- The benefits of probiotics bacteria
- What Do Probiotics Do?
- Where Do You Find Probiotics?
- Should You Start Eating Probiotics?
- 10 Best Probiotics for Kids in 2020 | Safety.com®
- Probiotics: What is it, Benefits, Side Effects, Food & Types
- Where do beneficial probiotics (microbes) live in my body?
- Can I take or eat something to increase the good probiotics (microbes) in my body?
- Should You Supplement With Bifidobacterium?
- Probiotics 101: Everything you need to know
- What are probiotics and what do they do?
- Things to consider when selecting a probiotic supplement
- CFU: How much is enough?
- It is also worth pointing out that just because a product says it has 50 billion CFU does not mean you will actually receive and/or benefit from that amount.
- Does type of strain matter?
- How many strains should I look for?
- Are probiotics safe?
- Concluding thoughts
The benefits of probiotics bacteria
In a society of anti-bacterial warfare, who would have thought that anyone would tout the benefits of bacteria? Living microorganisms found in yogurt and other cultured foods may help improve your body's bacterial environment inside and out. They're called probiotics, a name that means “for life.”
More and more people are using probiotic products to treat or improve illnesses or to maintain overall well-being. In fact, a 2017 report estimated annual global sales of probiotic supplements at $3.7 billion in 2016, and that is expected to rise to $17.4 billion by 2027.
What Do Probiotics Do?
Our bodies are home to a mix of good and bad bacteria. They're pretty much everywhere — the mouth, gut, and skin. Probiotics may help
- improve immune function
- protect against hostile bacteria to prevent infection
- improve digestion and absorption of food and nutrients.
Under normal or “balanced” conditions, friendly bacteria in the gut outnumber the unfriendly ones. Probiotics can act as gut-beneficial bacteria that create a physical barrier against unfriendly bacteria.
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.
Probiotics may help breakdown protein and fat in the digestive tract — a valuable benefit to help infants, toddlers or patients who need to build strength throughout and after an illness.
Where Do You Find Probiotics?
Fermented or cultured dairy products are a major source of probiotics. Other sources of probiotics include
- soy beverages
- fermented milk.
The bacteria either occur naturally in these foods or have been added during preparation. Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements in capsule, tablet or powder-form.
Here are the most common strains of probiotics:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus casei
- Lactobacillus gasseri
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Enterococcus faecium
- Saccharomyces boulardii.
Bifidus regularis, a name created for marketing purposes by Dannon, is also known as Bifidobacterium animalis DN-173 010. This strain of probiotics is used exclusively in Dannon's popular Activia products, which Dannon claims promote regularity.
Keep in mind that in order for a yogurt to be considered probiotic, it must contain one of the strains listed above. All yogurts are required to be treated with the strains Lactobacillus bulgaricusand Streptococcus thermophilus.
Food marketers have found a new niche with probiotic-containing foods, which include
- Probiotic cereal
- granola bars
- soy milk
- cottage cheese
- sour cream
- infant formula.
However, their claims may be ly on preliminary scientific findings.
More research is needed to see whether probiotic bacterias' beneficial effects are the same when they're treated or added to food products. Dried probiotics may survive a trip through the intestines if prepared and stored properly. Heat often kills live active cultures.
Should You Start Eating Probiotics?
Russian microbiologist Elie Metchnikoff (1845-1916) was the first to associate the large amounts of fermented dairy products with the good health and longevity of Bulgarians back in 1907.
He proposed that the acid-producing organisms in fermented dairy products could prevent what he called “fouling” in the large intestine. He believed if eaten regularly, these foods could lead to a longer, healthier life.
One version of the Old Testament even attributes Abraham's long life — 175 years — to the “consumption of sour milk.” Fermented milk products may have also been used to treat illnesses of the digestive tract during Roman times.
The scientific community agrees that there are potential health benefits to eating foods with probiotics. However, more research is needed to solidify the claims. The best we can say right now is they won't hurt and may help.
Remember that dietary supplements are not tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 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, a registered dietitian, who is familiar with probiotics. Always tell your physician what you are doing that may affect your health.
