Are probiotics 100% safe – No, Just 99.99% safe

A reader messaged me about the safety of soil based organisms probiotics. I have touched on this a year ago in another post, there have been more studies since then. For hundreds of thousands of years, soil based organism was a part of our diet. I recall reading that the human gut bacteria has strong similarity to that seen around root vegetables. This is not surprising, pulling roots out of the ground (without washing!!!) was likely common for most of these thousands of years…

“But I read about someone getting sick from SBO!”

Well, there is similar risk from eating “safe” lactobacillus probiotics, cheese, yogurt, etc. Even deaths have been reported: “Lactobacillus-Cause of Death ” [2010]

” Lactobacillus has been used as a probiotic bacteria to treat diarrhea and is also present in dairy foods. It is hence commonly used. Lactobacillus endocarditis, an exceedingly unusual disorder, is accompanied by high mortality and poor response to treatment. ” – OUCH!

  • “In recent years, infections caused by Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium made up 0.05% to 0.4% of cases of endocarditis and bacteremia. In most cases, the infections were caused by endogenous microflora of the host or bacterial strains colonizing the host’s oral cavity. According to a review of cases of infections caused by bacteria of the genus Lactobacillus from 2005 (collected by J.P. Cannot’a), 1.7% of infections have been linked directly with intensive dairy probiotic consumption by patients. ” [Lactic acid bacteria and health: are probiotics safe for human?]. [2014]

Some more citations…’ bacteremia is a bad bacteria infection, endocarditis is a bacteria infection of the heart. It has been only in the last few years

Bottom Line

Probiotics are generally safe. No probiotic is 100% safe. To me, soil based bacteria are likely more beneficial then lactobacillus because they went along with our ancestor’s diet long before we started domestication of milk producing animals. There may be considerable basis to the hygiene hypothesis which would result from our modern pathological obsession with sterilization of food in the belief that all bacteria are bad.