In October 2013, the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) organized a meeting of clinical and scientific experts on probiotics (with specialties in gastroenterology, pediatrics, family medicine, gut microbiota, microbiology of probiotic bacteria, microbial genetics, immunology, and food science) to reexamine the concept of probiotics. They define probiotics as "live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host." They also differentiated between products containing probiotics and those containing live or active cultures and established the following criteria:
Although many manufacturers will make claims regarding the benefit of probiotics for all sorts of disorders, there is not always research to back up those claims. It can be difficult to conduct quality research on probiotics due to the wide variety of strains available. And many studies show mixed results. However, given that, there is some research support for the use of probiotics for the following health conditions:
Prebiotics are fuel for the good bacteria (probiotics) in your gut; without prebiotics, probiotics can’t do their job. There are tons of prebiotics in whole fruits and vegetables, including onions, garlic, bananas, asparagus, and artichokes. If you’re worried you’re not getting five to 20 grams per day (more on prebiotic-rich foods here), consider taking a prebiotic supplement, usually a powder or drink mix.
Made from fermented cabbage and other vegetables, sauerkraut is not diverse in probiotics but is high in organic acids (what gives food its sour taste) that support the growth of good bacteria. Sauerkraut is extremely popular in Germany today. It is high in vitamin C and digestive enzymes. It’s also a good source of natural lactic acid bacteria, such as lactobacillus.
If these issues and many others are connected to gut health, then what elements are essential for digestive health? Consider this: According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, upward of 60 million to 70 million Americans are affected by digestive diseases. In addition, digestive disease and disorders cost the United States over $100 billion per year.
Keep in mind that when supplements contain a specific number of organisms, this number may not be what is actually within each capsule at the time of purchase. Probiotics are living organisms and can die out easily. Especially if that supplement sits on your drugstore or warehouse shelf for months or longer, the number of organisms you get may be far less than what the bottle claims. Hardier strains have a longer shelf life. Capsule strength decays faster if the probiotic has been sitting around at elevated temperatures during transport to the store. Companies actually have to produce probiotics with a much higher CFU (colony-forming units; see below) count in each capsule in order to guarantee the label potency by the expiration date.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are thought to have health benefits, as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports. These bacteria and yeast are believed to help populate our guts with beneficial microbes, according to Mayo Clinic, and can be found in fermented or unpasteurized foods including yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi, as well as, yes, supplements.
Every day, we’re exposed to toxins and inflammation-causing molecules from food and the environment that negatively impact digestion through pathways, such as leaky gut, known in the medical field as intestinal hyperpermeability. In leaky gut, the tight junctions that are supposed to keep disease-contributing compounds from leaving the digestive system are disrupted, allowing a lot of things through into the bloodstream that don’t belong there.
When reading a probiotic label, it should reveal the genus, species and strain of the probiotic. The product (usually in capsules or probiotics pills) should also give you the colony forming units (CFUs) at the time of manufacturing. Also, the majority of probiotics can die under heat, so knowing the company had proper storing and cooling of the facility is also important.
Thankfully, most causes of constipation can be improved with dietary and lifestyle interventions. One of probiotics benefits is constipation relief. Probiotics of many kinds can help with constipation because they can keep the digestive contents moving along through different mechanisms such as short-chain fatty acid production, influences on the nerves of the digestive tract, electrolyte balance, pathogen control, and others. Think of probiotic foods and pills as an addition to other dietary and lifestyle interventions to relieve constipation and return your digestive system to its normal functions.
The benefit of taking a probiotic supplement is that a supplement contains very specific bacteria known to have a beneficial effect on human health, and a positive impact on our gut microbiome. Taking a probiotic supplement has the added benefit of providing a specific and concentrated dosage of healthy bacteria, so you know you are getting a therapeutic, research-proven dosage every time.
The idea that bacteria are beneficial can be tough to understand. We take antibiotics to kill harmful bacterial infections and use antibacterial soaps and lotions more than ever. The wrong bacteria in the wrong place can cause problems, but the right bacteria in the right place can have benefits. This is where probiotics come in. Probiotics are live microorganisms that may be able to help prevent and treat some illnesses. Promoting a healthy digestive tract and a healthy immune system are their most widely studied benefits at this time. These are also commonly known as friendly, good, or healthy bacteria. Probiotics can be supplied through foods, beverages, and dietary supplements.
Immunity and colds/flu.There’s a close connection between the bacteria in your colon and the immune system. Several studies, including one in 2012 in the British Journal of Nutrition, have found that certain probiotic strains boost measures of immune response—but whether this translates into any clinical benefits is uncertain. Studies have been inconsistent, for example, as to whether probiotics will actually curb colds and other upper respiratory infections. In 2014 a review in the British Journal of Nutrition, which looked at 20 clinical trials, linked probiotics to shorter duration of colds, but not necessarily reduced incidence or severity. Similarly, a 2015 Cochrane review of 12 clinical trials concluded that certain probiotics may help prevent or shorten such infections, though the quality of the studies was poor.
Overall, Enzymatic Therapy Acidophilus Pearls are a great daily probiotic supplement. They give you a ton of flexibility and is convenient since it doesn’t need to be refrigerated and can be taken with or without food! This probiotic makes on-the-go belly support a breeze. All in all, Enzymatic Therapy Acidophilus Pearls finally make it easy to travel with probiotics, are simple to take, and can give you the piece of mind that the money you’re spending on probiotics isn’t being wasted at the first sign of stomach acid. Read the full review here… or click here to go buy it now!