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
10 Best Probiotics for Kids in 2020 | Safety.com®
Best Chewable Probiotic for Kids
- Dairy, sugar and gluten-free
- Chewable gummy with natural berry flavor
- Proven effective by pediatricians
Best Soft Melt Probiotic for Kids
- Made with Vitamin D for healthy bone development
- Sugar and preservative-free
- Vanilla-flavored melting cube for easy consumption
Best Vitamin Probiotic for Kids
- Includes vitamins A, C, D3, E, B6 and B12
- Fights bad bacteria and viruses with Zinc
- Naturally flavored chewable vitamin
- Chewable probiotics for kids are chewable powder tablets and have less sugar and artificial ingredients. Chewable probiotics are recommended for children 2 years or older.
- Gummies are the tasty probiotics for kids, similar to gummy snacks or candy. A common concern for gummy probiotics for kids is the amount of sugar and artificial flavors. Gummy probiotics are recommended for children 3 years or older.
- Some probiotics for kids are found to be more effective when swallowing instead of chewing. Small pearl- probiotic supplements are easier for kids to swallow for this reason. Pearl probiotic supplements are recommended for children 4 years or older.
- Probiotic melts for kids simply dissolve into your kid’s mouth candy and often come in the form of flavored cubes or sticks. Melting probiotics are recommended for children 3 years and older.
- Simply pour the dosage into a spoon or glass to consume. Liquid probiotic supplements also can be drops to insert into water or squeeze into your child’s mouth to swallow. Liquid probiotics are recommended for infants or babies up to 2-3 years old.
- Probiotics for kids can often be found in the daily diet. Most common probiotic foods include yogurt, cheese, pickles and buttermilk. Remember to always look for the number of live cultures or CFUs as some food options may not be as beneficial as probiotic supplements.
Probiotic supplements for kids range in ingredients and strains that could impact your child’s overall health. Before picking a probiotic for your child, there are a few key factors to consider.
- Ingredients – Each probiotic for kids includes different probiotic strains and ingredients, so be sure to research each for your child’s safety. Some probiotics for kids include dairy, gluten and other common allergens, and some include sugar and are made with artificial colors. You’ll want a probiotic supplement that’s sugar-free and without fillers to give your child the best healthy bacteria possible.
- Pediatrician recommendations – Before shopping, talk to your pediatrician about the best probiotic for your kids. You’ll want to keep a few factors in mind including your child’s diet, allergens and any digestive or immune system changes. You’ll also want to ask about probiotics that include prebiotics to stimulate good bacteria. While some probiotics may seem helpful, your pediatrician will be able to determine if probiotics are necessary for your child specifically.
- Number of CFUs – Probiotics are measured in colony-forming units (CFUs), or the number of bacteria bodies. According to the American Family Physician, kids should take 5 to 10 billion CFUs a day for a healthy immune and digestive system, and any good probiotic should have at least 1 billion CFUs per serving. Most gummy or tablet probiotics for kids have at least 3 to 5 billion per serving and can help to reach the recommended daily intake.
Showing 5 of 10 products
Showing 10 of 10 products
Every probiotic strain is different so before you start shopping for probiotics, think about what health problem you’re trying to solve for your child. Different probiotic strains help treat and prevent different health concerns. Here are a few of the most common to look for in probiotics for kids.
- Lactobacillus acidophilus – The Lactobacillus acidophilus strain is most commonly used to help with lactose intolerance and Crohn’s disease. It’s also commonly used to help with diarrhea, constipation, allergies and eczema for children.
- Bifidobacterium lactis – The Bifidobacterium lactis strain is known to help prevent the cold and flu. It’s also helpful to treat diarrhea and constipation.
- Saccharomyces boulardii – The Saccharomyces boulardii strain improves the overall digestive system and decreases the negative effects of gluten. It also helps fight allergies, eczema and colic for newborns.
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG– The Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG strain is most helpful to prevent and cure diarrhea, and treat intestinal infections for children.
- Probiotics for kids allow you to have a balanced digestive and immune system with plenty of good bacteria over time. Probiotics can help prevent and reduce risks of immune and digestive problems including diarrhea and upper respiratory tract infections.
- If you’re looking for ways to treat or cure your kid’s current problems, probiotics may help. For example, depending on your doctor’s recommendation, a regular yogurt snack with enough live cultures can help treat your child’s eczema without taking antibiotics or prescribed medication.
- Probiotics for kids have the power to help your child grow happy and healthy. Your kids will be able to digest certain foods easier with probiotics and the right amount of good bacteria. Probiotics also support your child’s growth and development for the gut, brain and metabolism.
