This summary is intended for general informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of purity, strength, or safety of the products. As a result, effects may vary. You should read product labels. In addition, if you are taking medications, herbs, or other supplements you should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before taking a supplement as supplements may interact with other medications, herbs, and nutritional products. If you have a medical condition, including if you are pregnant or nursing, you should speak to your physician before taking a supplement. Consult a healthcare provider if you experience side effects.
“Since brain fog, weight gain, and skin problems can stem from poor gut health, it was important for me to have a probiotic I can recommend to my patients,” says Will Cole, DC, a functional medicine practitioner in Pittsburgh. “I developed this probiotic with 100 billion CFUs per capsule and four strains of beneficial bacteria, including the extensively studied HN019 strain of B. lactis.” Bowel issues and brain fog are two of the fibromyalgia symptoms you might be ignoring.
Probiotics may produce their effects with viable as well as nonviable bacteria, suggesting that metabolic or secreted factors or structural or cellular components may mediate their immunomodulatory activities [Borchers et al. 2009]. Furthermore, several experiments indicate that the ability to induce secretion of various cytokines is mediated by and large by cell wall components [Borchers et al. 2009].
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.”
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) calls probiotics “live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut.” The NCCIH makes the point that we often think of bacteria as harmful “germs” — however, probiotic bacteria actually helps the body function properly.
Though rates of serious lung issues have been dropping among men in the Western world, they're still a major concern, with over three million men affected by ongoing respiratory conditions.1 While steroids and antibiotics are the go-to treatments for these conditions, they often fail to address the underlying issue, and they destroy bacteria indiscriminately, creating conditions in which undesirable bacteria can thrive.
When seeking out the best probiotic for you, consider your overall health, dietary needs, antibiotic use, GI challenges, and similar concerns. Then, review our list of the ten best probiotic supplements, which offer everything from raw probiotics, which must be refrigerated, to shelf-stable, slow-release probiotics that concentrate fewer CFUs in tiny, once-daily capsules.
Probiotics health benefits includes supporting digestion, preventing and treating diarrhea, supporting oral health, improving a few mental health conditions, guaranteeing a healthy heart, relieving allergies and eczema, boosting immunity, taking care of belly fat, supporting vaginal health, treating irritable bowl syndrome, reducing blood pressure levels, preventing cancer, and alleviating respiratory disorder.
"Probiotics applied topically sit on the skin's surface and prevent the skin cells from seeing the bad bacteria and parasites that can cause this immune system response," confirms Engelman. "This is known as 'bacterial interference,' as probiotics protect the skin and interfere with the ability of bad bugs like bacteria and parasites to provoke an immune reaction.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
“We know that there’s a symbiotic type of relationship between gut bacteria and their hosts—that’s us. Certain chemicals that the gut bacteria produce can alter blood pressure. We also know that when mice or rats or people have high blood pressure, the bacteria in their guts are different. Those things each reveal a piece of the puzzle. But we don’t have enough pieces to put the entire puzzle together yet,” says Pluznick.
As for probiotics, fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, and yogurt are naturally rich sources of live and active cultures (as well as digestive enzymes, which may be equally important for normal digestion). “Humans have eaten lots of different kinds of fermented foods throughout our history, for many thousands of years,” says Dr. Rawls. “That’s where the original idea for probiotic supplements came from.”
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 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.
For the generally healthy person, you can make a very good case to trust your own body to select and grow the best bacteria that are already in everyone. The foods you eat greatly influence your bacterial mix. Although probiotics offer many positive health benefits, there is no guarantee that they can make the trip from your mouth to your lower gut intact. Although adding more prebiotic fiber to your diet cannot guarantee safe passage of probiotics, it can influence the healthy bacteria that already live in your system. If probiotics help you, eating prebiotic foods or supplements will cause those healthy bacteria to flourish.
Made from fermented cabbage and other vegetables, sauerkraut is not diverse in probiotics but is high in organic acids (what gives food its sour taste) that support the growth of good bacteria. Sauerkraut is extremely popular in Germany today. It is high in vitamin C and digestive enzymes. It’s also a good source of natural lactic acid bacteria, such as lactobacillus.
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.
