GI health and Probiotics
The most common misconceptions American have related to gastrointestinal health, digestive health, and probiotics range from misunderstandings about the effectiveness of multi-strain probiotics compared to single-strain probiotics, the risks involved in mixing probiotics and prescription antibiotics, differences between probiotic species and strains, and recommended usages of probiotics. Probiotic companies are addressing these myths and concerns through educational websites, video series, and advertisement campaigns. I will go into a more in-depth list of common misconceptions, as well as what companies are doing to address these misconceptions, in more detail below.
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT PROBIOTICS
A list of common misconceptions Americans have related to probiotics as well as gastrointestinal and digestive health were found on the websites of Natren and Thrive Probiotic, two companies that are focusing on providing more information to the public in order to demystify common probiotic myths. The following is a list of the myths found on these websites:
1. Yogurt and Kefir are effective probiotics.
2. Probiotics with high potencies are more effective than those with low potencies.
3. Multi-strain probiotics are more effective than single-strain probiotics.
4. All probiotic species and strains are the same.
5. Enteric coatings provide enough protection for probiotics.
6. Homeostatic soil organisms and spore-forming bacteria are reported as being safe and effective probiotics.
7. It is not necessary to refrigerate probiotics or to ship them in thermally controlled packaging.
8. It is recommended and beneficial to add prebiotics like Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) to probiotics.
9. Probiotics should not be taken with prescription antibiotics.
10. Probiotics do not need to be taken every day.
11. Diet does not alter the effectiveness of a probiotic.
12. Enterococcus faecalis and enterococcus faecium are safe probiotics.
13. Digestive enzymes mix well with probiotics.
14. Probiotics must be refrigerated to be a good probiotic.
15. The information provided on the label is what you get in the capsule.
16. Only probiotics that contain at least 15 different strains are effective.
17. A probiotic must have an enteric coating or be contained in a special capsule.
18. Probiotics are not necessary for individuals who eat fermented foods.
19. Probiotics can be taken on an empty stomach.
WHAT BRANDS ARE DOING TO ADDRESS MISCONCEPTIONS
Probiotic brands are putting more effort towards educating the public in order to address the previously discussed misconceptions. This is often done by providing information on websites, commercials, videos, and advertisement campaigns put force by the probiotic brands. Six brands in particular are focusing on providing more information to address misconceptions about probiotics: Ganeden, Natren, Renew Life, IgY Nutrition, Pro Bio Gen, and Thrive Probiotic.
Ganeden has introduced a new series on the brand's website called "Probiotics: Beyond the Hype." This series addresses certain topics that many Americans may not fully understand, such as information on different strains of probiotics, if fermented foods have any probiotic benefits, which products probiotics can be added to (such as shelf-stable beverages, skincare products, etc.), and how many colony forming units (or CFUs) of probiotics are needed in a specific product.
Natren has also incorporated useful information on their website in the form of known myths and responses to these myths. The brand lists 13 probiotic myths, backed by 27 reputable references. Some myths the brand has addressed are:
The species and strains of all probiotics are the same.
Multi-strain probiotics are more effective than single-strain probiotics.
Higher potency probiotics are more effective than lower potency probiotics.
It is not recommended to take probiotics with prescription antibiotics.
Probiotics do not need to be taken every day.
Probiotics are not effected by the user's diet.
Renew Life addresses misconceptions through a marketing campaign that focuses on the benefits that are experienced when taking probiotics. The brand aims to run four videos on social media platforms and the brand's website, with the goal of changing the probiotic conversation from negativity and shame to education, inspiration, and caring about the health of the digestive system.
IgY Nutrition also focuses on educational videos, specifically dedicated to common myths about digestive health and probiotics. The brand is focusing on the following myths:
Probiotics are only found in yogurt.
All probiotics are the same.
To avoid microbiota impalance, all an individual needs is probiotics.
Problems with digestion only exist in the gut.
Pro Bio Gen is currently launching an advertising campaign that aims to use multiple platforms to educate the consumer on the health benefits of probiotics. This campaign will use information provided by scientific studies to back its claims.
Thrive Probiotic has a series on demystifying probiotic myths based on the brand's website. The series focuses on myths such as:
Probiotics are not good unless they are refrigerated.
For effective probiotic usage, a consumer must get a probiotic with at least 15 different strains.
Probiotics should be taken on an empty stomach.
Probiotics with more cells are more effective than probiotics with fewer cells.
Probiotics are not necessary if an individual eats fermented foods.
To conclude, there are a number of common misconceptions Americans have regarding digestive health and probiotics. These range from misconceptions about proper storage techniques, differences in strains and species, how and when probiotics should be taken, and the effectiveness of different forms of probiotics. To address these myths, probiotic companies are providing more educational information on their websites, releasing video series that demystify these common myths, and initiating advertising campaigns that address these concerns.