Probiotics for kids are the best way to make sure your child has a balanced digestive and immune system. Regular dosage of probiotics helps prevent and reduce the risks of many health concerns that parents face. Remember to consult with your child’s pediatrician for the best probiotic option for your kids.
A probiotic is a microorganism that stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria for a balanced digestive and immune system. There are various probiotic strains for kids that actively treat and prevent common illnesses. Some probiotics for kids can treat diarrhea, eczema and prevent common colds.
There’s a common debate amongst parents as to whether or not probiotic supplements are helpful. Before buying probiotics for your kids, consult with your pediatrician to determine which probiotic strains your kids need most. Make sure you understand the benefits and side effects of each supplement before buying.
Kids should have anywhere between 5 to 10 live cultures or CFUs daily for a balanced system with plenty of good bacteria, and most probiotic supplements help kids reach this goal. To determine the right amount of probiotics for your child needs, consult with your pediatrician as CFUs can vary.
When first taking a probiotic supplement such as a chewable or gummy, there may be a few side effects such as gas, bloating or constipation. Remember to consult with your pediatrician for more side effects and the best probiotic for your kid to take.
Probiotics: What is it, Benefits, Side Effects, Food & Types
Probiotics are a combination of live beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts that naturally live in your body. Bacteria is usually viewed in a negative light as something that makes you sick.
However, you have two kinds of bacteria constantly in and on your body — good bacteria and bad bacteria. Probiotics are made up of good bacteria that helps keep your body healthy and working well.
This good bacteria helps you in many ways, including fighting off bad bacteria when you have too much of it, helping you feel better.
Probiotics are part of a larger picture concerning bacteria and your body — your microbiome. Think of a microbiome as a diverse community of organisms, such as a forest, that work together to keep your body healthy. This community is made up of things called microbes. You have trillions of microbes on and in your body. These microbes are a combination of:
- Fungi (including yeasts).
Everyone’s microbiome is unique. No two people have the same microbial cells — even twins are different.
For a microbe to be called a probiotic, it must have several characteristics. These include being able to:
- Be isolated from a human.
- Survive in your intestine after ingestion (being eaten).
- Have a proven benefit to you.
- Be safely consumed.
Where do beneficial probiotics (microbes) live in my body?
Though the most common place linked to beneficial microbes is your gut (mostly large intestines), you have several locations in and on your body that host good microbes. These locations are in contact with the “outside world” and include your:
- Urinary tract.
The main job of probiotics, or good bacteria, is to maintain a healthy balance in your body. Think of it as keeping your body in neutral. When you are sick, bad bacteria enters your body and increases in number. This knocks your body balance. Good bacteria works to fight off the bad bacteria and restore the balance within your body, making you feel better.
Good bacteria keeps you healthy by supporting your immune function and controlling inflammation. Certain types of good bacteria can also:
- Help your body digest food.
- Keep bad bacteria from getting control and making you sick.
- Create vitamins.
- Help support the cells that line your gut to prevent bad bacteria that you may have consumed (through food or drinks) from entering your blood.
- Breakdown and absorb medications.
This balancing act is naturally happening in your body all of the time. You don’t actually need to take probiotic supplements to make it happen. Good bacteria is just a natural part of your body. Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fiber every day helps to keep the number of good bacteria at proper levels.
Though there are many types of bacteria that can be considered probiotics, there are two specific types of bacteria that are common probiotics found in stores. These include:
Probiotics are also made up of good yeast. The most common type of yeast found in probiotics is:
There is currently a large amount of research happening around the idea of what probiotics can do for your body. Even though there are a lot of possibly positive outcomes, researchers are still working to find definitive answers about how probiotics can help with various conditions.
However, there are some medical conditions where probiotics may help. This can vary between people meaning that what works for one person may not work for another. These can also vary the certain probiotic that is taken.
Some of the conditions that might be helped by increasing the amount of probiotics in your body (through food or supplements) include:
Can I take or eat something to increase the good probiotics (microbes) in my body?
You can increase the amount of good microbes in your body through foods, drinks and supplements. You may already have certain foods in your daily diet that contain probiotics.
Fermented foods in particular (yogurt and pickles, for example) are home to a host of good bacteria that benefit your body.
There are also fermented drinks kombucha (fermented tea) or kefir (fermented dairy drink) that introduce extra probiotics into your diet.
