Other foods without substantial research: miso (fermented soybean paste); tempeh; sauerkraut; aged soft cheese; sourdough bread; sour pickles; gundruk (nonsalted, fermented, and acidic vegetable product); sinki (indigenous fermented radish tap root food); khalpi (fermented cucumber); inziangsang (traditional fermented leafy vegetable product prepared from mustard leaves); soidonis (widespread fermented product prepared from the tip of mature bamboo shoots)
“If someone has disrupted his gut microbial balance, this is where a probiotic can be of benefit,” says Gail Cresci, PhD, RD, an intestinal microbe specialist with Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. “But whether it’s really going to help and whether you’re taking the right one are the big questions out there.”
Common ailments like stomach upset, allergies, and inexplicable pain seem to be at an all-time high. You may be surprised to learn that the solution to many of you and your family’s everyday woes can be found right in your gut. No, we’re not talking about your intuition or those gut feelings you get on a weird first date, but instead, the millions of tiny bacteria that live in your digestive system. These micro-organisms, or cultures as we in the supplement biz’ like to refer to them as, help keep things moving (if you know what we mean) and can have added benefits for women of all ages!
There’s hard science saying probiotics can help with certain kinds of diarrhea, but for other conditions, it’s a bit of a crapshoot (har har). Lebwohl says that one of the first things that needs to change for probiotics to go widespread legit in the medical community is their regulation. Since they’re currently marketed as dietary supplements, they’re not subjected to the same FDA standards that medications are. That means that not only have they not been proven to work, it also means there’s also no assurance that what’s on the labels of these products actually matches what’s inside the bottle.
What's more, people who have serious heart issues commonly have S. mutans in their heart valves—this is an undesirable type of bacteria that’s actually more often found in the mouth. If your oral microbiome is in balance, S. mutans are normally kept in control by more beneficial species, but if things get out of balance, they can reproduce and make their way into your bloodstream via openings in your gums, compromising your cardiovascular function.3
Let’s start at the very beginning: probiotics are bacteria. We know what you’re thinking, bacteria cause infections and are just generally kind of gross. Well, in some aspects, you’re absolutely right. But when it comes to your digestive and feminine health, some bacteria are teeny tiny miracle workers that can make all the difference in the way you feel!
As with other types of supplements, scientists are still discovering the full potential of probiotics. However, when taken regularly, it is believed that they help support digestive health by helping maintain the balance of beneficial and non-beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract. Having a natural balance of good bacteria in the digestive tract can help defend against occasional digestive issues. In addition, probiotics play an important role in supporting immune health, since 70% of the body's immune system is found in the digestive tract.∗
We also found strains linked to five other health benefits like weight loss and lowering cholesterol. We feature options for those cases below, but they aren’t top picks because those use cases aren’t as heavily researched as immune health or IBS relief. Still, chances are any probiotic supplement is going to make some improvement to your digestive health, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
You'd be right. Lebwohl said there are no current studies supporting probiotics for cancer, and further, that he’d be concerned about anyone with a compromised immune system using probiotics. “It has not been adequately studied for cancer and I would be concerned about widespread probiotic use in someone who might have a suppressed immune system due to cancer, because of the rare but documented instances of actual infections arising from probiotic use."
Probiotics are bacteria that help keep the natural balance of organisms (microflora) in the intestines. The normal human digestive tract contains about 400 types of probiotic bacteria that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. The largest group of probiotic bacteria in the intestine is lactic acid bacteria, of which Lactobacillus acidophilus, found in yogurt with live cultures, is the best known. Yeast is also a probiotic substance. Probiotics are also available as natural health products.
You dread stepping on the scale and avoid looking at your profile in the mirror because you know you gained weight and need to lose some. You tried every diet on the market to no avail. Your frustration level is high, but you do not need to give up hope. The first thing to do is to love yourself regardless of your weight so that your emotions and stress levels do not sabotage your efforts. You can love yourself while working toward self-improvement.
From Lactobacillus acidophilus to Bacillus Coagulans, the BlueBiotics blend is a veritable list of the most researched and proven probiotic bacteria known to science. And recent advances on the blend have made it the only full-spectrum probiotic supplement on the market, as it contains strains which are typically not available to the general public (Bacillus Coagulans and S. boulardii). The CFU count alone is remarkable enough, leaving most comparable spectrums in the dust… HOWEVER even more surprisingly our tests showed that a whopping 98% of the probiotic colonies in BlueBiotics were still alive, making this BY FAR the most effective probiotic supplement that we have ever reviewed. Also, because of the diverse pool of strains in BlueBiotics, users have reported a wide variety of benefits from weight loss, to increased energy, improved digestive health and cognitive function. Many of our staff switched to these probiotics, as well as myself and my family.
