This is something that’s been irking me for a while, and came to a head when I saw an Actimel ad on the Tube last night making all kinds of life-saving claims.

Has anyone here ever felt any genuine benefits from these probiotic yogurts and similar products that claim to boost the immune system? I obsessively hunt down anything that might give the tiniest bump to my knackered immune system and yes, I have tried Actimel and similar, but I have no way to know if it helps or if I’m just blindly tipping coins into the massive clown’s pocket of a French multinational.

Does anyone swear by them? Or decry them as pointless? Any opinions gratefully received!


Hello @Cid

I was told by my consultant - and have also read this in several scientific articles - that we have no way of really knowing if the bacteria included in these products are particularly ‘friendly’ bacteria, particularly at the levels a serving would administer. It’s an educated (ish) guess - but looking less educated as time goes on and we rapidly discover so much more about our gut microbiome. We’re learning that gut bacteria have a massive impact on every part of our health - including our brain and mental health. So my consultant and these articles advocated eating a plant-heavy diet with as much variety as possible, rather than these processed products - because we know our gut bacteria need plants to thrive (they essentially eat parts of them.) And we’re also learning some gut bacteria in too high a quantity cause disease.

The scientist Tim Spector (creator of the Zoe Project) is a gut microbiome researcher, and he says we should aim to eat 30 different types of plant per week. That might sound a lot, but when you consider the wheat in bread, the turmeric, mustard seeds, cumin, coriander, chillis, garlic etc you might put in your curry, the different plants quickly add up and it’s easy. He also says you should try a new veg every week, for the variety this provides.

I have an interest in this too. Like you, my immune system was compromised by blood cancer, and then I had a new immune system via a stem cell transplant - and then unfortnately my good gut bacteria suffered a wipeout from a C.difficile colonisation/infection (brought on by antibiotics.) I nearly had to have a feacal transplant - urgh!! I recommend Tim Spector’s weekly emails and podcasts, which you can get for free. I’ll find a link for you and post it here in a minute.

I also recommend the book, ‘Super Immunity’ by Joel Fuhrman M.D, which contains anti-cancer research, super foods to increase your immunity (basically, a wide variety of plants) recipes etc.
Hope some of these thoughts and pointers help.
All the best.


You can sign up to the Zoe health website’s emails/podcasts here.

The Zoe project looks at our health via our nutrition, and our gut microbiome - so our immunity often comes into the discussions too. When the pandemic hit, the Zoe app was repurposed to track covid (I think) - so you may have heard of it. And you may have heard of Tim Spector for that reason. I always think he sounds like a Bond villain, rather than a gut micribiome hero!


That’s excellent, thank you @Fullofbeans. We’re in remarkably similar boats as it happens - blood cancer, stem cell transplant then a gut disaster via antibiotics (though mine was due to an unshakable Haemophilus influenzae) - so if you swear by Zoe it makes a lot of sense for me to give it a go. I’ll pick up Fuhrman’s book too. Thanks again, and all the best.


Ah, I see @Cid - once your gut and immune systems have taken a beating, it does make you want to do your best for them, doesn’t it? If you don’t want to read lots, the key point from both sources is ,‘Eat lots of colourful plants.’ And a sprinkle of turmeric. But I find the weekly info and discussions from Tim Spector to be very interesting, whatever the subject.

Hope you’re feeling well these days, @Cid. And with a happy gut! :blush:


That’s a great question @Cid . I keep wondering about this, especially as I have recently relapsed. The trouble is that I once ate a live yoghurt by mistake, while on treatment, and got a really dangerous diverticular infection, resulting in 3 weeks on IV antibiotics. (Goodness, a faecal transplant sounds off-putting too) As a result, I have steered clear of live cultures ever since but feel rather worried that I may have scuppered my immune system as a result.

I found your response @Fullofbeans reassuring because that’s what I’ve been trying to do too (eating lots of varied veg). I tried salsify for the first time when it appeared in my veg box and it was delicious - and is said to really help with gut health along with many other types of plant food. So that’s been my approach but who knows if I should have been braver with live cultures during remission?

It’s so hard trying to do the right thing! Maybe if Actimel etc doesn’t cause you any problems @Cid then it is worth taking, but it’s hard to really find out what is best for sure.

Joel Furhman’s book sounds interesting @Fullofbeans . I think I might look into that.

I hope you’re both feeling well.


Good question @Cid I am a non medical person, but I believe that we should get the nutrients we need from a balanced, varied diet, however I weigh it more on the side of non processed veg, beans and fruit now.
I also steam my veg.
I am not sure if I have got to the 30 different a week however.
As for the thought of a faecal transplant @Fullofbeans, I cannot get it out of my mind.
@Coastgirl good point about the live cultures.
If in doubt get medical advice I always say.
Look after yourselves


Sorry for the upsetting image, @Erica and @Coastgirl. It alarmed me too!


I have had numerous cameras up and down following my chemo as my tummy has never quite got back to normal. My digestive condition was put down to the chemo destroying all the good bacteria. My consultant prescribed me Lepicol and kefir yogurt. Kefir he said was ten times better than actimel it contains fermented bacteria. Lepicol contains probiotics and fibre. I have been much better since these so can only speak from experience. Kefir is in any supermarket and Lepicol on Amazon. He said that everyone should take Lepicol as it is really beneficial.
I have found it so. I must say I really don’t like kefir but I take it !!


I have them…i like the little pick me up it offers…instead of say a cup of coffee

One thing that deffo helps me are the Centrum Wellman Vitamin tablets

They contain a little of everything you need and seeing as i can’t eat like i used to are good investment at about 7 pounds a month.


I have been using kefir, live yoghurt and other fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi since I had a stem cell transplant 4 years ago. (along with a high veg & fruit diet) Actually during the transplant process itself I had donated breast milk brought in daily (from a friend) to try to repopulate my microbiome after the high dose of melphalan. It was unpalatable, but I accredit it with my quick recovery from the process.

I must be weird as I would really like to have a faecal transplant from a source with an excellent variety of “good” bacteria, I believe having a gut microbiome that is functioning well would would help to keep me “in remission” from myeloma for longer. But it’s not easy to get a faecal transplant in the UK!


Very sensible, not weird, @Maple. I read up on faecal transplants when it was a possibility I might have to have one, and the science does indicate they are very rejuvenating. And even a good way of treating obesity. Certain gut bacteria are increasingly being linked to particular diseases too. With the right donor, a faecal transplant can be am amazing treatment, and I suspect they will be used to treat various diseases in the near future. It’s just the ‘urgh’ factor initially. But apparently it’s not a remotely ‘urgh’ process. I wonder if you could have it done privately?

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I will copy this to the Blood Cancer UK nurse advisors in case they can add anything @Cid @BloodCancerUK_Nurses


Hello @Cid
There are many opinions regarding probiotics and from my experience it is a personal choice but should be considered in regard to your individual health. Often the information is constructed by the company selling the product too always consider this.
The NHS provides some information here which demonstrates the advantages but also makes us aware of those individuals that should not consume them or ask for medical advice prior to taking probiotics.
Probiotics - NHS (
Our Neutropenic diet | Blood Cancer UK booklet does include this topic and we would suggest talking to your Haematology team if you are immunosuppressed and/or on chemotherapy/immunotherapy.
I do hope this helps,
Kind regards