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New study shows how your gut health can sabotage your medications

July 11, 2020 (Updated: August 3, 2021)
Lily Moran

Having a diverse and balanced gut microbiome is important for so many reasons, not the least of which is strong immunity and the prevention of countless diseases including allergies, asthma, obesity, and depression.

And while there are trillions of microbes that live in and on the body, nowhere are they more concentrated than in the gut. As scientists learn more about the impact that good bacteria have within the human microbiome, more promising research continues to be released.   

Exciting Discovery on Microbes and Medication

One such study, released in June 2020 out of Princeton University, detailed how scientists were able to develop an approach to evaluate how gut microbes metabolize medication and how they affect its effectiveness and safety.1

This team of researchers assessed the microbiome’s effects on hundreds of medications. They identified 57 cases where gut bacteria somehow altered the medications. In some cases, the metabolic process deactivated certain drugs and reduced their effectiveness. In others, the process turned the drugs “toxic,” which could potentially cause more serious side effects.

This particular research could aid in the development of drugs that are more personalized to your unique gut microbial makeup, ensuring they’re more effective, safer, and with fewer side effects.

A month earlier, in May 2020, a similar study was released from the University of Virginia. This one examined the role of gut microbes and diet on chemotherapy treatment.

These scientists learned that different diets and combinations of gut microbes can influence how well a patient responds to chemotherapy, making it either more effective or less effective.2

The study sheds light on how dietary habits affect not just your overall health, but also the thousands of species of bacteria in your gut. That, in turn, has a major effect on how you respond to treatment.

This exciting discovery may also have significant implications on the future of cancer care. If doctors can better predict proper dosing and bring side effects under control, it may help improve survival rates.

The key takeaway from both studies lies in taking proper care of the millions of beneficial bacteria inhabiting your gut microbiome.

How to Promote a Robust Gut Microbiome

Probiotics are the driving force for promoting a healthy gut. These beneficial bacteria are a natural byproduct created during the fermentation of foods such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut.

Adding these foods to your diet is one way to boost the friendly bacteria in your gut. And today, more packaged food manufacturers even include them in their products. The problem with grocery store varieties of these products, however, is that you have no way to tell how many live, thriving bacteria they contain. Many products are pasteurized during production, which kills not only harmful bacteria, but also the friendly bacteria your gut needs.

A more reliable way to make sure you’re getting live bacteria from foods is to ferment them yourself. Making homemade yogurt, sauerkraut, and other fermented veggies isn’t hard. And, by fermenting foods on your own, you also can make sure your finished product is free of sugar, preservatives, and other unnecessary additives.

However, there’s one important drawback to getting probiotics from food: your stomach. The same acids powerful enough to break down food also break down the probiotics in them. So, unless your at-home probiotics can bypass your digestive tract, your gut is still missing out on most—if not all—of the healthy bacteria contained in them.

By and large, though, the easiest way to ensure you get the healthy dose of beneficial bacteria your system needs daily is through supplementation with probiotics.

The Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics have rapidly become one of the most popular supplements in the US and across the globe. More recently, it’s also become a lightning rod for criticism—but is it really warranted?

According to a 2012 government survey, 4 million Americans had taken probiotics in the last 30 days prior to the study. Back then, it was the third most used dietary supplement after vitamins and minerals.

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Considering how much research on the microbiome and probiotics has taken off in the past decade, I am sure those numbers are even higher today.

There’s a slew of well-documented, high-quality research supporting the health benefits of taking probiotic supplements.4-7

A few of these benefits include:

Probiotics Under Attack

Even so, probiotics continue to come under attack—the latest coming from a 60 Minutes segment that aired last month.

Unfortunately, this segment is a good example of what happens all the time to the natural medicine industry: certain foods and supplements are deemed ineffective at best, or dangerous at worst.

The main reason for this criticism is often because vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other nutrients that come from nature cannot be patented. With no patent, pharmaceutical companies cannot capitalize on them.

Only when these companies can isolate certain strains or compounds from the nutrient they patent them. And once these manufacturers can profit from them, suddenly these products are deemed safe and effective.

But do not let the critics confuse you. We encourage you to take control of your health and do your own research.

When you do, you will find that probiotics are professionally researched and have a strong safety profile. They’ve been around for ages in one form or another—fermented foods were quite common centuries ago—and they are essential to our very existence.

Choosing the Right Probiotics for You: 3 Things to Look for

With all that said, it is important to make sure you buy high-quality supplements, whether it’s probiotics or anything else.

When it comes to probiotics, delivery systems, variety of strains, packaging, shelf life, and more can make a big difference in effectiveness and safety.

As a rule of thumb, look for these 3 things to look for in high-quality probiotics:

  1. Find a product that encapsulates the bacteria to ensure delivery. The digestive tract is a harsh, unforgiving environment—one where probiotics can easily die on their way to the lower gut. Proper encapsulation allows the bacteria to reach the intestines without being destroyed along the way.
  2. Look for products with at least 10 billion colony forming units (CFUs) per dose. The higher the CFU number, the more likely the different types of organisms in your probiotic will reach and enhance your gut.
  3. Select a probiotic that includes prebiotics. Prebiotics are fiber-like compounds (such as inulin and fructooligosaccharides) that feed the probiotics that populate the gut. They are essential for probiotics to not only survive but thrive inside your gut.

    Finding a probiotic supplement that includes prebiotics in the formula ensures you get the right amount to feed the healthy bacteria you want working in your gut. 

By choosing a high-quality probiotic, you are much more likely to experience the positive effects confirmed in so many studies over the years.

Newport Natural Health, for example, offers a probiotic formula that meets all these criteria. Our  Microencapsulated Probiotic with FOS is made up of six unique strains of beneficial bacteria, each conferring its own benefit to the gut, the immune system, and the body as a whole.

Plus, we microencapsulate our product is to ensure all 10 billion CFUs can survive your powerful stomach acids and arrive safely in the intestines, where they do their most important work. You can learn more about how this top-notch probiotic can help you maintain a healthy gut here.


  1. Javdan B, et al. Personalized Mapping of Drug Metabolism by the Human Gut Microbiome. Cell. 2020 Jun;181(7):1661-79.e22. Last accessed July 7, 2020.
  2. Ke W, et al. Dietary Serine-Microbiota Interaction Enhances Chemotherapeutic Toxicity Without Altering Drug Conversion. Nat Commun. 2020 May 22;11(1):2587. Last accessed July 7, 2020.
  3. 60 Minutes. Do Probiotics Actually Do Anything? June 28, 2020.
  4. Harvard Health. Health Benefits of Taking Probiotics. Published Sept 2005. Updated April 2020. Last accessed July 10, 2020.
  5. Ritchie M and Romanuk T. A Meta-Analysis if Probiotic Efficacy for Gastrointestinal Diseases. PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e34938. Last accessed July 10, 2020.
  6. Zhang H. Prospective study of probiotic supplementation results in immune stimation and improvement of upper respiratory rate. Synth Syst Biotechnol. 2018 Jun;3(2):113-20. Last accessed July 10, 2020. 7. Wang L. The Effects of Probiotics on Total Cholesterol: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Studies. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018 Feb;97(5):e9679. Last accessed July 10, 2020.

Disclaimer: Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Originally Published: July 11, 2020

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