Another study by Elinav and his colleagues suggests that not everyone’s gut reacts the same way to probiotic pills. They studied samples of microbiomes from antibiotic users before and after they took supplements for four weeks. The good bacteria were found in the digestive tracts of some people. But in others, the bacteria were present only in stool samples, not in their digestive tracts, where they’re thought to be needed to improve health.
Third-party testing: Lastly, it's important to remember that probiotics are an unregulated supplement. "Find out whether there is third-party data verifying the potency, purity, and effectiveness of the product," suggests Dena Norton, a registered dietitian and holistic nutrition coach. "Remember that dietary supplements aren't regulated, so you can't necessarily just trust the claims on the label." Check out AEProbio, a site that has compiled research on specific brands of probiotics available in the U.S., recommends Scarlata, and an NSF seal is always a good marker to look for.
An imbalance in the gut microbiota is believed to contribute to a number of health problems, particularly gastrointestinal issues, as well as immune dysfunction and infections. The bacterial balance can be disrupted by medical conditions, emotional and physical stress, and, most notably, use of antibiotics, which destroy the good bacteria along with the bad.
How is it that probiotics are such a ubiquitous trend in the wellness scene but subject to tons of misinformation all the same? Consider the myth, for example, that the only appeal of replenishing your good bacteria is smoother digestion. On the contrary, the benefits of probiotics abound: from a boosted mood and better skin to a healthier immune system.
"Many chronic health problems and inflammatory diseases are caused by a damaged microbiome where the good bacteria is overrun by the harmful bacteria and can't reinforce the gut walls, which results in increased intestinal permeability where bacteria and toxins leak through the intestines into the bloodstream triggering a system-wide immune response of inflammation that is a part of our body's natural healing cycle."
Every person's microbiome is different, which means what worked for others might not work for you. "What you eat, whether you were born by C-section or vaginally, what antibiotics you have been exposed to, and whether or not you have ever developed food-borne illness are just some of the many factors that impact your gut microbiome," explains Scarlata. And while research can help you determine which strains to take at which dosages, there may still be several different formulations to choose from.
Bacillus is an interesting genus because these microbes have the ability to form endospores, tough outer coatings, when conditions are not suitable for them to flourish. There are five species of probiotic Bacillus: clausii, coagulans, indicus, licheniformis, and subtilis. Not every species of Bacillus is probiotic. Some Bacillus species are usually pathogens. Bacillus may normally be found in the GI tract, but they generally do not take up residence for long and will pass through and be eliminated if not replenished. Bacillus are common food spoilage organisms and are also found in probiotic supplements and in soil, air, and water.
Food allergies and sensitivities both involve the immune system, albeit in different ways. Many types of probiotics can benefit and help modulate the immune system, and they can calm these conditions, not only via immune regulation, but also through prevention of intestinal permeability, improved intestinal motility, and communication with your genes.
Yeast Infections and Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) – If you’ve ever experienced the discomfort of a yeast infection or BV, then you are probably aware that an overgrowth of bacteria causes these unfortunate episodes. While your reproductive system is supposed to foster a healthy environment for yeast, sometimes these levels can increase causing the pain and discomfort of a yeast infection or bacterial infection. By taking a probiotic that contains prebiotics and feminine health probiotics, you can treat and prevent recurrent symptoms!
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.
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.
If you’re most interested in taking a probiotic supplement for overall gut health, I suggest starting with 30 to 50 billion CFUs. Take probiotics on an empty stomach once or twice a day for at least three months. After that time, reassess and decide if the benefits warrant continuing a maintenance dose of the probiotic supplement. However, if you have SIBO, beware of starting a probiotic too soon after your treatment. In this case, it’s best to work with a health practitioner on which probiotic is right for each stage of the treatment.
Some people prefer probiotic supplements over foods, but Dr. Cresci notes that probiotic foods are a better choice. In particular, fermented foods — like yogurt, kefir (a yogurt-like beverage), kombucha (fermented black tea), sauerkraut (refrigerated, not shelf-stable), kimchi (made from fermented cabbage) and tempeh and miso (made from fermented soybeans) — provide a nourishing environment in which healthful bacteria thrive and release an important byproduct: short-chain fatty acids.
“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.
“Microbiome” refers to the trillions of bacteria and microorganisms that live on and in our individual bodies. “There’s increased recognition of the various ways that the microbiome affects our health,” Lebwohl tells me. “And with that recognition comes the true observation that many bacteria are good for us. This goes against the old idea that bacteria equal germs, which equal harm. It turns out that many bacteria keep us healthy and probiotics could potentially support that notion.”
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.