Apart from food, you can add probiotics to your diet through dietary supplements. These aren’t drugs, so they do not need to be approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). It’s important that you always talk to your healthcare provider before starting any kind of supplement or major change to your diet.
You can absolutely increase beneficial microbes in your body from the foods you eat. Certain foods have probiotics (good bacteria) in them and can benefit the health of your microbiome.
These foods can be introduced into your diet at any point of the day. You may even be regularly eating them now and not realize that they contain probiotics. You will want to check the food label for “live and active cultures.” A few suggestions for just some of the probiotic-rich foods you can add to your diet and some times to try them include:
For breakfast, try:
- Sourdough bread.
For lunch, try:
- Cottage cheese.
For a snack, try:
For dinner, try:
- Fermented sauerkraut.
- Miso soup.
Make sure you are still creating a balanced and healthy meal each time you sit down to eat. Though adding probiotic-rich foods into your diet won’t hurt you, balance is still key. Adding too much of just one food prevents your body from reaping the benefits of other food groups.
There are several ways you can take a probiotic supplement. They come in a variety of forms, including in:
- Capsules or pills.
Probiotic supplements may be combined with a prebiotic. Prebiotics are complex carbohydrates that feed the microorganisms in your gut. Basically, prebiotics are the “food source” for the good bacteria. They help feed the good bacteria and keep it healthy. Prebiotics include insulin, pectin and resistant starches.
When you have a supplement that combines a probiotic and prebiotic, it’s called a synbiotic.
Researchers are currently unsure how effective probiotic supplements are for treating conditions. There’s constant research on the topic. While many research studies have had positive results on the impact of probiotic supplements, more research is still needed.
It’s also important to keep in mind that un 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.
Always talk with your healthcare provider (or pediatrician) before taking a supplement or giving one to your child. Supplements might interfere with medicines you may be taking. If you are pregnant or breast feeding, check with your provider before taking any supplement.
Several probiotic strains are very fragile and need to be protected from heat, oxygen, light and humidity. The probiotics might start to break down or die if they are exposed to these elements. Because of this, you may need to refrigerate your probiotics or store it in a particular place.
Refrigerating certain probiotic strains ensures that they’re still viable when you go to use them and will still provide the full benefit of the probiotic. Always read the labels on any probiotic product you purchase to make sure you store it correctly and use it within the expiration date.
Because microbes used as probiotics already exist naturally in your body, probiotic foods and supplements are generally considered safe. They may trigger allergic reactions, and may also cause mild stomach upset, diarrhea, or flatulence (passing gas) and bloating for the first few days after starting to take them.
There are certain people who need to use caution when using probiotic supplements. There is a risk of infection in some people. These people include those who have:
- A weakened immune system (those going through chemotherapy for example).
- A critical illness.
- Recently had surgery.
Caution should also be used when giving probiotics to very sick infants.
Always talk to your healthcare provider before starting a probiotic supplement.
For most healthy people, probiotics don’t cause any harm. They are generally considered safe and are often “given a try” to see if they could help with various medical conditions. There’s a lot of research around the topic of probiotics.
Scientists are trying to determine when and how they should be used, as well as how effective they are. Talk to your healthcare provider before starting a probiotic supplement because there are some cases where you shouldn’t be taking them.
It’s always best to have the conversation first before starting a new supplement.
Probiotics are generally considered safe. However, there are some risks linked to the supplements. These risks are increased if you have a medical condition that weakens your immune system, have recently had surgery or have other serious medical conditions.
Unly, but possible, risks can include:
- Developing an infection.
- Developing a resistance to antibiotics.
- Developing harmful byproducts from the probiotic supplement.
Introducing probiotics into your child’s diet through food is a safe way to give them probiotics. Foods yogurt are often a part of a balanced diet and can add in that good bacteria without much risk.
It’s best to talk to your child’s healthcare provider (pediatrician) before giving your child a supplement.
There are commercially available probiotic supplements specifically designed for infants and children.
Antibiotic medications are often needed to fight an infection. However, while antibiotics are killing the bad bacteria, they are also knocking out the good bacteria in your body. Some people develop conditions diarrhea after taking an antibiotic.
In other people, this may allow for really bad bacteria to take over and populate the gut, such as with C. diff. Some research has shown a positive connection between taking probiotics after an antibiotic and relief from diarrhea.
