They probably are. Lebwohl says probiotics may decrease the risk of getting diarrhea during the course of taking antibiotics, and may also play a role in specifically preventing the development of the dreaded antibiotic-related super diarrhea called C. difficile or C. diff. Antibiotics can wipe out the good bacteria that keep you from getting sick if you’re exposed to C. diff, or if you already have it in your system. C. diff symptoms can range from a moderate watery diarrhea several times a day to severe infections, which can be accompanied by fever, bloody stools, rapid heart rate, and can even lead to kidney failure. 500,000 Americans were infected with C. diff in 2015 and 15,000 died from it.
Probiotics are very promising and used quite often in practice. Many physicians, including myself, use them regularly for many gastrointestinal issues and other issues like infant colic, preventing diarrhea in patients taking antibiotics and for overall immune and respiratory health. There is still a lot more research that needs to be conducted but it is clear that they are here to stay, and the research base is likely only going to lead to increased use in many other conditions in both preventing and treating diseases.
As far as effectiveness, keep in mind that unlike medications, dietary supplements do NOT need to be approved by the FDA. This means that manufacturers can sell supplements simply with "claims" of safety and effectiveness. Currently, researchers are undecided if probiotic supplements are effective. Some say probiotics are effective; others believe they offer no benefit whatsoever. It also remains unclear which probiotics (or combination of probiotics) work to treat certain diseases. Despite these issues, some studies have shown positive results. Still, more research is needed to confirm that probiotics are safe and effective.
This is one of the newer areas of probiotic research. Described as the “gut-brain axis,” researchers believe that the communication between the gut and the brain affects not just physical but also mental health and behavior. For example, a recent study found that probiotics can reduce anxiety, relieve stress and improve mental outlook. Another study found that the probiotics L. helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum reduced depression, anger, hostility and self-blame and improved problem-solving ability. Another study showed a difference in brain activity between women consuming yogurt and those consuming a placebo. More research needs to be done to confirm the effect of probiotics on mental and emotional health.
Several large-scale studies and two meta-analyses have confirmed that probiotics should be a major consideration in determining natural remedies for diabetes. In a massive study involving almost 200,000 subjects and a total of 15,156 cases of type 2 diabetes, researchers confirmed that a higher intake of probiotic-rich yogurt reduced the risk of developing diabetes.
Probiotics' side effects, if they occur, tend to be mild and digestive (such as gas or bloating). More serious effects have been seen in some people. Probiotics might theoretically cause infections that need to be treated with antibiotics, especially in people with underlying health conditions. They could also cause unhealthy metabolic activities, too much stimulation of the immune system, or gene transfer (insertion of genetic material into a cell).
^ Jump up to: a b Magdalena Araya, Catherine Stanton, Lorenzo Morelli, Gregor Reid, Maya Pineiro, et al., 2006, "Probiotics in food: health and nutritional properties and guidelines for evaluation," Combined Report of a Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Evaluation of Health and Nutritional Properties of Probiotics in Food Including Powder Milk with Live Lactic Acid Bacteria, Cordoba, Argentina, 1–4 October 2001, and Report of a Joint FAO/WHO Working Group on Drafting Guidelines for the Evaluation of Probiotics in Food, London, Ontario, Canada, 30 April–1 May 2002 [FAO Food and Nutrition paper 85], pp. 1–50, Rome, Italy:World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) [of the United Nations], ISBN 9251055130, see , accessed 11 June 2015.
I’m 65 years of age. I have been taking acid reflux medication daily for at least 15 years and recently my doctor said my kidneys were declining. I’ve read that acid reflux medications taken over a long period of time, can cause kidney damage. By taking a probiotic, will it help reduce stomach acid, where I may be able to stop taking my acid reflux medication altogether?
Remember that dietary supplements are not tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration like medications. And the probiotic strains in the supplements may not be specific for the condition you're looking to treat. You may want to consult with a practitioner, like a registered dietitian, who is familiar with probiotics. Always tell your physician what you are doing that may affect your health.
If you go with a supplement, know that the FDA regulates these products but treats them like foods and not medications. Unlike drug manufacturers, supplement makers don’t have to show their products are safe or effective to sell them. That means that these firms are in charge of checking the safety and labeling of their products before they sell them to make sure they meet FDA rules.
"Although all of our probiotic-consuming volunteers showed probiotics in their stool, only some of them showed them in their gut, which is where they need to be," co-senior author Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute, said in the statement. "If some people resist and only some people permit them, the benefits of the standard probiotics we all take can't be as universal as we once thought."
"When certain types of probiotics are placed in contact with skin cells, they calm the parts of the cells that may want to react to the presence of bad bacteria that they see as a threat. These healthy signals produced by the probiotics stop the skin cells from sending 'attack' messages to the immune system that result in flares of acne or rosacea."