What’s more, RAW Probiotics are exactly what they purport to be – raw! They’re uncooked, untreated and unadulterated, and have no fillers or binders. You also won’t find any displeasing carriers, such as maltodextrin or dextrose. And since RAW Probiotics are kept in temperature-controlled cold storage through delivery and until they make it into your fridge, you can be sure your probiotics “arrive alive.”
What are bacteria and what do they do? Bacteria are single-celled organisms that exist in their millions, in every environment, inside or outside other organisms. Some are harmful, but others support life. They play a crucial role in human health and are used in medicine and industry. Learn about the types, lifecycles, uses, and hazards of bacteria here. Read now
The takeaway: Certain strains were found useful in preventing diarrhea among children being prescribed antibiotics. A 2013 review showed that after antibiotic use, probiotics help prevent Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. A review focused on acute infectious diarrhea found a benefit, again for certain strains of bacteria at controlled doses. There’s also evidence that they may help prevent necrotizing enterocolitis (a serious gastrointestinal condition) and death in preterm infants.
The above line of probiotics is also a favorite of Engelman. "I like Nerium International's new Prolistic Pre & Probiotic Plus Vitamins ($45) because it combines prebiotics, probiotics, and vitamins," Engelman explains. "It supports overall health while targeting digestive function. It contains two types of prebiotics and two strains of probiotics to help enhance levels of beneficial microflora and balance levels of healthy bacteria in the digestive system. Additionally, it contains B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin D, which work to enhance the body's immune system and support natural energy production."
That's because issues that can be treated with probiotics stem from specific imbalances in the amount of certain bacterial strains, according to Elena Ivanina, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Lenox Hill Hospital. "Therefore, if someone decides to supplement a particular strain of Lactobacillus, but they already have enough of that strain in their gut and their disease does not stem from a lack of Lactobacillus, then they will not have a response." Makes sense, right?
If you've tried a probiotic after following these steps and it doesn't seem to be working for you (or you just want some extra guidance in choosing one), head to your doctor (or a dietitian) to get a recommendation. "Have a thorough discussion with your doctor to make sure you are taking the appropriate bacterial strain for the appropriate reason," advises Dr. Ivanina. "Then, follow up after taking the probiotic to make sure it is having the intended effect."
Billions Of CFU – One of the first things you will notice on a bottle of probiotics is the phrase “X Billion CFU.” Probiotics vary in the number of billions of cultures they pack in each capsule, but the lingo always stays the same. CFU stands for Colony Forming Units, so if the bottle reads 5 Billion CFU, it means that there are 5 Billion Colony Forming Units per capsule. The higher the number, the more flora contained in each pill.
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In the past, probiotics have been proposed as part of a weight loss diet. However, a 2015 meta-analysis looked at available randomized, controlled trials investigating this effect and determined that the studies did not seem to support this hypothesis, as body weight and BMI were not consistently reduced. The researchers did point out the need for better designed trials, because they were not convinced the results were based on well-designed science.
Quality matters for any supplement, and that goes triple for probiotics. Many commercial brands lack the technology to identify specific strains and how much of that strain each dose contains. That could mean you get an ineffective or potentially harmful dose. It's a great sign if the company is using strains that have been used specifically in clinical trials at a dose similar to or the same as that used in the study. This is one of the only ways to guarantee a probiotic's clinical effectiveness.
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.
There have been multiple additional studies which link stress to changes in gut bacteria, so there does appear to be some sort of link. But Lebwohl says it’s not enough to recommend widespread use in clinical practice. He referred to these as “hypothesis-generating studies,” which should lead to concrete clinical trials in which the probiotics are tested against a placebo. “These are important studies,” he says. “But it’s premature to call them practice-changing studies.”
"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.
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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
Most of the prebiotics identified are oligosaccharides. They are resistant to the human digestive enzymes that work on all other carbohydrates. This means that they pass through the upper GI system without being digested. They then get fermented in the lower colon and produce short-chain fatty acids that will then nourish the beneficial microbiota that live there. Oligosaccharides can be synthesized or obtained from natural sources. These sources include asparagus, artichoke, bamboo shoots, banana, barley, chicory, leeks, garlic, honey, lentils, milk, mustards, onion, rye, soybean, sugar beet, sugarcane juice, tomato, wheat, and yacón. The health benefits from these oligosaccharides is a topic of ongoing research.
Until recently, testing of probiotics by ConsumerLab.com found that some products had far lower amounts of live organisms than claimed on the labels. But in 2018, it found that 17 out of 18 products tested contained the amounts listed; none exceeded limits for heavy metal contaminants. In contrast, in 2016, a study in Pediatric Research found that only one out of 16 Bifidobacterium longum supplements tested contained the species named on the label.
Probiotics are clearly incredibly supportive, but they can't do their work alone. To make sure that you're getting the most out of your microbes, it's important that you give them the support they need to work. You've got lots of options for supporting your gut health, from dietary changes to probiotic supplementation, but make sure you're at least covering the following bases.
