Product reviews

Probiotics: yay or nay?

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What is it?

Probiotics are living micro-organisms or “good” bacteria. They restore the balance of our gut flora by protecting it against viruses, “bad” bacteria and toxic influences that can build up in our gut and compromise our immune system.

There are a lot of different “good” bacteria and therefore a lot of different probiotic supplements on the market. I tried out the Omni-Biotic Stress Repair because a friend of my mom’s advised me to.

What does it do?

Omni-Biotic Stress Repair is a probiotic supplement that contains the following strains of beneficial bacteria:

  • Lactobacillus casei W56
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus W22
  • Lactobacillus paracasei W20
  • Bifidobacterium lactis W51
  • Lactobacillus salivarius W24
  • Lactobacillus lactis W19
  • Bifidobacterium lactis W52
  • Lactobacillus plantarum W62
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum W23

These bacteria are said to activate the production of tryptophan, which helps the body to create more serotonin (which regulates feelings of wellbeing and happiness) and melatonin (which regulates sleep). Therefore, this probiotic supplement should have positive effects on stress, insomnia, depression and anxiety*. Omni-Biotic Stress Repair also claims to improve the barrier function of the intestinal mucosa so that foreign substances have a harder time to get through. It should also prevent the colonisation of foreign microorganisms associated with chronic inflammatory intestinal disorders and cures existing inflammation.

How do you use it?

The instructions are to use it shortly before going to sleep. You have to put one sachet into 1/8 litre of warm water, stir it and wait at least 10 minutes before you drink it (it takes time for the bacteria to activate and multiply). If you suffer from a fructose intolerance, they suggest you prolong the activation time to at least 30 minutes. You have to repeat this process daily and can use this supplement short term as well as long term. I had a test package for 7 days.

What are the effects?

By the end of the week, I hoped I’d be totally zen and an insomniac no more. That wasn’t the case at all. Quite the opposite actually: the first three days I became more restless! The feeling of restlessness was accompanied by an itching sensation. Great, like I’m not itchy enough already…I’m like the queen of scratch! Something I should mention about that: I don’t only scratch when I itch or because of my eczema. For me it is also a way to cope with stress and various emotions. The uncontrollable urge to scratch occurs, among other things, when I’m either over- (stress, pressure, excitement, anger, …) or understimulated (boredom). There’s much more to say about it, but it’s not the topic of my current post so I won’t elaborate. Anyhow, I’m very aware that this coping strategy isn’t healthy or adaptive at all. But like I said, the urge is pretty uncontrollable and it gives me some sort of relief and even pleasure. I’m not officially diagnosed (yet), but I’m pretty sure I have dermatillomania or compulsive skin picking, above my eczema induced skin picking.

Now, the reason I mentioned this, is because dermatillomania is linked to low serotonin. These probiotics claim to raise serotonin levels, which you suspect to be a good thing as you assume it would lead to less scratching. But contrary to what one would expect, there seems to be an increase in scratching. So I looked it up and came across an experiment on a type of mice that pull out their hair or the hair of other mice (so basically mice who “have” trichotillomania, a condition linked to dermatillomania as well as low serotonin). The mice were fed a diet of carbs and tryptophan, to increase their serotonin levels. Paradoxically, the increase in serotonin caused the mice to do more hair pulling and scratching. You can find the link to the experiment here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201107/case-scratchy-mice

Although I’m not a mouse with trich, these results fund my suspicion that it might have been the tryptophan combined with eating a lot of carbs (I ate a lot of brownie and pasta those first 3 days) that increased my urge to scratch. I don’t know, my biology isn’t the same as yours of course, so maybe the effects are totally different for another person. But as we eczema and TSW sufferers already itch and scratch enough, it is definitely something to take into consideration.

So the zen part didn’t really work out as planned. What about my insomnia? Well…nothing changed: I’m still not able to fall asleep before 6 am (I’m totally a vampire). The fourth day of using the probiotics I actually slept quite well, so I thought they were starting to work. But the following days, I unfortunately had sleepless nights again… . What kind of surprised me though, is that the total lack of sleep didn’t impact my functioning as much as it normally would. There’ve been nights I only slept 2 hours, and I got through the day with only one cup of coffee (well, actually even half a cup, because I drink my coffee with tons of milk). And not like a total zombie by the way!

As for other things I noticed during my use of these specific probiotics:

  • I can definitely say that my skin didn’t improve, I think it even got a little worse compared to last week. Natural course of TSW or because of the probiotics? I cannot really answer that question…
  • I still sweat a lot and had the regular problems with my thermoregulation.
  • Before taking the supplements, I had this weird crampy feeling in my lower stomach and that was gone by the third day of using them. Could’ve been a coincidence but oh well. I know the bacteria are somehow working down there, I can notice it in changes in my stool (nothing bad, to be clear, just firmer than usual) and the frequency of going to the “big” toilet.

Overall, I can’t say I have obvious adverse effects that can be attributed to these probiotics for sure. But honestly, I could say the same about the positive effects. Maybe I should take them for a longer period of time to see more significant results? I’m kind of in doubt whether to stick with these probiotics or to try Omni-Biotic’s more “basic” probiotic supplement, which contains bacteria that don’t influence the tryptophan production. These of course won’t help me with my insomnia and susceptability to stress, but the Omni-Biotic Stress Repair didn’t seem to give much solace either so… I may try it out as well and keep you updated on the results!

Additional information

  • Beside the bacteria strains, the powder contains: Maize starch, maltodextrin, inulin, potassium chloride, magnesium sulphate, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), enzymes (amylases), manganese sulphate
  • It doesn’t contain animal proteins, gluten, yeast, or lactose.
  • It is safe to use for diabetics, people who have milk allergy or lactose intolerance, children, and pregnant women.

* It is important to note that you should be cautious to use these supplements when you’re on antidepressants (because of the amino acid tryptophan). Ask your doctor if they’re safe for you to use.

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