Probiotics and Athletes: What the Practitioner Should Know

Q&A for Session #6
Sports Nutrition Symposium 3.0
Wednesday June 23rd, 2021 @ 12 pm CST

Jamie Pugh (PhD) 400 x 400 black background

As our understanding of the wide role the gastrointestinal tract plays in our overall health, research into probiotic bacteria has boomed. This talk will discuss basic principles of probiotics, where there is some evidence for their use, and what athletes and practitioners should look out for.

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  • Anyone have the answer on if probiotics are permissible for the NCAA?
    • Probiotics are not currently listed on the short list of permissible items....but could be treated as something "prescribed" by your team doc. Similar to how we administered fish oil supplements prior to them being added to the list.
  • What probiotic brands do you recommend that are also NSF or informed choice 3rd parry tested?
    • GMC brand, Thorne
  • Is it possible to consume too much pro/prebiotics? For example if an individual takes a daily pre/probiotic pill but also consumes a variety of fermented foods regularly?
    • With fermented foods, probably not (much lower side of CFUs). Probably not possible to consume too much from supplements but depends on the brand. Might have gas and bloating and looser bowels if you do consume too much.
  • Are there any strains of probiotics that confer a benefit for mental health?
    • More and more data coming out about this.
  • What are the pros/cons of prescribing probiotics to an individual after they’ve been on antibiotics? Is there a wait period for probiotics administration after antibiotics?
    • Some give probiotics alongside antibiotic treatment, some give when antibiotic treatment is finish, some give an hour after an antibiotic- basically, no conclusive evidence. Brands differ in their recommendations. With antibiotics, you are essentially wiping out all the bacteria in your gut so the probiotics aim to recolonize. Taking them together has been shown to slow down the elimination from antibiotics but no conclusive evidence.
  • Since probiotic market is not regulated, would you believe that supplementing just fiber that will promote the growth of the beneficial bacteria would be more appropriate?
    • Probiotics have their place when we want to look at something specific. If there's no particular reason to supplement with a probiotic, fiber is very beneficial for general health hence the food first approach.
  • For athletes who regularly ingest probiotics, is there a time limit after which the benefits stop? or probiotics would even have unfavorable side effects? Thank you.
    • Will the increase in mucous lining affect the whole body or restricted to GI tract? (I’m section referring to benefits to protecting body from pathogens),
  • Is it beneficial to include prebiotic and fermented food in daily diet?
    • Yes, there are overall health benefits to prebiotics and fermented foods in the diet but the specific health benefits are current inconclusive.
  • Can pre- and probiotics be given in case of leaky gut in athletes?
    • Yes.
  • Would the presence of sugar in probiotic yoghurt negatively impact on gut health?
    • It shouldn't
  • Have you done or seen any studies comparing a Control, probiotic group and prebiotic group (from high fiber foods like whole grains, fruit and veggies) and compared to see which had the biggest change in gut health/gut bacterial changes?
    • These studies do exist but the changes are mostly seen when diet is changed drastically (e.g. fiber intake).
  • Should athletes focus on the "real food" alternatives as opposed to those strains in supplements?
    • Yes, the whole diet approach should also come first unless there are certain health issues that need to be addressed.
  • Was there evidence that Probiotics had any protective or therapeutic effects on Covid or other Flu virus?
    • Data is coming out but the quality of the evidence is not conclusive as of now.
  • I have heard that most probiotics don’t make it to the GI system in their live form. What is your take on this?
    • All of the specific species have been selected for specific reasons. It is very difficult to study this but most selected species have shown the characteristics of surviving.
  • Are you aware of any studies on health benefits of Kombucha Tea? Keiffer drinks?
    • This is being studied more and more. The studies have shown general health benefits but it might take more time for us to determine which fermented foods are good for what specific health outcomes. Benefit is there though for health in general.
  • Which time of the day do the probiotic supplement gives maximum benefits?
    • 1-2 hours before exercise and should be taken with food.
  • Do you think that maybe the inconsistent baseline of the impact of probiotics seen with taking probiotics could be from the athletes' varying personal baseline microbiome?
    • Yes but there's nothing we can do about that as of now.
  • Is there any affect that artificial sweeteners have on overall gut microbiome?
    • Yes. A lot of animal models show negative impacts.