Gut Feeling: Why Probiotics Might Not Be a Good Idea for Everyone

iStock
iStock

Before the advent of the probiotics market, the concept of spending money on bacteria and intentionally swallowing it probably puzzled a lot of people. Today, the practice has become normalized: Supplements, yogurts, and other probiotic dietary products tout the benefits of “good” bacteria in the gut flora, especially in terms of replenishing the digestive tract following the harsh effects of an oral antibiotic treatment, which can wipe out beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Now, two new studies are providing some evidence that use of probiotics is still not well-understood, and may not be as helpful to the body as many consumers have been led to believe. For some, they may have no effect at all. For others, the reaction could be potentially harmful.

For papers published in the journal Cell, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Tel Aviv Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel conducted two investigations that examined how the body responds to ingestion of probiotic supplements. In the first study, 15 subjects consented to two endoscopic procedures, with physicians performing an endoscopy (in which a device is fed to the stomach through the throat) and colonoscopy (the endoscope is inserted rectally and into the large intestine) to retrieve samples. The subjects were then split into two groups. One group of 10 took commercially available probiotics, while the remaining five took a placebo. After two months and two follow-ups, researchers found that four of the 10 study subjects simply expelled the probiotics. Dubbed “resisters,” they failed to hold on to the bacteria. The six others, dubbed “persisters,” successfully retained the bacteria and colonized it in their guts. This demonstrates that not everyone who takes a catch-all type of probiotic is able to assimilate the product in their digestive tract.

In the second study, researchers looked at whether probiotics could re-colonize intestinal flora that had been damaged by a course of antibiotics, which typically apply a scorched-earth approach to bacteria in the body. A total of 21 subjects were split into three groups, with one taking nothing after antibiotics, one taking conventional probiotics, and one receiving a fecal transplant to mimic the original bacterial make-up in the gut prior to antibiotic use. (In a fecal transplant, feces are inserted throughout the colon to repopulate beneficial bacteria. In this case, patients received their own stool collected prior to taking the antibiotics.)

The group that did nothing restored their normal flora in time. Those who received a fecal transplant returned to their baseline flora almost immediately. Those who took probiotics saw their systems populated by the new bacteria, but it hindered their normal flora from flourishing.

There are several caveats to this research that bear mentioning. First, the sample size for both studies was small. There’s also no clear answer as to the potential consequences of pre-formulated probiotics taking over “normal” gut flora and whether a failure to return to baseline carries any health consequences. While restoring normal flora is desirable, fecal transplants are not a widely used treatment and are typically reserved only for cases of severe complications from antibiotic use or certain other ailments. People with chronic digestive issues (such as inflammatory bowel disease or Crohn’s disease) were not included. Finally, the study did not examine the consequences of probiotic use in conjunction with antibiotic use and whether it may act as a preventative measure to maintain rather than restore bacteria during a course of treatment.

Importantly, researchers found a discernible difference between the so-called persisters and resisters, with a portion of subjects in the first study having no reaction to the administered probiotics. The findings demonstrate that one approach may not fit all—and before taking any probiotic supplements yourself, it's best to consult a physician.

10 of the Most Popular Portable Bluetooth Speakers on Amazon

Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon
Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon

As convenient as smartphones and tablets are, they don’t necessarily offer the best sound quality. But a well-built portable speaker can fill that need. And whether you’re looking for a speaker to use in the shower or a device to take on a long camping trip, these bestselling models from Amazon have you covered.

1. OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth Portable Speaker; $26-$30 (4.4 stars)

Oontz portable bluetooth speaker
Cambridge Soundworks/Amazon

Of the 57,000-plus reviews that users have left for this speaker on Amazon, 72 percent of them are five stars. So it should come as no surprise that this is currently the best-selling portable Bluetooth speaker on the site. It comes in eight different colors and can play for up to 14 hours straight after a full charge. Plus, it’s splash proof, making it a perfect speaker for the shower, beach, or pool.

Buy it: Amazon

2. JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $110 (4.6 stars)

JBL portable bluetooth speaker
JBL/Amazon

This nifty speaker can connect with up to three devices at one time, so you and your friends can take turns sharing your favorite music. Its built-in battery can play music for up to 20 hours, and it can even charge smartphones and tablets via USB.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker; $25-$28 (4.6 stars)

Anker portable bluetooth speaker
Anker/Amazon

This speaker boasts 24-hour battery life and a strong Bluetooth connection within a 66-foot radius. It also comes with a built-in microphone so you can easily take calls over speakerphone.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker; $129 (4.4 stars)

Bose portable bluetooth speaker
Bose/Amazon

Bose is well-known for building user-friendly products that offer excellent sound quality. This portable speaker lets you connect to the Bose app, which makes it easier to switch between devices and personalize your settings. It’s also water-resistant, making it durable enough to handle a day at the pool or beach.

