At a glance......
- 1 Types of Probiotics
- 2 Food Source of Probiotics
- 3 Mechanisms of Action of Probiotics
- 4 Dietary Supplements of Probiotics
- 5 Indications of Probiotics
- 6 Can Probiotics Be Harmful?
- 7 Dosage of Probiotics
Probiotics mean live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. These microorganisms, which consist mainly of bacteria but also include yeasts, are naturally present in fermented foods, may be added to other food products, and are available as dietary supplements. However, not all foods and dietary supplements labeled as probiotics on the market have proven health benefits.[rx]
Probiotics should not be confused with prebiotics, which is typically complex carbohydrates (such as inulin and other fructooligosaccharides) that microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract used as metabolic fuel [rx]. Commercial products containing both prebiotic sugars and probiotic organisms are often called synbiotics. In addition, products containing dead microorganisms and those made by microorganisms (such as proteins, polysaccharides, nucleotides, and peptides) are, by definition, not probiotics.
Probiotics may be defined as selected viable microorganisms that, following consumption in a food or feed, have the potential for improving the health or nutrition of man or animal. Bacteria in this group may be used to ferment food or are added to food as dietary supplements. Foods for human consumption containing these organisms are sometimes referred to as functional foods. A number of different bacterial species have been suggested as probiotics (Table 1). The major species that have been considered over the years, however, are Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifidobacterium species, and Bifidobacterium longum [rx].
Types of Probiotics
Many types of bacteria are classified as probiotics. They all have different benefits, but most come from two groups. Ask your doctor about which might best help you.
- Lactobacillus – This may be the most common probiotic. It’s the one you’ll find in yogurt and other fermented foods. Different strains can help with diarrhea and may help people who can’t digest lactose, the sugar in milk.
- Bifidobacterium – You can find it in some dairy products. It may help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some other conditions.
- Saccharomyces boulardii – is a yeast found in probiotics. It appears to help fight diarrhea and other digestive problems.
Food Source of Probiotics
- Ingredients – Lactobacillus casei (Lc-11), Lactobacillus acidophilus (La-14), Lactobacillus paracasei (LPC-37), Lactobacillus Salivarius (Ls-33), Lactobacillus Plantarum (Lp-115), Bifidobacterium lactis (Bl-04), Bifidobacterium bifidum (Bb-02), Bifidobacterium longum (Bl-05), Bifidobacterium breve, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus (Lb-87), Jerusalem Artichoke Root (Organic), Gum Arabic tree exudate from stem and branches (Organic), Fibergum Bio Chicory Root powder (Cichorium intybus) (Organic), Vegetable capsule (Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose and water), Maltodextrin (Rice), L-Leucine (natural)
- Probiotics that are naturally found in your intestines include – Saccharomyces boulardii (a yeast) and bacteria in the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families of microorganisms. (Outside of the body, Lactobacillus acidophilus is the probiotic that is found in some yogurts.)
- Foods that contain probiotics include – some juices and soy drinks; fermented and unfermented milk; buttermilk; some soft cheeses; miso; tempeh; kefir; kimchi; sauerkraut; many pickles; and yogurt (probably the most well-known food product that contains probiotics).
- Supplements – Dietary probiotic supplements — which are available in capsules, tablets, powders and liquid extracts — each contain a specific type of probiotic. These products are available at health food and natural food stores, vitamin shops, and other stores. As an example, one commonly used supplement is Acidophilus, which is available from several supplement manufacturers.
Fruit, vegetables, cereals, and other edible plants are sources of carbohydrates constituting potential prebiotics. The following may be mentioned as such potential sources:
- Green vegetables
- Legumes, as well as oats
- Barley, and wheat [rx].
Some artificially produced prebiotics are, among others
- Cyclodextrins, and
- Lactulose constitutes a significant part of produced oligosaccharides (as much as 40%).
- Fructans, such as inulin and oligofructose, are believed to be the most used and effective in relation to many species of probiotics [rx].
Probiotics contain three potent prebiotics
- Organic Jerusalem Artichoke Root – Loaded with inulin, a dietary fiber that probiotics devour to push out harmful molecules in your gut. Jerusalem artichoke root is one of the top inulin-rich foods. 76% of its fiber comes from inulin.
- Organic Fibregum Bio – A patented, GMO-free prebiotic that restores the tight spaces between the cells lining.
