Top six myths and misconceptions about probiotics
29th Aug, 2023

 Top six myths and misconceptions about probiotics

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are living bacteria and yeast that have health benefits, particularly for the digestive system, when consumed in sufficient quantities (1).

Probiotics can be found in supplements (in capsule, pill, powder, or liquid form) and in some fermented foods, such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and kombucha.

Probiotics are classified by their genus (e.g., Lactobacillus), species (e.g., plantarum), and strain (e.g., 299v). It is important to select the right strain to align with your desired benefits, as the effects can differ significantly between strains (2).

The two most common probiotics found in supplements and food are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium (3). Saccharomyces Boulardii is a beneficial yeast that is commonly used in probiotic products (3).  

Some common myths and misconceptions

Myth: All probiotics are the same

Fact: Probiotics include various microorganisms, each with distinct characteristics and potential health benefits (2). The efficacy of probiotics depends on their ability to address specific health conditions.

For example, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG is effective for conditions like diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), eczema, and allergy prevention (4). In contrast, Bifidobacterium breve BR03 is beneficial for insulin resistance, exercise recovery, and weight management (5,6).

Myth: More probiotics are always better

Fact: Consuming excessive amounts does not guarantee better results, as effectiveness depends on the quantity of live organisms that reach your gut alive (7).

The optimal dose can vary depending on the specific strains used and your health needs (2). 

Follow recommendations and consult a healthcare professional if unsure about the appropriate amount for you.

Myth: Probiotics are unnecessary if you have a healthy diet

Fact: Despite a balanced diet, modern lifestyles, stress, and antibiotic use can disturb the delicate balance of gut bacteria (8). Probiotics can help restore this balance and provide additional support for optimal gut health, making probiotics a valuable addition to overall wellness (9,10).

Myth: All probiotics colonise the gut

Fact: While some probiotics can temporarily colonise the gut, wherein they adhere to the intestinal lining and become permanent residents of the gut, this is not a requirement for them to be beneficial (11,12).

Probiotics exert their benefits through interactions with your existing gut microbiota and your immune system (9,13). They promote a more balanced and diverse microbial community, and produce various compounds, such as short-chain fatty acids and antimicrobial substances that improve your gut environment (10,13).

Myth: A greater number of probiotic strains is beneficial

Fact: Probiotic treatment is strain-specific; however, multi-strain probiotics may also provide benefits (14,15,16).

Benefits of multi-strain probiotics (14,16:

  • Complementary effects: different probiotic strains can have varying effects on your body. By combining multiple strains, you increase the likelihood of achieving a broader spectrum of health benefits. Certain strains may strengthen the immune system, while others may promote digestive health and reduce inflammation.
  • Enhanced resilience: the presence of multiple strains may increase the chances of some strains surviving adverse conditions caused by factors such as stress, antibiotics, or dietary changes.

Benefits of single-strain probiotics (2,15):

  • Focused effects: single-strain probiotics are useful when a specific strain has been extensively studied for its health benefits, dosage, and safety profile.
  • Simplicity and convenience: single-strain probiotics are simple and convenient. They are beneficial when you want to add a particular strain to your diet without combining it with other probiotics.

Myth: All probiotics need refrigeration 

Fact: Not all probiotics require refrigeration, but they do need to be protected from heat (17). Both the probiotic strain and the manufacturing process determine how you should store your probiotics.

Many factors affect probiotics’ survival and efficacy, including (18,19):

  • Humidity
  • Temperature
  • pH of the environment
  • Packaging
  • Type of strain
  • Life stage of probiotics

Some probiotic strains are more resilient and can remain stable at room temperature for extended periods, making them shelf-stable and convenient for storage and travel (16). On the other hand, certain probiotic strains are more sensitive to environmental factors like temperature, humidity, and oxygen exposure, leading to a shorter shelf life and faster die-off (17,19).

Manufacturers use various methods such as microencapsulation, cryoprotectants, freeze-drying, genetic modification of probiotic strains, and improved packaging (such as blister packs) to prolong bacteria survivability (20,21,22).

These advancements have led to the development of more shelf-stable probiotic strains that can withstand higher temperatures and do not require refrigeration. These robust probiotic strains are becoming more widely available and convenient if you do not have access to refrigeration or prefer on-the-go options.

Key take-away

Probiotics have a significant ability to improve numerous aspects of health, such as gut health, digestion, immunity, mental health, and cardiovascular function. Achieving the best results requires consistent use.

While probiotic treatment is strain-specific, both single-strain and multi-strain probiotics offer their own unique advantages.

It's essential to store probiotics properly, considering factors like temperature, humidity, and strain resilience. Always read the label to know what is required for each product.

While probiotics are generally considered safe, always consult a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement, including probiotics.