This hasn’t been proven yet and doesn’t work for everyone.
The thought behind adding probiotics back into your body after taking an antibiotic is that it can repopulate the good bacteria that was destroyed by the antibiotics and re-boot your system.
The extra good bacteria helps repopulate your gut and fight off any remaining bad bacteria.
Many people feel that adding in probiotics won’t hurt, might help you feel better a little faster and prevent diarrhea.
If you are interested in adding probiotics to your diet, it’s worth a conversation with your healthcare provider. Many providers may suggest giving them a try to see if they help with your general health.
It is important to remember that not all probiotics behave the same way and have the same effects. Each has their own individual benefits. They generally don’t cause harm.
One easy way to start can be by simply introducing probiotic-rich foods into your diet, yogurt.
Before you start any supplements, make sure you talk to your healthcare provider. Your provider may be able to point you in the right direction, helping you figure out the best probiotic to take, how much to take and when to take it. A conversation is always worth the time when it concerns your health.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/09/2020.
Get useful, helpful and relevant health + wellness information enews
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Should You Supplement With Bifidobacterium?
Bifidobacterium, a species of “good bacteria,” is the first bacteria to colonize the intestinal tract in infants as they pass through the birth canal. These bacteria, also known as probiotics, are thought to help with digestion.
Within the past twenty years, research regarding the benefits of good bacteria such as Bifidobacterium has exploded. Currently, research has found Bifidobacterium to play a role in boosting overall immunity, reducing and treating gastrointestinal infections, as well as improving conditions such as diarrhea, constipation, and eczema.
- B. Bifidum
- B. Breve
- B. Infantis
- B. lactic
- B. Longum
- Bifidobacterium longum
Bifidobacterium offers a large range of health benefits. In fact, the presence and abundance of it have been indicated as a marker for health. Dr. Sarah Rahal, MD, board-certified pediatric neurologist and integrative medicine practitioner says, “Bifidobacterium confer a host of benefits to the health of the gut, brain, and metabolic and immune systems.”
A number of studies suggest that the health of the gut from as early as infancy can play a role in preventing health-related conditions and risk factors later in life.
Research has linked an alteration of the gut bacteria (or microbiome) to a plethora of diseases, including autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease and type 1 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, allergies, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease.
A wide range of factors can contribute to the health of the gut. Healthy bacteria is one of these contributing factors that has been established to support the health of the gut, improve immune function, and perhaps decrease the risk of certain diseases.
Researchers believe that the protective ability of Bifidobacteria against early-life disease is to work through specific immune stimulation and acidification of the intestinal environment through the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and lactate.
Probiotics are often used in conjunction with antibiotics to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal infections and prevent the death of good bacteria. In addition, some studies suggest that treatment with a probiotic that contains Bifidobacterium may help to treat infections, Clostridium difficile, by decreasing diarrhea.
Some animal studies have shown that, when taken with a prebiotic, certain strains of Bifidobacterium, such as B. animalis, B. longum, and B. breve, can decrease the risk of recurrent colon cancer.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is often characterized by abdominal pain or discomfort and is associated with changes in stool frequency and/or consistency. It can result in diarrhea and/or constipation. The Clinical Practice Guideline about IBS concluded that probiotics could improve the global symptoms of IBS patients some randomized clinical control trials.
The American Academy of Family Physicians states that “probiotics may reduce the incidence of antibiotic-related diarrhea, the duration and severity of all-cause infectious diarrhea, and the severity of pain and bloating in patients with IBS.” The benefits seem to depend on the type being used, the formulation, and the amount given.
Many studies have shown that using probiotics containing strains of Bifidobacterium given to both mother during gestation and lactation, as well as to infants, can prevent eczema in infants and children.
When it comes to treating eczema, the beneficial use of probiotics is mixed, and more research is needed to determine the benefits.
Before giving your child any supplement, you should always consult with your physician first.
Consuming bifidobacterial foods products, otherwise referred to as functional foods, may improve the bioavailability of certain minerals, such as calcium, zinc, and iron.
People who have underlying health conditions, particularly those that are immune-compromised or have digestive disorders, may be more sensitive to probiotics (increasing the risk of infection in some), and therefore should always discuss with their medical team before starting. Dr. Rahal says, “In general, for many healthy individuals, it is possible to experience transient GI symptoms gas, constipation, or diarrhea, as one’s body adjusts to the change in bacterial flora.”
