Probiotics, prebiotics, and intestinal flora

Many bacteria flourish in the digestive tract, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium varieties. The maintenance of healthy intestinal flora aids digestion and boosts the immune system. Claims have also been made that good intestinal function may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

Probiotics (literally “pro life” or “for life”) are dietary supplements which contain potentially beneficial bacteria and yeasts. The rationale behind them is that antibiotics, stress, illness and a variety of other causes reduce the number of intestinal flora in the digestive tract. Danone claimed that weather changes may have be among them on the now-defunct UK Actimel site.

Probiotic products aim to deliver extra intestinal flora to the gut to aid with digestion, which may engender temporary colonies of bacteria that assist the body’s natural flora. However, if the conditions which lead to the depletion of the intestinal flora persist, their benefits will be short-lived, which may be why Danone recommends that its probiotic yoghurt Activia is eaten at least once a day.

A healthy level of intestinal flora can also easily be ensured by maintaining a diet with a good level of prebiotics, which occur in such foods as raw oats, unrefined wheat, artichokes and chicory. The benefits of a single kind of bacteria being added to the gut are also brought into question by the fact that there are millions of different kinds of bacteria in the gut already. The Activia site for the USA used to provide a PDF Scientific Summary For Health Care Professionals which has since been taken down.  Danon are specifically targeting healthcare professionals to ask them to prescribe Activia.

There is emerging evidence that probiotics may help elderly patients recover from surgery quicker by countering some effects of antibiotics, but there is also evidence that probiotics can be dangerous for patients with acute pancreatitis : Probiotics may be useful in some medical settings, and may be extremely harmful in others

The BBC has recorded an excellent radio programme about gut bacteria, including a discussion of the fundamental uncertainty about the very specific advertised claims for probiotics.

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  • I’m not clear if this is the correct category to put this, nevertheless I have a serious issue.

    I’m 14, 5″3, and 148 lbs. I’ve been one of those people that has always been fat in their life and I really want to try to lose weight this summer, before school starts.. I’m looking for specific diets and exercises to lose weight around the stomach and thigh area, but I don’t want anything completely unhealthy because I want to be tall..

    Posted by fcovoeeqae on 24th May 2013

  • I believe in the live cultures present in any brand yoghurt but everything that goes into your gut has an effect to either help or offset the benefits of it. For 22 days now I’ve been off all grains, rarely have any sugar or alcohol, a lot of vegetables, some fruits, live culture yoghurt, cottage cheese, fish or tofu. I’ve lost an average of 2.2lbs per week because I limit my consumption from 1200 to 1300 calories a day. It has taken me about 3 weeks to finally get a regular every other day bowel movement. I feel excellent and I still have yet to exercise since on so few calories I’m limiting that until I reach 30 days. Which yoghurt am I using? Who cares? As long as it has live cultures in it. Dannon Activia is just one brand and I happen to not even use it. I suspect when I start to include daily exercise and add another 300 calories a day I’ll have daily bowel movements.

    Posted by verisww on 5th May 2013

  • Well, then you’d be surprised To prucdoe a good quality yoghurt requires a very clean production line at all levels as yoghurts a very prone to moulding. This would be very expensive. You wouldn’t believe what sort of stuff they add to yoghurts in order to actually keep it totally sterile. Do some reading about say PERHYDROL as an example. No bacteria can survive that treatment. I’m not saying everyone does but there are manufactures who do. No hard feelings, it’s just a business. Actually whole the big diary industry is just a business anyways.

    Posted by Kobe on 21st October 2012

  • Trying to get my son who has been told he has acid reflux to start eating Activia or take a probiotic. What can I tell him that might help him eat it daily instead of taking medicine doctors are prescribing. (little purple pill). Activia has really helped with my digestion. I also have acid reflux and have noticed a difference by eating Activia and taking probiotics.

    Posted by Joyce on 25th September 2012

  • I think the full benefits of probiotics are yet to be discovered. I’d highly recommend opting for a probiotic supplement over Activia in the meantime. Who knows, it could all be in the mind – but probiotic supps like Udo’s or OptiBac sure seem to have worked a treat for me. Thanks

    Posted by Tracey on 8th June 2012

  • Activia helped me out a great deal. I had foot surgery and the doc kept me on antibiotics too long which stripped me of all of the good bacteria in my digestive system. I was sick as a dog and developed another bacteria call C-Diff. It was very bad had the runs for 2 straight weeks going to the bathroom 2 -3 times a day. Lost 23 lbs with this thing! Went to my family doc and had to do a stool culture and they let me know immediately what the problem was. I had to take Flagyl and eat Activia. The Activia put the healthy bacteria back in my digestive system along with the medication and I started feeling much better. I like Activia, it is very good for the digestive system. Perhaps some folks may not take to using this product. Everyone’s digestive is not the same. Thank goodness that it works for me..