Buy it: Amazon

5. DOSS Soundbox Touch Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $28-$33 (4.4 stars)

DOSS portable bluetooth speaker
DOSS/Amazon

This portable speaker features an elegant system of touch controls that lets you easily switch between three methods of playing audio—Bluetooth, Micro SD, or auxiliary input. It can play for up to 20 hours after a full charge.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Altec Lansing Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $15-$20 (4.3 stars)

Altec Lansing portable bluetooth speaker
Altec Lansing/Amazon

This lightweight speaker is built for the outdoors. With its certified IP67 rating—meaning that it’s fully waterproof, shockproof, and dust proof—it’s durable enough to withstand harsh environments. Plus, it comes with a carabiner that can attach to a backpack or belt loop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Tribit XSound Go Bluetooth Speaker; $33-$38 (4.6 stars)

Tribit portable bluetooth speaker
Tribit/Amazon

Tribit’s portable Bluetooth speaker weighs less than a pound and is fully waterproof and resistant to scratches and drops. It also comes with a tear-resistant strap for easy transportation, and the rechargeable battery can handle up to 24 hours of continuous use after a full charge. In 2020, it was Wirecutter's pick as the best budget portable Bluetooth speaker on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

8. VicTsing SoundHot C6 Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $18 (4.3 stars)

VicTsing portable bluetooth speaker
VicTsing/Amazon

The SoundHot portable Bluetooth speaker is designed for convenience wherever you go. It comes with a detachable suction cup and a carabiner so you can keep it secure while you’re showering, kayaking, or hiking, to name just a few.

Buy it: Amazon

9. AOMAIS Sport II Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $30 (4.4 stars)

AOMAIS portable bluetooth speaker
AOMAIS/Amazon

This portable speaker is certified to handle deep waters and harsh weather, making it perfect for your next big adventure. It can play for up to 15 hours on a full charge and offers a stable Bluetooth connection within a 100-foot radius.

Buy it: Amazon

10. XLEADER SoundAngel Touch Bluetooth Speaker; $19-$23 (4.4 stars)

XLeader portable bluetooth speaker
XLEADER/Amazon

This stylish device is available in black, silver, gold, and rose gold. Plus, it’s equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, a more powerful technology that can pair with devices up to 800 feet away. The SoundAngel speaker itself isn’t water-resistant, but it comes with a waterproof case for protection in less-than-ideal conditions.

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Netflix Will Finally Let You Delete Embarrassing Movies and TV Shows You’ll Never Finish From Your ‘Continue Watching’ Queue

"Now we can continue watching things we actually want to continue watching!"
"Now we can continue watching things we actually want to continue watching!"
triloks/iStock via Getty Images

With limitless streaming content at your fingertips these days, there’s no reason to force yourself to sit through a film or series you can’t stand simply because you already started it. But if you’re watching on Netflix, all those partially finished programs that you have no intention of ever returning to will then sit in your ‘Continue Watching’ queue for eternity.

Fortunately, the latest app update includes a long-awaited fix for this issue. On your device, scroll to your ‘Continue Watching’ section and tap the three dots beneath the program you’d like to delete; choose “Remove From Row” and watch as it magically disappears from the ranks of all the gritty documentaries and beloved sitcoms you fully plan on picking back up. Not only will cleaning up your queue make it easier for you to see the shows and movies you do care about, but as Thrillist points out, it can also save you a bit of embarrassment if you’re browsing Netflix with someone who might snicker or scoff at your past viewing choices.

netflix 'continue watching' queue options
Let it be known that Gilmore Girls was not actually deleted from the queue.
Ellen Gutoskey, Netflix

The feature is only available on app versions of Netflix right now, but there is a way to edit your ‘Continue Watching’ queue on your desktop, too. As TechHive explains, you have to select “Account” from the dropdown menu in the upper right corner of the Netflix homepage, head to the “Profile and Parental Controls” section, choose your profile, and then click “Viewing Activity.” There, you can hide a title from viewing history. The catch, however, is that Netflix will delete that title from all viewing history—not just your ‘Continue Watching’ queue—so no record will exist that you ever started watching it, and it won’t be factored into future recommendations. If you’re not quite willing to erase it from history, you can always edit your ‘Continue Watching’ queue on the app, and those changes will automatically be reflected on the desktop version.

Once your queue is spotless, check out these other Netflix hacks to enhance your viewing experience.

[h/t Thrillist]