Popular Science

Do probiotics actually do anything?

The tiny bugs are marketed as a quick fix, but the body of evidence is miniscule.

Lactobacillus casei

Lactobacillus casei

Flickr user AJC1

The supplement aisles of most grocery stores and pharmacies in the United States are bursting with probiotics. These billions of bacteria stuffed into once-a-day capsules claim to provide digestive relief, among other benefits. They're extremely popular, with sales of $36.6 billion in 2015. And for good reason. For many people, various gastrointestinal issues come and go pretty much forever, causing chronic discomfort or worse. But according to gastroenterologists and other scientists, these tiny bugs might not be doing the jobs they claim to do.

“The truth is, there’s just not a lot of completed studies out right now that prove that certain probiotics can help people with specific conditions,” says Matthew Ciorba, a gastroenterologist and director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease program at Washington University in Saint Louis.

Despite the supermarket shelves exploding with probiotic brands claiming to

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