Best Probiotic chose iFlora Multi-Probiotic by Sedona Labs as one of the best probiotic supplements. It is a blend that works well in both the large and small intestines and it can survive stomach acid to maintain effectiveness. According to Sedona Labs’ website, iFlora delivers 32 billion active cells through 16 probiotic strains, plus probiotic fiber.
“Some strains have been shown to help with GI complaints, some with immune function, and some even have been shown to have benefits outside the intestinal tract, such as with vaginal health or eczema,” says Gail Cresci, Ph.D., R.D., a Cleveland Clinic researcher who studies the microbiome. But there are few definitive conclusions from the current research.
A closer look at the science underlying microbe-based treatments, however, shows that most of the health claims for probiotics are pure hype. The majority of studies to date have failed to reveal any benefits in individuals who are already healthy. The bacteria seem to help only those people suffering from a few specific intestinal disorders. “There is no evidence to suggest that people with normal gastrointestinal tracts can benefit from taking probiotics,” says Matthew Ciorba, a gastroenterologist at Washington University in St. Louis. “If you're not in any distress, I would not recommend them.” Emma Allen-Vercoe, a microbiologist at the University of Guelph in Ontario, agrees. For the most part, she says, “the claims that are made are enormously inflated.”
Among their numerous health benefits, research shows these friendly microorganisms help prevent bowel diseases, improve your immune system, reduce traveler’s diarrhea, help you maintain a healthy weight, heal various skin conditions, improve bloating and other uncomfortable GI symptoms, and even boost your mood, helping to reduce the effects of anxiety and depression.
In the second study, the researchers questioned whether patients should be taking probiotics to counter the effects of antibiotics, as they are often told to do in order to repopulate the gut microbiota after it's cleared by antibiotic treatment. To look at this, 21 volunteers were given a course of antibiotics and then randomly assigned to one of three groups. The first was a "watch-and-wait" group that let their microbiome recover on its own. The second group was administered the same generic probiotics used in the first study. The third group was treated with an autologous fecal microbiome transplant (aFMT) made up of their own bacteria that had been collected before giving them the antibiotic.
While one 2009 study did show some evidence for reducing cold and flu symptoms in children ages three to five and a 2015 analysis showed probiotics to be better than placebo in preventing acute upper respiratory infections, neither were enough to convince the National Institutes of Health of the efficacy of probiotics for colds and flu. The NIH confirms, “the evidence is weak and the results have limitations.”
Unfortunately, the U.S. has no federal standards for probiotic supplements. Therefore, you run the risk of purchasing a product without any guarantee that it contains its advertised probiotic strains, that the strains are alive, or that the product is free from unhealthy ingredients. Therefore, it may be best to choose a brand-name probiotic that has research backing their effectiveness. Here are some examples:
There are many health benefits of probiotics, but there are also a few cautions to heed as well. First, if you are immune compromised (catheters, cancer treatments, HIV, trauma, and so on), please consult your physician to check if there are any contraindications for using probiotics. Second, if you never used probiotics or a particular type of probiotic before, and/or never ate much raw food or indulged in fermented probiotic-rich foods and drinks (such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, or kombucha), please proceed slowly with probiotic supplements and use. Although probiotics are tiny organisms, they can have very potent effects on your body.
Two dangerous diseases in newborns, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and neonatal sepsis, may meet their match with well-designed probiotic supplements. Both of these conditions are common in premature babies and are most dangerous in low birth weight and very low birth weight infants. Research has confirmed that when a pregnant mother takes high-quality probiotics during pregnancy, her baby is significantly less likely to develop either NEC or sepsis, particularly when the baby is breastfed after birth (and mom is still taking the supplements) and/or when probiotics are added to formula. A probiotic supplement with multiple strains seems to be the most effective in these cases.
"Probiotics applied topically sit on the skin's surface and prevent the skin cells from seeing the bad bacteria and parasites that can cause this immune system response," confirms Engelman. "This is known as 'bacterial interference,' as probiotics protect the skin and interfere with the ability of bad bugs like bacteria and parasites to provoke an immune reaction.
There are two main types of probiotics; the first is the live cultures I describe above, like the strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. You might have heard some naysaying about this kind of probiotic—the typical argument against them is that the classic form of live cultures is destroyed by the acidic environment in the stomach. To get around this, quality probiotics are made with an acid-resistant capsule so that they don’t get immediately broken down. (Which means you don’t have to take the probiotics with food, although I normally do. I’ll sometimes break the capsule and mix it into a smoothie, or use the powder form. You might lose a bit of potency but it’s not significant.)
Because there's a huge variety of probiotic products available on the market, many people struggle to find the right one for them. "There are many different strains of bacteria in different combinations within different probiotic supplements," explains Brooke Scheller, a clinical and functional nutritionist. "For example, a probiotic may contain a single strain of bacteria or many. It may also contain other vitamins, minerals, or other ingredients that may tout health benefits," she says. There are many different dosages, delivery systems (powder, tablets, capsules), and formulations (refrigerated vs. shelf-stable), and some probiotics also contain prebiotics, which basically act as fertilizer for the probiotics. (Related: Why Your Probiotic Needs a Prebiotic Partner)
Cleaning up your diet to remove things that bother you and to add nutrients you and your microbiota need, physical activity to reduce stress and increase feel-good neurotransmitters, mindfulness to discover how your thoughts affect your feelings, and daily consumption of probiotic pills and foods are easy ways to improve your mental health outlook.