June 21, 2014 at 1:00 am

To Your Health

Healthy bodies usually don't need supplements

Dear Dr. Roach: After viewing an infomercial that praised the benefits of probiotics, I would like to know what you think. Probiotics have been prescribed when one is taking antibiotics to replenish the good bacteria that is lost.

When taking no medication, I found that when I took one capsule (30 billion live cultures per capsule/10 probiotic strains) on a daily basis, I would get gas and diarrhea; therefore, I stopped taking them. I thought that this was the exact opposite reaction that should have occurred.

Please write about the pros and cons and the reasons/necessity for taking probiotics on a daily basis.


Dear D.A.M.: Probiotics are microorganisms, usually bacteria or yeast, that have beneficial properties. There is at least some evidence to support the use of probiotics for inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis), colon inflammation from radiation, irritable bowel syndrome and some other diseases of the GI tract.

However, with a few exceptions, there is very little evidence that taking anything (prescription or supplement) is of benefit to people who are healthy with no symptoms. Probiotics haven’t been shown to benefit healthy people. Any treatment can have side effects.

While there may be some benefits, such as preventing antibiotics-associated diarrhea, I hesitate before recommending any treatment to a healthy, asymptomatic person.

Dear Dr. Roach: I often wonder if the white mold one sees on supermarket blueberries is at all dangerous to one’s heath. I’ve eaten a few with such mold, but with no apparent effect.


Dear A.W.: I contacted an expert at Michigan State University, who told me that the white mold is likely a type of trichoderma.

Trichoderma are not usually dangerous to humans, although some people can have an allergic reaction to it.

Still, moldy blueberries are likely to be old, not have as many nutrients and probably do not taste so good.

Eat berries right away, before they have a chance to get moldy, and if you notice that they are moldy as soon as you get them home from the store, please take them back.

Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.