest in our microflora, and, naturally, the market for probiotics, supplements containing either live or dead strains of beneficial bacteria, spiked. Today, a visit to the supermarket’s supplement aisle will reveal shelves laden with a multitude of different probiotic options, claiming to regulate digestion, strengthen the immune system, boost mood, and promote overall well-being.
But some experts say that the marketing for these supplements has outpaced the actual science. While a foundation of evidence suggests that probiotics can be helpful for a few specific gastrointestinal conditions and even promote wellbeing in otherwise healthy individuals, science has raised more questions than answers.
Excerpted from Popular Science