What exactly do probiotics do? They are believed to protect us in two ways. The first is the role that they play in our digestive tract. We know that our digestive tract needs a healthy balance between the good and bad bacteria, so what gets in the way of this? It looks like our lifestyle is both the problem and the solution. Poor food choices, emotional stress, lack of sleep, antibiotic overuse, other drugs, and environmental influences can all shift the balance in favor of the bad bacteria.
When it comes to probiotics, it appears that 10 billion live "friendly" bacteria is the magic dose, Dr. Novey says. That number may sound like a lot, but that’s about how many are in an eight-ounce carton of yogurt. (Check the expiration date, Novey notes: The further away the date, the more live bacteria the yogurt is likely to contain.) The probiotic supplements you buy in the health food store probably contain about 10 billion live bacteria per capsule as well. However, according to Novey it’s better to get your daily intake of probiotics from yogurt and other fermented foods than from pills or capsules. For example, yogurt also provides calcium, a much-needed nutrient. “Capsules are better when you need to recover your colon from having taken antibiotics,” he says.
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. 

For example, yogurt is made with two “starter” bacterial cultures — Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus — but these bacteria are often destroyed by your stomach acid and provide no beneficial effect, Dr. Cresci explains. Some companies, though, add extra bacteria into the product, so check the labeling and choose products with bacteria added to the starter cultures, she advises.
The foods that are highest in prebiotic fiber are also difficult to find and prepare. Jerusalem artichoke — not the average artichoke sold in your local grocery store — and chicory root contain the highest amounts of inulin and oligofructose. The good news is that Prebiotin offers an easy solution: with our simple supplement, you can get enough prebiotic fiber through normal dietary intake instead of eating a high amount of chicory root a day. Prebiotin is also low in calories. Unlike other fiber supplements, Prebiotin does not have an unpleasant taste or texture. It is slightly sweet and easily combines with beverages such as coffee. You can also sprinkle it on top of food.
Probiotics can also help offset the bacterial imbalance caused by taking antibiotics. Antibiotics kill good bacteria along with the harmful ones, often leading to gas, cramping or diarrhea. Potential benefits of probiotics have been seen in the treatment or prevention of many conditions such as diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease.
^ Jump up to: a b Hill, C; Guarner, F; Reid, G; Gibson, GR; Merenstein, DJ; Pot, B; Morelli, L; Canani, RB; Flint, HJ; Salminen, S; Calder, PC; Sanders, ME (August 2014). "Expert consensus document. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic". Nature Reviews. Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 11 (8): 506–14. doi:10.1038/nrgastro.2014.66. PMID 24912386.
Gut Check: Exploring Your Microbiome. Archived Coursera course by Prof. Rob Knight. Imagine if there were an organ in your body that weighed as much as your brain, that affected your health, your weight, and even your behavior. Wouldn’t you want to know more about it? There is such an organ — the collection of microbes in and on your body, your human microbiome.
Got your gut on your mind? Then you’re probably up on the health benefits of probiotics. From boosting immunity to improving digestion, probiotics have been touted as the “superhero” of the gut bacteria underworld. And yet, there’s a lot we still don’t know about probiotics because the research is just heating up. To date, most studies that have been done on probiotics are on the Lactobaccilus, Bifidobacterium and Streptococcus thermophilus strains. Meanwhile, there are, oh, upwards of 100 trillion gut-friendly bacteria out there — some of which are popping up in trendy new waters, chocolates, nut butters and more. Here’s what you need to know before giving your gut the royal treatment.

