Notions don’t equal evidence though, and Lebwohl cautioned against thinking of probiotics as a cure-all, and examining the ways in which they’ve been proven to work as well as the ways in which they really haven’t. So which medical conditions have probiotics actually shown promise in treating and which claims have the credibility of a used car salesman on acid?
Because chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases and health conditions, the fact that probiotics exert this effect in the gut, where 80 percent of the immune system lies, is crucial. The immune-boosting benefits of probiotics seem to be particularly helpful for the quality of life of seniors. Currently, research is underway to test whether probiotics can “reduce inflammation and improve gut immune health in HIV-positive individuals” who haven’t yet undergone treatment.
Afif Ghannoum said the key insight, one that he called groundbreaking, is that his father’s team found that fungi and microbes were cooperating in the construction of the plaques. He said election microscope images show the filaments of the fungi being incorporated into the carbohydrate ‘armor’ that the bacteria start to secrete once enough individual cells have gathered at a certain location. Without the addition of the digestive enzyme to their product, he said that the plaques, once adhered to the intestinal wall, would be difficult to attack.
The science on what probiotics do is still emerging. There is some hard evidence that suggests eating probiotic foods and supplements can have a beneficial effect on health. Other evidence suggests probiotics benefits are limited to those individuals in good health and should be avoided by those who suffer from certain serious health conditions. There is no research that demonstrates the risks or the benefits of probiotic supplements on children.
Probiotics are found in everything from chocolate and pickles to hand lotion and baby formula, and millions of people buy probiotic supplements to boost digestive health. But new research suggests they might not be as effective as we think. Through a series of experiments looking inside the human gut, researchers show that many people's digestive tracts prevent standard probiotics from successfully colonizing them. Furthermore, taking probiotics to counterbalance antibiotics could delay the return of normal gut bacteria and gut gene expression to their naïve state. The research publishes as two back-to-back papers on September 6 in the journal Cell.
Billed as the most effective probiotic currently available on the market, Pro-25 combines 13 of the most powerful probiotic strains to deliver the most robust and well-rounded overall digestive health. Delayed-release capsules also protect live organisms from your stomach acid, delivering the right strains to the right location in your digestive system, ensuring maximum efficacy and benefits.
Fizzy, tangy, and even slightly vinegar-esque, kombucha has a cult following for a reason. The tea gets its natural carbonation from the "scoby" (that float-y thing you see in some bottled varieties), which is actually the bacteria and yeast that ferment the drink and creates the probiotics. "There's not much scientific evidence specifically on the benefits of kombucha, but it is another strategy to introduce more live, active bacteria into your lifestyle," says Palmer. Many are made with fruit juice for added flavor, so read the label to see what you're getting, she advises. Stick to store-bought kombucha; it's tough to keep the tea sanitary when you make it yourself, and homebrewed kombucha been linked to nausea and even toxicity. Also note that due to the fermentation process, kombucha contains trace amounts of alcohol, so it's best to stick to one 12-ounce bottle a day.
Most probiotics are like what is already in a person's digestive system. Some probiotics have been used for a very long time throughout history, such as in fermented foods and cultured milk products. These don't appear to cause illness. But more study is needed on the safety of probiotics in young children, the elderly, and people who have weak immune systems.
Rachel Allen is a writer at Hyperbiotics who's absolutely obsessed with learning about how our bodies work. She's fascinated by the latest research on bacteria and the role they play in health, and loves to help others learn about how probiotics can help the body get back in balance. For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.
Large bodies of evidence suggest that probiotics are effective against several forms of diarrhea, including antibiotic-associated diarrhea, acute diarrhea, traveler’s diarrhea, infectious diarrhea and other associated diarrhea symptoms. They also help with constipation relief. Probiotics have also been found in meta-analyses to reduce the pain and severity of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, aid in the eradication of H. pylori and treat pouchitis, a condition that occurs after the surgical removal of the large intestine and rectum.
Probiotics also seem to ameliorate irritable bowel syndrome, a chronic disease characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, and frequent diarrhea or constipation (or a mix of the two). A 2014 review of more than 30 studies, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology by an international team of researchers, determined that in some cases, probiotics help to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome for reasons that are not entirely clear, although it may be that they impede the growth of harmful microbes. The researchers concluded, however, that they did not have enough data to recommend any particular strains of bacteria. Microbiologists often caution that a promising study on a single strain of a particular species of bacteria should not be taken as proof that all probiotics work equally well. “Bacterial strains are so genetically different from one another, and everybody has a different gut microbiota,” Allen-Vercoe says. “There will probably never be a one-size-fits-all probiotic.”
If you’re new to Bio-K+, know that each bottle contains 50 billion live and active probiotic bacteria. Probiotics are good for a wide variety of digestive issues, so it’s best to customize your dosage based on what your specific needs are. If you are looking to take a preventative dosage to support the health of your microbiome, start with a ¼ bottle per day. If you suffer from digestive health issues or regularly take antacids, start with a ½ bottle of Bio-K+ per day. If you have more serious gastrointestinal issues or have had to take antibiotics, Bio-K+ probiotics are great for getting your system back on track. Start with a full bottle per day and see how you feel (we’ve had amazing results from our fans!)
Eating more foods that are naturally rich in probiotics, like yogurt, kimchi and kefir, can help restore balance in your gut and create more “good” bacteria to fight off inflammation from “bad” bacteria. But what about food products that have probiotics infused into them? Indeed, manufacturers are banking on a new crop of gut-friendly products. From chocolates and granola bars to juices and tonics, nut butters, bottled water and even air sprays, you can’t escape the probiotic movement.