Infectious diarrhea in both adults and children may be shortened by the use of probiotics [Allen et al. 2004]. The duration of symptoms is decreased by about 30 hours as suggested by a systematic review of trials in active infectious diarrhea. In this Cochrane review, 23 studies including almost 2000 participants (352 of which were adults), it was concluded that probiotics reduced the risk of persistent diarrhea compared with placebo or no probiotics at 3 days with a RR of 0.66 (95% CI 0.55–0.77) [Allen et al. 2004]. The majority (18 out of 23 studies) of the probiotics tested were LABs with two studies using S. boulardii.
A slightly more surprising result, however, seems to be the way that probiotics may impact some of the symptoms of autism. Autism and gut health have been discussed for some time, as patients with the disorder typically suffer from a large number of digestive issues. However, based on animal studies, it seems possible that altering the quality of gut bacteria might benefit not only the digestive system, but the abnormal behaviors in autism, too. In 2016, a case study of a boy with severe autism was reported. While being treated with probiotics for digestive problems, the patient spontaneously improved on the ADOS scale, a diagnostic rating system for people with autism. The score dropped from 20 down three points to a stable 17, and according to the report, ADOS scores do not “fluctuate spontaneously along time” and are “absolutely stable.”
Suez and colleagues investigated the recovery of the gut microbiota after antibiotic treatment and found that probiotics might perturb rather than aid this process. The probiotics rapidly colonised the gut but prevented the normal microbiota from repopulating for up to 5 months. While likely to be considerably less appealing, the group who received autologous faecal microbiota transplantation recovered their microbiota the quickest, with the composition of the microbiota returning to normal within days. Furthermore, Zmora and colleagues showed that colonisation occurred in highly individualised patterns, with some people's gastrointestinal tracts rejecting probiotics and others allowing colonisation by the probiotic strain, meaning that many individuals taking probiotic supplements are simply wasting their money.
Dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, also points out the key role probiotics play in gut health and your body's immune system. "Probiotics are live microorganisms that may be able to help prevent and treat some illnesses," explains Engelman. "Probiotics can create 'holes' in bad bacteria and kill them. Similar to the way antibiotics work in the treatment of acne and rosacea, probiotics can help fight harmful bugs from triggering inflammation. In patients with acne and rosacea, living microorganisms on the skin are recognized as foreign by the body's immune system. The immune system springs into action to counter this potential threat resulting in the inflammation, redness, or bumps common in these skin conditions."
Some strains of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) may affect pathogens by means of competitive inhibition (i.e., by competing for growth) and some evidence suggests they may improve immune function by increasing the number of IgA-producing plasma cells and increasing or improving phagocytosis, as well as increasing the proportion of T lymphocytes and natural killer cells. LAB products might aid in the treatment of acute diarrhea, and possibly affect rotavirus infections in children and travelers' diarrhea in adults, but no products are approved for such indications. A large study demonstrated that probiotics may decrease dental caries in children. Two reviews reported reduction of the incidence of respiratory-tract infections in adults.
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If this ratio gets out of balance, the condition is known as dysbiosis, which means there’s an imbalance of too much of a certain type of fungus, yeast or bacteria that affects the body in a negative way. By consuming certain types of probiotics foods and dietary supplements (often in capsule form), you can help bring these ratios back into balance.
If you have an immune system problem or another serious health condition, you may have a greater chance of issues. Some reports have linked probiotics to serious infections and other side effects. The people most likely to have trouble are those with immune system problems, people who've had surgery, and others who are critically ill. Don't take probiotics if you have any of those issues.
In the United States, the FDA and Federal Trade Commission have issued warning letters and imposed punishment on various manufacturers of probiotic products whose labels claim to treat a disease or condition. Food product labeling requires language approval by the Food and Drug Administration, so probiotic manufacturers have received warning letters for making disease or treatment claims. The Federal Trade Commission has taken punitive actions, including a US$21 million fine coordinated by 39 different state governments against a major probiotic manufacturer for deceptive advertising and exaggerated claims of health benefits for a yogurt and probiotic dairy drink.
While the logic behind probiotics might seem sound, it is clear that we have a long way to go before understanding the complexity of the microbiota and the effects—both good and bad—that probiotics might have. All individuals have a unique gut microbiome, and the effects of different bacteria on different people are likely to be highly variable; as such, probiotic use might even need to be personalised for optimal benefits. Commercially available products might not contain the correct strains or quantities of bacteria to provide benefits, and most probiotic supplements contain only single strains, vastly oversimplifying the complexity of the microbiota. While taking a supplement for improved health is certainly an attractive prospect, those looking to aid their gut microbiota might be better served by consuming a healthy, varied diet. In the meantime, rigorous clinical trials are needed to substantiate potential health benefits and to confirm whether probiotics are elixirs or just empty promises.