Probiotics are labeled the colony-forming units (CFUs). This indicates how dense or potent the live bacteria are. The higher number of CFUs in a probiotic can mean it has a higher impact on the growth of good bacteria within your gut flora.
Some companies will suggest that their probiotic is superior to others the number of CFUs, but Dr. Rahal says, “Specific dosages in terms of CFUs are less well-studied and probably less important. Instead, it’s more important to find a high-quality product that has been properly processed and stored, so that you have a product with a large proportion of viable, live bacteria.”
Products that have not been prepared and stored properly may leave you with dead bacteria which defeats the purpose of taking a probiotic and can be a waste of money. To prevent this from happening, some companies encapsulate their products.
In order for a probiotic to be effective, it must fulfill several conditions:
- It must not be toxic or pathogenic.
- It must retain characteristics that have been proven beneficial to the host (the person who is using it).
- It must contain a sufficiently large number of viable microorganisms per unit.
- It must be capable of growing and surviving the manufacturing process as well as transit through the stomach and small intestine.
- It must remain alive (viable) during storage and use.
If you do decide to start supplementing, make sure to start slowly and increase gradually. There is a wide range of dosages and starting too high may cause some stomach discomfort. Ask your physician or dietitian how to get started.
It’s always best to get a healthy dose of probiotics by consuming whole foods rich in good bacteria. “Fermented foods and beverages such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, yogurt, and cultured vegetables are an excellent source of live and active probiotics,” says Dr. Rahal. Aim to eat a variety of these foods daily.
If you are looking to supplement, keep in mind that there are many different types of probiotic strains and that each type does something slightly different.
When looking for a Bifidobacterium specific probiotic, look for the full probiotic name which includes the genus, species, and the strain. For example, in “B. adolescentis 22L,” the “B.
” stands for Bifidobacterium which is the genus. The species is adolescentis, and the strain is 22L.
Keep in mind that it is important to choose the right type of live bacteria in the right proportions. And it is most important to choose a high-quality probiotic made from a reputable source.
Some physicians have relationships with laboratories so that they can provide reliable, high-quality supplements to their patients who need them. If you are not sure what type of probiotic to purchase and how much to take, discuss it with your medical team.
Take special care with freeze-dried probiotic supplements. They can be used, however, “the concern is that they degrade quickly upon moisture exposure and so may not be shelf-stable for very long, despite advertisement,” says Dr. Rahal.
When looking for whole foods that contain Bifidobacterium, choose organic, grass-fed yogurts when possible. You can also try kombucha (fermented tea) but watch your serving size as many varieties can contain a good amount of sugar.
Kefir, a fermented dairy product, which a cross between yogurt and milk, can be a good breakfast option.
Other whole foods include fermented vegetables sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, as well as sour cream, buttermilk, miso, and apple cider vinegar.
Probiotics are sensitive to light, heat, and moisture. A good quality probiotic should be stored in a dark, glass bottle to prevent the bacteria from dying. Most types of probiotics need to be refrigerated. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for optimal storage.
When choosing a probiotic supplement, many people find they have questions, especially regarding probiotics versus prebiotics, and if probiotics are appropriate for children.
Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that serve as food for the probiotics. Dr. Rahal says, “Once the gut is colonized with healthy flora (probiotics), the prebiotics will keep those species healthy and reproducing.”
Some examples of foods that contain prebiotics include cereals, asparagus, berries, mushrooms, bananas, garlic, inulin (chicory root fiber), artichokes, watermelon, grapefruit, barley, oats, seaweed, legumes, and onions.
Some supplements are referred to as “symbiotic,” meaning that they supply both prebiotics and probiotics. Some experts would argue that taking a probiotic is not helpful unless you also consume prebiotics.
Children can eat foods that contain probiotics, such as yogurt, sour cream, kefir, miso, and some cheeses. If you are thinking about supplementing, Dr.
Rahal advises “against adding any supplement to a child’s regimen without thought and planning as to why it is being done, the health objective in mind, and the time course planned.
And doing so in coordination with your medical practitioner.”
If you are thinking about supplementing with a Bifidobacterium probiotic, consult with a physician as to how much and which type you should be ingesting.
Keep in mind that different strains are useful for different types of ailments and that the most important factor is the quality of the bacteria and not necessarily how much.