The precise mechanism(s) of action of probiotics has not thus far been clarified. Potential mechanisms to consider include: (1) modulation of GI immunity by altering inflammatory cytokine profiles and downregulating proinflammatory cascades or inducing regulatory mechanisms in a strain-specific manner; (2) displacement of gas-producing, bile salt-deconjugating bacterial species and thus possibly inhibiting pathogenic bacterial adherence; (3) alteration of bacterial flora by acidification of the colon by nutrient fermentation; (4) enhancement of epithelial barrier function; (5) induction of µ-opioid and cannabinoid receptors in intestinal epithelial cells; (6) reduction of visceral hypersensitivity, spinal afferent traffic, and stress response [Borchers et al. 2009; Lin et al. 2008; Vanderpool et al. 2008; Lawton et al. 2007; Quigley and Flourie, 2007; Rousseaux et al. 2007; Yan et al. 2007; Focareta et al. 2006; Makras et al. 2006; Roselli et al. 2006; Candela et al. 2005; Collado et al. 2005, 2007; Cotter et al. 2005; Matsumoto et al. 2005; Paton et al. 2005; Sherman et al. 2005; Smits et al. 2005; Sturm et al. 2005; Hart et al. 2004; Mukai et al. 2004; Pathmakanthan et al. 2004; Servin, 2004; McCarthy et al. 2003; Pena and Versalovic, 2003; Borruel et al. 2002].
Bifidobacteria were first isolated from a breast-fed infant by Henry Tissier, who also worked at the Pasteur Institute. The isolated bacterium named Bacillus bifidus communis[56] was later renamed to the genus Bifidobacterium. Tissier found that bifidobacteria are dominant in the gut microbiota of breast-fed babies and he observed clinical benefits from treating diarrhea in infants with bifidobacteria.
There are foods with health halos. And then there are probiotics, which have practically been canonized. The word itself means—no big whoop—"to give life." Probiotics are now a nearly $37 billion industry in the U.S. Sales of probiotic-rich yogurt and kefir surged nearly 30 percent in the past three years. And just slapping "contains probiotics" on a product helps it sell better, says San Diego attorney Tim Blood, who specializes in consumer protection in advertising. Not too shabby for bacteria, right?

^ Jump up to: a b Hill, C; Guarner, F; Reid, G; Gibson, GR; Merenstein, DJ; Pot, B; Morelli, L; Canani, RB; Flint, HJ; Salminen, S; Calder, PC; Sanders, ME (August 2014). "Expert consensus document. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic". Nature Reviews. Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 11 (8): 506–14. doi:10.1038/nrgastro.2014.66. PMID 24912386.
RELATED SUPPLEMENTS: Prebiotics, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium Bifidum, Bifidobacterium Infantis, Bifidus Regularis, Lactobacillus Bifidus, Lactobacillus Brevis, Lactobacillus Casei, Lactobacillus Fermentum, Lactobacillus Gasseri, Lactobacillus Lactis, Lactobacillus Plantarum, Bifidobacterium Animalis, Bifidobacterium Lactis, Bifidobacterium Longum, Saccharomyces Boulardii
Kefir is a thick and creamy fermented milk product. It tastes tangy like yogurt. Probiotic strains in kefir may help reduce cholesterol, protect against cancer, fight allergies, and improve the digestion of lactose. Kefir is rich in lactic acid bacteria (LAB), friendly bacteria that may help prevent and treat diarrhea, boost immunity, and improve the body's ability to ward off infection. Kefir is rich in Lactococcus lactis, Lactobacillus kefir, Lactococcus cremoris, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus casei, and a few varieties of beneficial yeast. You can learn to make your own kefir using kefir grains as the starter.
Uncontrolled changes in blood sugar levels or a decreased ability to regulate insulin can have serious effects on your overall health, and since far more men than women are at risk for these changes, these issues are well worth paying attention to.5 Research indicates that regularly taking probiotic supplements containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium can help your body maintain blood sugar levels already within a normal range, whether you're simply at risk for insulin-related challenges or you're already experiencing them.
A number of probiotic products are on the market, including yogurts containing probiotics, as well as supplements and skin creams, and an estimated 3.9 million Americans use such products. Some studies suggest that probiotics may help with diarrhea or symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but strong evidence to support their use for most health conditions is lacking, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
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
Bottom line: Probiotics are a promising field of research and may one day be used to treat or help prevent many disorders. But there’s not enough solid evidence to recommend their widespread use. Vague claims that probiotics "support good digestive health" are meaningless. Larger, longer and better studies are needed to test specific strains for specific conditions and to determine the proper doses and regimens.
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