1Kim SK, Guevarra RB, Kim YT, Kwon J, Kim H, Cho JH, et al. Role of probiotics in human gut microbiome-associated diseases. J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2019 Sep 28;29(9):1335-40.
2Wieërs G, Belkhir L, Enaud R, Leclercq S, Philippart de Foy JM, Dequenne I, et al. How probiotics affect the microbiota. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2020 Jan 15;9:454.
3Wilkins T, Sequoia J. Probiotics for gastrointestinal conditions: A summary of the evidence. Am Fam Physician. 2017 Aug 1;96(3):170-8.
4Capurso L. Thirty Years of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG: A Review. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2019 Mar;53 Suppl 1:S1-S41.
5Jäger R, Purpura M, Stone JD, Turner SM, Anzalone AJ, Eimerbrink MJ, et al. Probiotic Streptococcus thermophilus FP4 and Bifidobacterium breve BR03 Supplementation Attenuates Performance and Range-of-Motion Decrements Following Muscle Damaging Exercise. Nutrients. 2016 Oct 14;8(10):642.
6Minami J, Kondo S, Yanagisawa N, Odamaki T, Xiao JZ, Abe F, et al. Oral administration of Bifidobacterium breve B-3 modifies metabolic functions in adults with obese tendencies in a randomised controlled trial. J Nutr Sci. 2015 May 4;4:e17.
7Terpou A, Papadaki A, Lappa IK, Kachrimanidou V, Bosnea LA, Kopsahelis N. Probiotics in Food Systems: Significance and Emerging Strategies Towards Improved Viability and Delivery of Enhanced Beneficial Value. Nutrients. 2019 Jul 13;11(7):1591.
8Martel J, Chang SH, Ko YF, Hwang TL, Young JD, Ojcius DM. Gut barrier disruption and chronic disease. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2022 Apr;33(4):247-65.
9Markowiak P, Śliżewska K. Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health. Nutrients. 2017 Sep 15;9(9).
10Scourboutakos M, Franco-Arellano B, Murphy S, Norsen S, Comelli E, L’Abbé M. Mismatch between Probiotic Benefits in Trials versus Food Products. Nutrients. 2017 Apr 19;9(4):400.
11Westaway JAF, Huerlimann R, Kandasamy Y, Miller CM, Norton R, Watson D, et al. Exploring the long-term colonisation and persistence of probiotic-prophylaxis species on the gut microbiome of preterm infants: a pilot study. Eur J Pediatr. 2022 Sep;181(9):3389-400.
12Xiao Y, Zhai Q, Zhang H, Chen W, Hill C. Gut Colonization Mechanisms of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium: An Argument for Personalized Designs. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2021 Mar 25;12:213-33.
13Bodke H, Jogdand S. Role of Probiotics in Human Health. Cureus. 2022 Nov 9;14(11):e31313.
14Kwoji ID, Aiyegoro OA, Okpeku M, Adeleke MA. Multi-Strain Probiotics: Synergy among Isolates Enhances Biological Activities. Biology (Basel). 2021 Apr 13;10(4):322.
15McFarland LV. Efficacy of Single-Strain Probiotics Versus Multi-Strain Mixtures: Systematic Review of Strain and Disease Specificity. Dig Dis Sci. 2021 Mar;66(3):694-704.
16Ouwehand AC, Invernici MM, Furlaneto FAC, Messora MR. Effectiveness of Multistrain Versus Single-strain Probiotics: Current Status and Recommendations for the Future. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2018 Nov/Dec;52 Suppl 1, Proceedings from the 9th Probiotics, Prebiotics and New Foods, Nutraceuticals and Botanicals for Nutrition & Human and Microbiota Health Meeting, held in Rome, Italy from September 10 to 12, 2017:S35-S40.
17Fenster K, Freeburg B, Hollard C, Wong C, Rønhave Laursen R, Ouwehand AC. The Production and Delivery of Probiotics: A Review of a Practical Approach. Microorganisms. 2019 Mar 17;7(3):83.
18Kiepś J, Dembczyński R. Current Trends in the Production of Probiotic Formulations. Foods. 2022 Aug 4;11(15):2330.
19Wang G, Chen Y, Xia Y, Song X, Ai L. Characteristics of Probiotic Preparations and Their Applications. Foods. 2022 Aug 16;11(16):2472.
20Baral KC, Bajracharya R, Lee SH, Han HK. Advancements in the Pharmaceutical Applications of Probiotics: Dosage Forms and Formulation Technology. Int J Nanomedicine. 2021 Nov 12;16:7535-56.
21Schöpping M, Goel A, Jensen K, Faria RA, Franzén CJ, Zeidan AA. Novel Insights into the Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Robustness and Stability in Probiotic Bifidobacteria. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2023 Mar 29;89(3):e0008223.
22Yarullina DR, Damshkaln LG, Bruslik NL, Konovalova OA, Ilinskaya ON, Lozinsky VI. Towards effective and stable probiotics. Int J Risk Saf Med. 2015;27 Suppl 1:S65-6.