The Benefits of the Daily Probiotic

While browsing through my science news items this morning, I came across an article discussing the effects probiotics have on heart health. Seeing as I haven’t yet discussed probiotics on this blog, I thought this would make a good opportunity.

The article was published in Authority Nutrition. Within there are many citations, and appears to be evidence based, but does the evidence actually support the claim? Turns out not really.

Probiotics: A review

Before I get into the article, I want to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to probiotics.

The definition of probiotic is officially described as: denoting a substance that stimulates the growth of microorganisms, especially those with beneficial properties (such as those of the intestinal flora)

Before researching for this post, I was under the impression probiotics were a recent invention (within the last few decades) and was surprised to find that the idea is much older.

The hypothesis that your gut microbiome (the good bacteria living within your gut) could be altered was first coined by Russian scientist and Nobel laureate Élie Metchnikoff, who in 1907 believed that aging was caused by bad bacteria that excreted harmful substances into the gut. These toxic molecules then act on the body and cause characteristics of old age.

Élie Metchnikoff

After witnessing that certain European countries who drank milk fermented by lactic-acid bacteria had relatively long healthy lives, Metchnikoff decided to incorporate the sour milk into his diet. Soon afterwards he had convinced many of his colleagues, and doctors were prescribing sour milk to treat various ailments.

After the initial sour milk product, many foods have been developed and labelled through the decades as a probiotic; including yogurt, buttermilk, kombucha fermented tea, and sauerkraut.

Recently, probiotics have gained momentum with the release of probiotic pill captures, or fermented drinks (such as kombucha) containing what is believed to be good bacteria meant to alter your gut flora and cure a plethora of diseases.

And the data suggests that the usage of probiotics has increased with the release of these new products. Data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey show about 4 million U.S. adults use or have used a probiotic.

Nowadays, you can’t enter a grocery store without seeing 10 different brands of probiotics, all promising to cure disease or maintain gut microbiome diversity.

The Science Behind Probiotics:

Image result for microbiome

When you type in the keyword probiotic into PubMed, 18,605 results are returned, with an exponential growth starting in the early 2000’s. However, much of the data coming out suggests probiotics are not as beneficial as companies would have you believe (as always).

Much research has been preformed discussing what scientists call the microbiome (the variety of bacteria that exist within us or on us , primarily referring to the intestine and skin.

Evidence suggests that an unhealthy microbiome with the wrong type of bacteria, or too little of good bacteria can contribute to many health defects. Those with disrupted microbiota can experience digestive tract issues, and possibly have an increased risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and many other medical issues. While the evidence is young, there does appear to be a link with the gut microbiome and many diseases we fight today.

Recent mice studies further confirm this hypothesis. Unhealthy mice who receive a microbiome replacement with the microbiome of another healthy mouse, under go a great change. One example shows that mice who are typically more afraid (hide, don’t jump from ledges, etc..) and get their microbiome replaced with mice who are more courageous, appear to become more brave. Other studies have shown that normal mice who get a microbiome replacement with obese mice end up actually gaining weight to similar levels as the original obese mouse.

This preliminary data needs to be further evaluated, but it does bring forward an interesting discussion of how microbiomes make up our human personality.

And so, probiotics on the surface have the potential to modify our microbiome and increase the health of those who take them by replacing them with beneficial bacteria. It seems that probiotics have in general two types of bacteria; Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

However, these probiotics have mixed effects when it comes to the claims companies promote. In short, they are not the miracle cure.

Probiotics have been shown to relieve symptoms of certain medical ailments, such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or diarrhea caused by antibiotics. These however have not been conclusively tested, and much more work needs to be completed before we can actually consider probiotics a valid treatment.

What does seem to be clear though, is that if you are not suffering from a true, diagnosed medical disease, there is little or no benefit of taking probiotics. So don’t think of probiotics as something everyone should be taking. And if you have a compromised immune system for whatever reason, there is a risk of developing infections. Therefore, it is best to avoid probiotics.

Probiotics Contributing to Healthy Hearts:

Image result for microbiome heart

Getting back to the article I initially found today, what I found was even more suspicious evidence suggesting probiotics are able to prevent heart disease and lower cholesterol.

The article is titled “Do Probiotics Benefit Heart Health?” and is on the surface a well cited article with what appears to be good information. The news item covers several review meta-articles that  suggest probiotics decrease your cholesterol, your blood pressure, inflammation, and triglycerides.

However, after checking the sources my suspicions were confirmed.

Several review articles were cited, each being a meta-analysis of multiple studies involving human subjects. Almost all of which seemed to be double blind, placebo control studies. And there does appear to be at least some interesting data. However, these articles to the best of my knowledge are not using commercially available probiotics. In fact, I had a difficult time trying to find out exactly how much bacteria was added, and how it compares to those on the market.

