Probiotics are actually bacteria – the “good” kind. Our bodies have trillions of these microorganisms, some harmful but the majority of them beneficial. “Good” bacteria help break down food and keep the “bad” bacteria at bay. Probiotic bacteria are found in cultured dairy foods like yogurt, fermented vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut, and foods fortified with probiotic bacterial cultures. They’re also available in capsules.
Unfortunately, many commercial brands don’t measure up. They are unstable in stomach acid. Quality control measures aren’t intact, including ensuring supplements have been handled correctly and maintain their freshness. Moisture slipping into probiotic supplements can reduce their efficacy. Companies that use bioshield capsules produce higher quality probiotic supplements that are able to endure the stomach acid, releasing their contents within the small intestine, where a more alkaline environment ensures the survival of the bacteria.
Reviews looking at the treatment or prevention of vulvovaginal candidiasis in women, pneumonia in patients hooked up to respirators, and colds in otherwise healthy people show some positive results. But the authors note that the studies are almost all of low quality, small in size, and often funded by companies with significant conflicts of interest.
^ Jump up to: a b c Maria Jose Saez-Lara; Carolina Gomez-Llorente; Julio Plaza-Diaz; Angel Gil (2015). "The Role of Probiotic Lactic Acid Bacteria and Bifidobacteria in the Prevention and Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Other Related Diseases: A Systematic Review of Randomized Human Clinical Trials". Biomed Res Int (Systematic review). 2015: 1–15. doi:10.1155/2015/505878. PMC 4352483. PMID 25793197.
Since the effects of individual bacteria strains vary, the first thing to consider when choosing a probiotic supplement is the reason you are taking it. Certain strains, for example, may help with weight loss, lower cholesterol or reduce allergy symptoms, while others have been shown to help with digestive issues, such as diarrhea from antibiotics and irritable bowel syndrome. The uses and evidence for various strains are summarized in a reference table in the Probiotic Supplements Review (be aware that certain strains should be avoided by people with milk allergies or people taking certain medications).
If you struggle with post-meal gas, bloating, and other problems, your body might not be making sufficient digestive enzymes. Gut imbalances, stress, and age are among the factors that inhibit the digestive process. For many patients, supplements that replenish digestive enzymes can reduce or eliminate those problems, especially while you’re healing your gut.
Previous studies have been contradictory, with some yielding more positive results about the benefits of probiotics, but most of them looked at probiotics in stool samples, not directly in the gut itself. In the new research, the scientists used more invasive methods to take samples of gut bacteria directly from different areas of the digestive system.