If you are pregnant, nursing, or have a history of illness, consult your physician before starting any supplement.
Probiotics 101: Everything you need to know
The human body plays host to roughly 40 trillion bacterial cells and other microscopic organisms—otherwise known as the human microbiome.
1 Fortunately, most of these microorganisms do not cause disease, and are actually quite useful! Different populations of these microbes occupy our skin, nose, mouth, and urogenital tract; however, the population that plays the most significant role in our overall health and wellness is the one living in our gastrointestinal tract, or gut.2
Humans rely on the population of non-pathogenic microbes inhabiting the gut (also known as the gut microbiota) to perform important human functions that we cannot perform ourselves.3 For example, intestinal microbes help:
- synthesize small amounts of essential vitamins,
- digest dietary fiber and convert it into nutrients for colon cells,
- protect against foreign pathogens,
- promote the maturation of immune cells,
- teach the immune system how to recognize and attack harmful bacteria.3
So essential are these microbes and their genetic material—known collectively as the gut microbiome—that scientists often refer to them as the “forgotten organ” or “second brain”.4
When populated by a large and diverse range of beneficial intestinal microbes, the gut microbiome is in balance, and able to function optimally.5 Conversely, when the diversity and/or abundance of intestinal microbes is low, the gut microbiome is in a state of dysbiosis, and susceptible to a number of suboptimal health outcomes.6
Unfortunately, common factors including stress, aging, poor diet, environmental toxins, and use of antibiotics can result in the loss of microbial abundance and diversity, putting you at risk for dysbiosis.
7–10 Although the best way to prevent or improve symptoms of dysbiosis is to avoid risk factors such as a poor diet and stress, there are certain factors (such as aging or infection) that you can’t avoid.
This is where probiotics may be able to help.
What are probiotics and what do they do?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that, when consumed in adequate amounts, provide benefits for immune and digestive health.11. They can be found in natural sources, such as fermented and cultured foods (e.g.
, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, kimchi, sauerkraut), or supplemental forms such as liquids, powders and capsules.
Although many different types of bacteria can be classified as probiotics, the majority fall into one of two broad species: lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.
Probiotics may help support a healthy microbiome through their ability to:
- increase the number of healthy microbes in the gut,12
- stimulate immune functions and responses,12
- enhance the integrity of the mucosal barrier,13
- compete with pathogenic bacteria for nutrients,12
- block adhesion sites for pathogenic bacteria,14 and
- secrete anti-bacterial molecules (e.g., hydrogen peroxide, organic acids).15
In light of their ability to repopulate the gut with friendly bacteria and inhibit the colonization of bad bacteria, probiotics are often recommended for people following a course of antibiotics—which unfortunately wipe out the good bacteria with the bad.16
Things to consider when selecting a probiotic supplement
For those of you considering whether and how to add probiotics to your daily routine, it bears mentioning that a healthy diet featuring probiotic-rich foods is generally preferable to supplements.
For this reason, we encourage those of you interested in taking a probiotic supplement to first look at your diet, and evaluate whether modifications can be made there to enhance gut health.
(For more information, see our article “Is it better to eat probiotic foods or take a probiotic supplement?”)
Although it’s tempting to think of all probiotics as one in the same, the efficacy of different probiotic foods and supplements can vary considerably. In the following sections, we discuss some common questions and considerations when deciding on a probiotic. While most of these considerations apply specifically to probiotic supplements, considerations for food sources can be found here.
CFU: How much is enough?
CFU stands for colony forming units, and is used to estimate the number of bacterial or fungal cells capable of dividing and forming colonies in a sample.
Basically, the greater the number of viable cells in the sample, the higher the CFU.
Despite the fact that most of the clinical research on probiotics has been performed using doses of 10-20 billion CFU per day, a number of companies now offer high-dose probiotics featuring CFUs of 50, 75, and even 100+ billion.17,18
Although CFUs this high may be advisable for specific conditions (as indicated by a physician), most people do not need doses this high, and would ly benefit from a CFU mimicking the amount of bacteria consumed in a diverse and healthy diet.19 All things considered, a daily dose of 10-15 billion CFU is recommended for individuals seeking daily immune and digestive support.
It is also worth pointing out that just because a product says it has 50 billion CFU does not mean you will actually receive and/or benefit from that amount.