In addition, I also found articles published in journals such as BMC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine that publish articles supporting traditional Chinese medicine (in children I might add), acupuncture, and other pseudo-scientific methods. This suggests to me the “peer review” of these journals may not stand up to the standards of evidenced based articles.

Being as probiotics are a drug, you would expect to find any evaluation of the proper dosage and potential toxicity (in this case probably likelihood of infection), but I found none.

All in all, the evidence provided by this news item does not impress me. It is impossible to prove anything in science, but these articles to me fall extremely short of suggesting probiotics contribute to lowering cholesterol or cure heart disease. The news items does not explicitly say that probiotics are the miracle cure, but I don’t believe it leaves the viewer with an accurate statement of the current research, and is not as evidence based as it suggests. There was however one true statement in the news item. Every article mentioned used patients either with high cholesterol, high BP, or high triglycerides. Therefore we cannot make the claim probiotics prevent high cholesterol or high BP


So far, I cannot conclusively say probiotics are completely useless. There does seem to be preliminary evidence suggesting benefits to those with medically diagnosed diseases, and the evidence of reducing cholesterol levels and preventing heart disease is shaky at best.

There seems to be no evidence suggesting it should be taken for normal healthy individuals, and there is too much discrepancies between the companies to suggest all of them work the same. If indeed there is a benefit towards ingesting one type of bacteria, the probiotic industry needs to police themselves and use the proper amount and type of bacteria shown to be clinically effective. There is very little evidence on safety of probiotics, and little evidence on efficacy over long periods of time.

To wrap up, until more evidence is released showing probiotics are more effective, and the probiotics are controlled by an agency responsible for developing them safely, stay clear of probiotics.

Thank you for reading. I hope you learned something. I know I did.

If you have any comments, suggestions, or sources you would like to share with me, please do not hesitate to leave a comment below. You can always email us at, or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

As always, remember to stay curious, and be mindful!


 Please note that is article is not intended to be medical advice. If you are struggling with a medical disease, please refer to a physician for proper advice and treatment.


  3. Arteriosclerosis and intestinal poisons. [a contemporary review of Metchnikoff’s work] JAMA1910, 55:2311-12.
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Marijuana Is Not The Cure For Cancer

As someone who actively researches cancer, and constantly works with cancer survivors, I hear a remarkable amount of crap dealing with “miracle cures” and the always comical “Big Pharma is hiding the cure for cancer”.

But one of my biggest pet peeves is the conversation revolving around marijuana and cancer.

“Cancer Institute Finally Admits Marijuana Kills Cancer” is the name of the article that came across my Facebook feed this morning, and I decided it would be a good time to cover the topic.


But before I get into this specific article, I want to rant quickly of the various and completely fake miracle cures that exist supposedly to cure cancer.


Image result for black salve

Black Salve– There has been quite a bit of news recently revolving around black salve or Cansema® in the news. This product is a topical paste meant to be administered on skin, covering cancerous lesions, and claims to destroy cancer cells specifically while leaving normal tissue alone.

“Cansema® is very selective in its action, it is escharotic to cancerous tissue and only mildly irritating (i.e. “rubefacient,” causing redness) to healthy skin.”

“Thousands of individuals and physicians from around the world have used the product, with no results only in cases where the cancer was misdiagnosed (i.e. there was really no cancer to begin with). Empirical case studies to date show that it has successfully removed (cured) every malignant carcinoma, adenocarcinoma (i.e. breast cancer), and even melanoma, to which it has been applied.”

The ingredients of black salve notoriously vary, but usually include bloodroot, ginger-root, ganglia, red pepper, and zinc chloride.

Black Salve at face value may seem as a wonderful cure, but in reality has no scientific evidence supporting it works, and in fact shows to be devastating to normal tissue.

Dr. Steven Novella, a medical doctor and prominent science communicator, describes black salve as “an acid” burning away healthy and cancerous tissue alike, completely destroying tissue of all kinds. If you don’t believe me, spend about 5 minutes searching images of black salve treatments and see for yourself.

As a testimonial, a recent nurse diagnosed with ovarian cancer was convinced this pseudo-medicine would cure her late stage cancer. So instead of getting potentially life-saving surgery and chemotherapy, she believed a medical quack, and ended up severely burning her skin ultimately passing away from her advanced disease. The fact that she was a nurse proves even educated individuals who should know better can be conned when facing death.


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Diet– I’m sure many of you have heard about one diet or another that has reportedly cured cancer in individuals, and to the disappointment of some, I’m here to say that they all are lies.