Additionally, it's a good idea to take note of the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) that are in the supplement you're considering, Angelone says. CFU count tells you the number of viable, active bacteria present in a tablet, she explains, and one billion (yes, seriously) is a typical dose. However, if you're struggling with a specific health condition, you may need more than that, Warren says. Your doctor can help you decide whether that's the case and may be able to steer you toward a good supplement to get you started. Here are a few to consider if you decide that probiotics are right for you.
This smooth, slightly tangy, and sippable yogurt contains a dozen different types of live active cultures. It's also 99% lactose-free, making it easier to digest for those with intolerant tummies. "If you have lactose intolerance, start slowly on kefir as a test. If you have no symptoms, go ahead and slowly increase your intake," advises Tallmadge. Plus, with 8 to 11 grams of protein per cup (depending on the brand), it can help fill you up for around 100 calories.
However, a 2003 pilot study and 2011 randomized, controlled trial both reported that RA activities remained unchanged, but the subjects treated with probiotics reported statistically significantly higher levels of “subjective well-being.” One suggested reason for this was that the trials were too short to establish changes in the observable changes in the internal earmarks of RA.
Caution needs to be taken by everyone who chooses to take these supplements, but this is especially true for children, pregnant women, elderly people, and people with compromised immune systems. For people with compromised immune systems due to disease or treatment for a disease (such as cancer chemotherapy), taking probiotics may actually increase one's chances of getting sick. It has been shown that the use of various probiotics for immunocompromised patients or patients with a leaky gut has resulted in infections and sepsis (infection of the bloodstream). One case of bacteremia (bacteria in the bloodstream) was recently found when someone with active severe inflammatory bowel diseases with mucosal disruption was given Lactobacillus GG. Always speak with a doctor before taking any supplement under these circumstances.
For women searching for a double-duty probiotic that can ease digestive symptoms while warding off urinary tract infections, look no further than the HyperBiotics PRO-Women Probiotics with Cranberry Extract and D-Mannose. Specifically designed to combat urinary symptoms while maintaining healthy gut bacteria, this formula is ideal for women of all ages that want to improve their urinary health.
Pinning down the exact causes of IBS is difficult because each person has his or her own combination of causes. One cause that is receiving much attention is that of a disrupted microbiome, as there is a strong association between having a gastrointestinal (GI) infection, like food poisoning, and the onset of IBS. Also, the FODMAP diet, and nonabsorbable antibiotics to kill gut microbiota, have provided relief in many patients, further supporting the suspicion of a disrupted microbiome as contributing to IBS.
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!
Most bacteria are included through the fermentation process. Fermentation helps extend the shelf life of perishable foods. It is a slow decomposition process of organic substances induced by microorganisms or enzymes that essentially convert carbohydrates to alcohols or organic acids. The lactic acid supplies the bacteria that then add the health benefits to the food. You can purchase foods that are fermented or ferment them yourself.
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Even if some of the bacteria in a probiotic managed to survive and propagate in the intestine, there would likely be far too few of them to dramatically alter the overall composition of one's internal ecosystem. Whereas the human gut contains tens of trillions of bacteria, there are only between 100 million and a few hundred billion bacteria in a typical serving of yogurt or a microbe-filled pill. Last year a team of scientists at the University of Copenhagen published a review of seven randomized, placebo-controlled trials (the most scientifically rigorous types of studies researchers know how to conduct) investigating whether probiotic supplements—including biscuits, milk-based drinks and capsules—change the diversity of bacteria in fecal samples. Only one study—of 34 healthy volunteers—found a statistically significant change, and there was no indication that it provided a clinical benefit. “A probiotic is still just a drop in a bucket,” says Shira Doron, an infectious disease expert at Tufts Medical Center. “The gut always has orders of magnitude more microbes.”
According to Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, founder of Better Than Dieting and author of Read It Before You Eat It, “We have more bacterial cells in our body than actual tissue, so you want as much “good” bacteria to be on your side. But not all probiotics are alike, and how your body reacts to them will not be the same as someone else who takes them.”
MegaFood is our only top pick that’s certified vegan, as well as being gluten free and dairy free, making it a good choice for any food-sensitive or vegan probiotic seeker. It has fewer of our wishlist “general health” strains than Vita Miracle, but it still contains five. This could be a go-to if you eat vegan, even if you’re not recovering post-antibiotic.
Consuming probiotics regularly will reduce the risk of this. "The concept is that if we have an unhealthy, unbalanced gut environment, toxins can be released into the bloodstream and cause inflammation throughout the body," Engelman adds. "This shift in gut flora and the subsequent inflammation can cause a flare-up in the skin of those who are predisposed to acne, eczema, or rosacea."