Fermenting a cucumber into a pickle amps up a cuke's powers, infusing the crunchy veggie with probiotics. Like sauerkraut, not all pickles offer the good bacteria, though. Look for those made with brine (salt and water) rather than vinegar. These brands will list "live cultures" on the label (like Bubbies). You can also use water, salt, and spices to naturally culture pickles and other veggies—like beets, green beans, and carrots—at home with delicious results. One warning: remember that pickles are salty—one dill can easily offer up more than 10% of your sodium needs in a day.
Research indicates that the gut and brain are in constant communication, and the health of your gut can have a big, supportive impact on your mental health and well-being.17 One reason is the role the gut microbiome plays in maintaining your hormones––in addition to oxytocin, your beneficial bacteria also support your levels of serotonin (the "happy hormone), and cortisol (which is associated with high stress levels).18 They also help encourage GABA, an important neurotransmitter that determines how your body responds to stress. When you support your microbiome with probiotics, it can help to keep everything balanced, but if it becomes unbalanced and unwanted bacteria take over, you can end up with a low mood and anxious thoughts.19
Yes, they may help. Lebwohl says there are reputable studies that show a link between the use of probiotics and the reduction in IBS symptoms, citing this meta-analysis. It's estimated that 11 percent of the world population complains of symptoms like abdominal cramps, diarrhea, constipation, excessive gas and/or mucus in their stools. While for some the condition can be attributed to certain dietary triggers, others appear to be stress-related, which brings us to the heart of where many claims about the effectiveness of probiotics lie—in the gut-brain axis.
If this happens, it's time to consider switching to a new probiotic. Other reasons a probiotic may not be the right fit: SIBO or Candida. If you have either of these conditions, the strain of the probiotic could potentially make your symptoms worse. Remember, if you think a probiotic is not helping, seek the advice of a functional medicine provider to help you navigate the choices out there.
Coming in at a close second, our runner-up as the best probiotic for women is the Culturelle Women’s Healthy Balance Probiotic. As the #1 recommended brand by pharmacists, it is easy to see why so many women are turning to Culturelle for their digestive health. Featuring the LGG culture and a laundry list of other healthy bacteria, this probiotic offers a wonderful balance between digestive and feminine health. The Culturelle Women’s Healthy Balance Probiotic is also taken in an easy, chewable tablet and can even be taken during pregnancy, making it one of the most versatile formulas we reviewed!
However, this particular probiotic does not contain any additional vitamins, minerals, or plant extracts like some of the other brands we have reviewed. The Probiotic Pearls are a great option for women looking for an introductory probiotic or one with less fuss, but likely won’t pack the same punch as probiotics that include mineral blends and added vitamins in their formulas. This probiotic was also not designed to treat or prevent urinary tract problems, and may not be as suitable as other brands for women with recurrent urinary tract infections.
In the 2016 paper, Dr. Ghannoum and is research partners looked at parameters of microbiome makeup in Crohn’s Disease patients and healthy members of the same families in an area in Belgium. The researchers said they “identified positive interkingdom correlations between C. tropicalis (a fungus), E. coli, and S. marcescens (both microbial species) in CD patients and validated these correlations using in vitro biofilms. These results provide insight into the roles of bacteria and fungi in CD.”
Myriad factors – antibiotics, diet, stress, and age, among them – affect the balance of diverse microbes present in your gut. While you can replenish your gut bacteria by eating well and incorporating natural probiotics (ex. yogurt and kefir) into a healthy diet, these processes can take weeks or months; taking a regular probiotic is an easy and effective way to ensure your gut (and immune system) stays healthy, always.
"This suggests that probiotics should not be universally given as a 'one-size-fits-all' supplement," study co-senior author Eran Elinav, an immunologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, said in a statement. However, it may be possible to tailor probiotic treatments to the individual, based on the types of microbes already in his or her gut, as well as other factors, so that he or she gets the most benefit from probiotics, the researchers said.
Gas (intestinal gas) means different things to different people. Everyone has gas and eliminates it by belching, burping, or farting (flatulence). Bloating or abdominal distension is a subjective feeling that the stomach is larger or fuller than normal. Belching or burping occurs when gas is expelled from the stomach out through the mouth. Flatulence or farting occurs when intestinal gas is passed from the anus.
Historically, people had plenty of probiotics in their diets from eating fresh foods from good soil and by fermenting foods to keep them from spoiling. Over a century ago, the Russian Nobel Prize winner Elie Metchnikoff theorized that “health could be enhanced and senility delayed by manipulating the intestinal microbiome with host-friendly bacteria found in yogurt.” Metchnikoff was ahead of his time with his view of probiotics benefits, but he also was aware that most citizens had regular access to probiotic foods.
Lacto-bacillus plantarum: If you’ve ever heard of the beneficial effects of fermented foods (pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc.), then you’ve heard of this powerful probiotic, which may help improve the symptoms of IBS, gluten intolerance, soy allergies, and Crohn’s disease. This is also one of the most antibiotic-resistant probiotics, which is especially important if you have taken antibiotics recently.
Many women are prone to yeast infections during or after antibiotic use. If you are one of these unlucky few, try taking a probiotic like the vH Probiotics with Prebiotics and Cranberry immediately before taking your antibiotics. (You may want to check with your doctor first though). These cultures may help with stomach upset and can also prevent a dreaded yeast infection!