In order for probiotic bacteria to take effect, they must be able to survive passage through the gastrointestinal tract and adhere to the mucus surrounding the intestinal lining.
However, because these microorganisms are sensitive to light, temperature, moisture, stomach acids, and bile—maintaining their viability long enough to successfully colonize the gut can be extremely difficult.20
Thus, in addition to CFU, you should pay attention to the science behind the product (i.e., whether the strains are research-backed for stability and efficacy) and how the probiotics are being protected from degradation (e.g., form of delivery, packaging).
Does type of strain matter?
Just no two Homo sapiens are exactly a, no two strains from the same bacterial species are exactly a. Consequently, the probiotic capacities and mechanisms of individual strains are subject to variability.
For example, while some strains may be especially resistant to acid and bile, others may boast impressive adhesion capabilities.
And importantly, research finds that certain strains are effective for managing specific health conditions, and that specific strain combinations can provide synergistic benefits beyond the effects of each probiotic alone.21
Basically, your ability to benefit from a probiotic supplement will depend on the survivability and probiotic mechanisms of the strains it contains. This means that simply picking the probiotic with the highest CFU or the best price point isn’t the best approach. Instead, look for a probiotic containing strains with evidence-based benefits for the outcome you are seeking.
Regardless of your purpose for taking probiotics—daily support, help with specific gastrointestinal symptoms, help with a specific health condition—speaking with a health professional about strains that have proven efficacious in human clinical trials is highly recommended.21
The following table provides the names of evidence-based probiotic species and species combination—and importantly, the level of scientific evidence supporting their benefits for various bodily systems.
|Level of Evidence||Supports Health of||Probiotic Combinations||Probiotic Species|
|High||Gastrointestinal tract during and/or after antibiotics22–24||Bifidobacterium species Lactobacillus species |
|High||Stomach and small intestine25–29||Lactobacillus species Bifidobacterium speciesStreptococcus species Saccharomyces speciesBacillus species Enterococcus species||Lactobacillus acidophilus|
|High||Colon30–32||Bifidobacterium species Lactobacillus species Streptococcus species |
|Medium||Immune system33,34||Bifidobacterium species Lactobacillus species |
|Lactobacillus paracasei |
|Medium||Glucose metabolism35–39||Bifidobacterium species |
|Lactobacillus casei |
|Low||Lipid (Fat) metabolism40,41||Lactobacillus acidophilus|
|Low||Blood vessels42||Lactobacillus species|
|Low||Excessive crying in infants43||Lactobacillus reuteri|
How many strains should I look for?
People interested in probiotics often ask how many strains a probiotic should have. Is single-strain the best? Is 4 or 5 strains ideal? Or should you just go all in with the 32-strain mega-probiotic? The short answer to these questions is, “we don’t really know”.
Theoretically speaking, the advantage to a multi-strain blend is that it has the potential to introduce a broader range of probiotic effects and mechanisms than a probiotic with fewer strains.
44However, that isn’t always the case, and for some conditions, a single-strain may actually be more effective.45
Instead of picking the supplement with the most strains, look for a supplement offering research-backed strains and strain combinations. After all, a supplement with 30 different strains and 50 billion CFU isn’t going to do you much good if its full of non-viable bacteria that can’t colonize the gut, and offers few probiotic mechanisms.
Are probiotics safe?
Probiotics are “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA.46 Some studies report minor gastrointestinal side effects, including loose stools, flatulence, and bloating; however, these symptoms are usually mild and temporary.47 These side effects are also less ly to occur when probiotics are taken with food.
Although probiotics are generally safe, there is an inherent risk of infection and sepsis associated with introducing bacteria into the body.
For this reason, individuals with severely compromised immune systems, preterm infants, and individuals using intravenous medical devices should refrain from taking probiotics, unless under the care of a health professional.
48,49 Regardless of your health status, speaking with your doctor before starting a probiotic regimen is highly recommended.
As advancements in microbial research continue to expand our understanding of the gut microbiota’s role in human health, one thing has become increasingly clear—these tiny microbes impact our health and physiology in a big way.
So do yourself a favor and support microbial health in return.
Ways to support a healthy microbiome include: eating a balanced and probiotic-rich diet, nourishing probiotic bacteria with prebiotics, limiting sugar consumption, avoiding antibiotics when possible, and taking a probiotic supplement with research-backed strains and CFU.