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Cansupplements block benefits of probiotics?

Asked by Charlene Perkins, Danvers, Massachusetts

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I've started adding probiotics to my diet and feel tremendously better. Are there any supplements I should not be taking with the probiotics that will kill them: vitamins, garlic, cranberry gels, etc.?

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Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

Expert answer

HI Charlene -- I actually recommend probiotics quite often in my nutrition practice, but to answer your question, I turned to probiotic expert Dr. Gary B. Huffnagle, Ph.D., professor of internal medicine and microbiology/immunology at University of Michigan Medical Center and author of "Probiotic Revolution" (Bantam, 2008).

Huffnagle explained that probiotics may help with a range of medical conditions including antibiotic-associated diarrhea, stomach flu in children and adults, irritable bowel syndrome, and even food and seasonal allergies in some cases. In addition, probiotics can help improve the function of your immune system and improve digestive function in general -- so I'm not surprised that you feel better after adding probiotics to your diet.

According to Huffnagle, the best source of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria probiotics is probably refrigerated supplements, which provide a more concentrated dose and a reliable delivery system. Shelf-stable supplements containing the probiotics Bacillus coagulans or Saccharomyces boulardii are also a good source of probiotics. In general, it is important to buy supplements from a reputable company that has done research on its products and that provides adequate information on the type of probiotics used.

Dairy is also a very good delivery system for probiotics, so yogurts that have been specially created to deliver probiotics are also good sources (Activia, Dan-Active, Yakult). Surprisingly, chocolate is also a good delivery system, so chocolate products created specifically to deliver probiotics (instead of just throwing them in for marketing purposes) are a tasty and effective option, as long as they aren't loaded with too much sugar and fat. (Attune is a California company specializing in chocolate probiotic treats.) Fermented foods such as cheese, sauerkraut and kimchi are also a good source of probiotics. Huffnagle recommends consuming a variety of sources of probiotics, as not all types will work for everyone. By eating a variety of sources on a regular basis, you are more likely to consume a probiotic that works for you.

To answer your question as to whether any supplements kill probiotics, the answer is no. However, eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates may decrease the effectiveness of probiotics. Conversely, eating a diet high in soluble fiber and phytonutrient-rich foods can help probiotics work even better.

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