Here are some common examples

Alkaline diet- a diet involving adjusting your pH of your blood with food/beverages. The “hypothesis” is that cancer cells live in a normally acidic environment ( usually true) and by adjusting your diet to avoid acidic food, you can destroy the cancer (garbage).  The reason this does not work is largely due to our bodies amazing ability to regulate our pH, and believe me this is important. If our blood pH goes below or above the normal range, we will experience severe medical issues. That’s why your kidneys, lungs, and other buffer systems keep the pH tightly in check. So that alkaline water that seems so hip to drink…… is just an expensive con. And so is everything else with the alkaline diet.

Superfood diet- Ah yes. Kale, everyone’s favorite cure for cancer. Don’t get me wrong, Kale and other leafy greens are wonderful to eat (spinach is my favorite), but we shouldn’t let our love of good food get confused with curing diseases.  Eating these foods is definitely more healthy than a burger from McDonald’s everyday, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that super foods specifically cure/prevent diseases, including cancer.


Image result for alternative medicine quackery

Alternative Medicine– I don’t want to get into  alternative medicine as a whole with this blog post, but suffice to say the crap people sell under the umbrella term alternative medicine (Aromatherapy, Homeopathy, Hollistic medicine, Herbalism, Nautropathy, Acupuncture, etc…) is not beneficial to anything, and should not be used as a replacement for standard care.

I could keep going for awhile, but instead I would like to point you to this Wikipedia page, describing a multitude of unproven cancer treatments that summarizes all kinds of alternative, inaccurate treatments.



Image result for marijuana smoking

Let’s Talk About Pot Baby…..

Going back to the article that prompted me to write this blog.

The news item is from USA Health Times, which seems to be a site fully designed for the sole purpose of making marijuana sound like a cure for EVERYTHING. But once you open the many articles pushing pot, the evidence is lacking.

In case you don’t know, marijuana or cannabis, is a plant originally from Central America known around the world for its psychoactive capabilities. These psychoactive traits come from cannabinoids, molecules that act on the central nervous system and immune system. The two most commonly discussed cannabinoids are delta-9 THC and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana.

For many year now, it has been a common theme among marijuana enthusiasts that pot should be used to treat cancer, and “Big Pharma” doesn’t want you to know about it.

The real truth is that science has yet to explicitly prove THC or CBD as a cure for cancer.

There does seem to be some interesting results suggesting TCH, CBD, or a combination of the two as a potential cancer treatment, but none of them are close to conclusive.

After doing a quick search, I found several of articles testing purified TCH or CBD and testing effects in vitro (on cells directly) or in vivo (in animals, typically mice in this case). So far the experiments seem interesting, but not especially promising.

Going back to the USA Health Times article, they specifically describe a “Men’s Health Study” that showed cannabis users have a significant decrease risk of developing bladder cancer than those that don’t.

But, I have not been able to find the study on any site. And from the description, it looks like the data was manipulated to be significant.

“Over 16 years, they found 89 Cannabis users developed bladder cancer compared with 190 of the men who did not report cannabis use. After dividing the study up by age, race, ethnicity, and body mass index, cannabis use was associated with a 45% reduction in bladder cancer incidence.”

–USA Health Times

After separating the individuals into multiple groups, does it still make a significance? Who knows!

The long and short of my point is this: when someone tells you that Item X is a cure-all for everything, it’s probably not.

So far the evidence for marijuana, THC, or CBD oil is lacking. Perhaps someday there will be evidence that changes my mind, but I doubt it.

And part of the issue with the love for pot and all other miracle cures cancer is due to the massive amount of hate for Big Pharma. “It makes more money to treat a disease, than to cure it.” “Big Pharma has the cure for cancer, but they are hiding it to make money.” Bulls***!

Here’s the truth. Cancer is not one disease, but a collection. There are over 100 different types of cancers, each of them with their own complexities. Even more so, individuals who may even have the same cancer probably face different struggles. Genetic profiling of cancers between patients has shown vast differences even within the same cancer type. So finding just one cure for all cancers seems extremely difficult.

And even if someone found a cure for cancer, why in the world would they hide it? The immediate fame this person would achieve is likely invaluable, surely not even Big Pharma could afford that. Not to mention how difficult it would be to not tell the world? Let’s face it, humans have a tendency to keep secrets about as long as it takes to turn on the phone and tweet. So for those who believe it’s locked away somewhere, it’s unlikely.

As I come to the end of my rant, I would like to mention just one thing. I have nothing against marijuana. If the evidence turns around, I will change the title of this post to Marijuana Is The Cure For Cancer, Hallelujah!

But something tells me that won’t happen.  So please, if you know someone or if you yourself have cancer, do not fall victim to the con artists telling you pot or any other miracle cure is better than scientifically based treatments. Listen to your doctors. Find credible sources not trying to sell you snake oil.


As always, if you have any questions or comments, leave them below or email us at You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter by searching Copernicus Called Blog.

Note: This post is not meant to give medical advice. As I have already mentioned, if you are struggling with a medical disease, please see a physician for proper medical advice.

Remember to be curious, and stay mindful!



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