If you are considering taking a probiotic supplement or giving one to your child, be sure to involve your doctor in the decision. While probiotics are naturally found in the body, they may not be safe for individuals with certain illnesses and diseases. Only your doctor or your child's pediatrician can advise you as to whether or not probiotics are ideal for helping you promote digestive health.
^ Jump up to: a b c d e Goldenberg, Joshua Z.; Lytvyn, Lyubov; Steurich, Justin; Parkin, Patricia; Mahant, Sanjay; Johnston, Bradley C. (2015-12-22). "Probiotics for the prevention of pediatric antibiotic-associated diarrhea". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (12): CD004827. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004827.pub4. ISSN 1469-493X. PMC 3374737. PMID 26695080.
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.
Because of the way that beneficial probiotic bacteria affects the digestive system, some researchers speculate that taking probiotic supplements could help to address symptoms of certain medical conditions. A clinical review published in "Canadian Family Physician" concluded that there was promising evidence that probiotics could be beneficial for people with a digestive disease called inflammatory colitis. They may also help to improve symptoms of vaginal infections. However, the review stated that more research was needed to prove the benefits of good bacteria for these conditions. Research is also investigating the possible benefits for those with irritable bowel syndrome. Some scientists also speculate that probiotics could be beneficial for travel-related diarrhea and other types of stomach upset. These proposed uses are currently under investigation.
Like adults, children also require the proper balance of flora in the stomach to remain in good health. A major health care study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that probiotic supplements could be beneficial for children under certain circumstances. More research is needed. However, the study indicates that children who take probiotics at the first signs of viral diarrhea exhibit symptoms for shorter periods of time than those who do not. The study also found positive evidence that probiotics reduce the chances of diarrhea caused by antibiotic use in kids. More research is required to confirm these results. However, many pediatricians already recommend probiotics to parents based on the data.
The second piece of research investigated whether patients should take probiotics to help the recovery of the natural gut bacteria after treatment with antibiotics. The evidence supporting this is not entirely clear and the FDA does not officially recommend it, but there are some reputable sources which discuss their use, such as this blog from Harvard Medical School. Research has suggested that up to 60% of healthcare professionals in the U.S. recommend taking probiotics, but is this justified and could it even be harmful?
Many wondered whether probiotics could be therapeutic in other gastrointestinal disorders. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Probiotics didn’t show a significant benefit for chronic diarrhea. Three reviews looked at how probiotics might improve Crohn’s disease, and none could find sufficient evidence to recommend their use. Four more reviews looked at ulcerative colitis, and similarly declared that we don’t have the data to show that they work. The same was true for the treatment of liver disease.
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Probiotics have been shown to improve symptoms in IBS, traveller’s diarrhoea and the duration of antibiotic associated diarrhoea. There is emerging evidence that probiotics may improve cholesterol levels in people with type II diabetes, and could play a role in benefitting cold or flu outcomes during stressful periods. However, these are very small studies and more research is needed before robust recommendations can be made.
^ 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.
Recently Brenner and colleagues analyzed 16 RCTs in IBS patients who were defined either by Rome II or Manning Criteria and who received either single or a combination probiotics versus placebo [Brenner et al. 2009]. Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 demonstrated efficacy in two appropriately designed RCTs. Both global as well as individual IBS symptoms (abdominal pain, bloating, incomplete evacuation, intestinal gas, straining, and bowel function) were significantly improved without evidence to suggest an increase in adverse events. No other probiotic, including isolated Lactobacillus species, showed significant improvement in IBS symptoms in appropriately designed RCTs [Brenner et al. 2009].
Microbes are tiny organisms (bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi) -- so tiny that millions can fit into the eye of a needle -- that are so powerful that an imbalance in the body is related to numerous diseases. These microorganisms can be found in almost every part of the human body, living on the skin, in the nose, and in the gut. There are trillions of these microorganisms in our bodies. They outnumber human cells by 10 to one, but due to their small size, they only make up 1%-3% of a body's total mass.
Further, there’s still a lot we don’t know. A recent study published in Cell compared how the microbiome of the gut reconstituted itself after antibiotic treatment with and without probiotic administration. The researchers found that probiotics (which might have improved diarrhea symptoms) led to a significant delay in microbiome reconstitution, if it occurred at all. And — again — this study was with purified strains of bacteria, which is not what you’re getting in probiotic-containing food.