    Posted by Posted by MaggieB on January 26, 2012 on 26th January 2012

  • I suffered from heartburn and constiption ofte, tried everything. Nothing worked. Tried actIvia bam!!!!!, no more heartburn , reflux or constipation , thanks Dannon

    Posted by R Davis. in Virginia on 26th October 2011

  • I have acid reflux, and bloating with constapation,, Activa works pretty darn good! Less bloating and I feel bettter too! The flavors aren’t bad and I try to have one or two a day. Helps before my morning coffee with the acid reflux. Doesn’t hurt to try it and see how it works for you.

    Posted by women 35 on 23rd September 2011

  • I tried using this stuff as a laxative due to having popped vicodin like candy and literally being full of crap. I was disappointed that it didn’t work after a week. It didn’t take the bloat away either. I ended up having to take some dulcolax and eating prunes to finally get stuff moving. It’s fine as a yogurt and tastes good, but it shouldn’t be touted as some medical break through.

    Posted by Cosmic8o8 on 12th July 2011

  • I was so sick for the two weeks and a couple days that I ate Activia. I did note I had urgent diarrhea after every time ingesting food or beverage. I thought, this must be doing to me what happens with a breast-fed baby. And wonders never cease, that is EXACTLY what it does. I got sicker and rawer, and stopped eating this dangerous product which should be pulled off store shelves and sold only as a laxative, or not at all until there have been some clinical trials. This is NOT a food. It’s a medication, and reading around here, I see confirmation that it can be carcinogenic.

    I took the Activia back and demanded a refund, and I plan to write to the FDA.

    Posted by Enter your name here on 25th June 2011

  • Seems like Danone put their men to work and favourable “comments” showed up! Good job guys!

    Posted by Bifidus Bullshitus on 12th March 2011

  • You guys, I’m an 18 year old single father of 9 who works 18 hour days, goes to school full time, and rescues puppies and homeless people from the streets of Detroit, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and LA. As a result of my life stresses, I was diagnosed with “Holy Crap my Stomach Hurts and I Can’t Go to the Restroom Often” disorder. My doctor/shaman recommended I try the “Activia” challenge. I thought this a bit suspicious as everything from his pens, to his whitecoat, to the little jar he had me pee in had a Dannon logo on it, but they just love the medical community! Anyways, I tried Activia and, I kid you not, I went to the bathroom an hour later! It also cured me of ailments, neuralgia, kidney reflux, and depression. All that from that gosh darn BIfidus Excrementus. I <3 Activia!

    Posted by Not an Employee of Dannon... No really, I swear! on 7th March 2011

  • Sarting the activia challenge today. Taste great!

    Posted by Mechelle on 30th September 2010

  • I was diagnosed with IBS about 2-3 years ago. I felt it was a result of taking Glucophage, as I had never had any lower digestive issues prior to taking the drug. ( I have had reflux for years). Finally last year I was seen
    by a Gastro-intestional doctor, prior to a colonoscopy. After describing my symptoms ( diarrhea,bloating and
    abdominal cramping),she agreed with my internal medicine doctor-it was IBS. The interesting thing she told
    me was that taking more fiber would help with the diarrhea-giving bulk to my diet. I just assumed that more
    fiber would exacerbate the problem. I began to use the soluable fiber. It works! And I started using Activia,to
    aid in the bloating-that worked too. Yes, you do become “extremely regular” when you eat Activia,, but that is
    not such a bad thing, right? There are many negative remarks on your website-but Activia tastes good and
    has other benefical aspects to it-not to mention the fact that it’s readily available everywhere-so what not use
    it? For your “natural” participants-not everyone has a natural food store where they live-but everyone has a
    grocery store.

    Posted by Sheryll on 14th July 2010

  • I am 82 years old and have had severe constipation for years. I had to resort to prescription drugs which caused bad discomfort all the time. Finally I decided to try Activia, not really believing it could help anybody
    with my problems, but for the first time in many years, I have regular elimination every day and feel one hundred
    percent better. Thanks for such a wonderful product.

    When I submitted this comment, you said that I had already said that. I assure you this is the first time I ever
    looked up your website. m

    Posted by Margaret H. on 12th June 2010

  • I am 82 years old and have had severe constipation for years. I had to resort to prescription drugs which caused bad discomfort all the time. Finally I decided to try Activia, not really believing it could help anybody
    with my problems, but for the first time in many years, I have regular elimination every day and feel one hundred
    percent better. Thanks for such a wonderful product.

    Posted by Margaret H. on 12th June 2010

  • i was having really bad intestional pain every morning my whole life im 24 years old. i just started eating activia and it has stoped seriously i cannot afford a doctor and it seemed like i was lactose intolerant but that wasnt the problem i was lacking good bacteria it seems like

    Posted by chris desarno on 15th February 2010