- Organic Chicory Root – The most inulin-rich food on earth! In conjunction with probiotics it Chicory Root has been shown to help support digestive health, reduce gas, bloating, and stomach discomfort.
Mechanisms of Action of Probiotics
The human gastrointestinal tract is colonized by many microorganisms, including bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. The activity and composition of these microorganisms (collectively known as the gut microbiota, microbiome, or intestinal microflora) can affect human health and disease.
Probiotics exert their effects usually in the gastrointestinal tract, where they may influence the intestinal microbiota. Probiotics can transiently colonize the human gut mucosa is highly individualized patterns, depending on the baseline microbiota, probiotic strain, and gastrointestinal tract region [rx].
Probiotics also exert health effects by nonspecific, species-specific, and strain-specific mechanisms [rx]. The nonspecific mechanisms vary widely among strains, species, or even genera of commonly used probiotic supplements. These mechanisms include inhibition of the growth of pathogenic microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract (by fostering colonization resistance, improving intestinal transit, or helping normalize a perturbed microbiota), production of bioactive metabolites (e.g., short-chain fatty acids), and reduction of luminal pH in the colon. Species-specific mechanisms can include vitamin synthesis, gut barrier reinforcement, bile salt metabolism, enzymatic activity, and toxin neutralization. Strain-specific mechanisms, which are rare and are used by only a few strains of a given species, including cytokine production, immunomodulation, and effects on the endocrine and nervous systems. Through all of these mechanisms, probiotics might have wide-ranging impacts on human health and disease.
Because the effects of probiotics can be specific to certain probiotic species and strains, recommendations for their use in the clinic or in research studies need to be species and strain-specific [rx,rx,rx]. Furthermore, pooling data from studies of different types of probiotics can result in misleading conclusions about their efficacy and safety.
Dietary Supplements of Probiotics
Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements (in capsules, powders, liquids, and other forms) containing a wide variety of strains and doses [rx]. These products often contain mixed cultures of live microorganisms rather than single strains. The effects of many commercial products containing probiotics have not been examined in research studies, and it is difficult for people not familiar with probiotic research to determine which products are backed by evidence. However, some organizations have systematically reviewed the available evidence and developed recommendations on specific probiotics—including appropriate product, dose, and formulation—to use for preventing or treating various health conditions [rx,rx].
Probiotics are measured in colony-forming units (CFU), which indicate the number of viable cells. Amounts may be written on product labels as, for example, 1 x 109 for 1 billion CFU or 1 x 1010 for 10 billion CFU. Many probiotic supplements contain 1 to 10 billion CFU per dose, but some products contain up to 50 billion CFU or more. However, higher CFU counts do not necessarily improve the product’s health effects.
Indications of Probiotics
As food products or dietary supplements, probiotics are under preliminary research to evaluate if they provide any effect on health.[rx][rx] In all cases proposed as health claims to the European Food Safety Authority, the scientific evidence remains insufficient to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between consumption of probiotic products and any health benefit.[rx][rx] There is no scientific basis for extrapolating an effect from a tested strain to an untested strain.[rx][rx] Improved health through gut flora modulation appears to be directly related to long-term dietary changes.[rx] According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Although some probiotics have shown promise in research studies, strong scientific evidence to support specific uses of probiotics for most health conditions is lacking.”[rx] Claims that some lactobacilli may contribute to weight gain in some humans[rx][rx] remain controversial.
- Allergies – No good evidence shows that probiotics are effective in preventing or treating allergies.[rx]
- Antibiotic-associated diarrhea – Antibiotics are a common treatment for children, with 11% to 40% of antibiotic-treated children developing diarrhea. Antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) results from an imbalance in the colonic microbiota caused by antibiotic therapy.[rx] These microbial community alterations result in changes in carbohydrate metabolism, with decreased short-chain fatty acid absorption and osmotic diarrhea as a result. A 2015 Cochrane review concluded that a protective effect of some probiotics existed for AAD in children.[rx] In adults, some probiotics showed a beneficial role in reducing the occurrence of AAD and treating Clostridium difficile disease.[rx]
- Blood pressure – As of 2017, only limited evidence indicated any direct link between high blood pressure and gut microbiota.[rx]
- Cholesterol – A 2002 meta-analysis that included five double-blind trials examining the short-term (2–8 weeks) effects of a yogurt with probiotic strains on serum cholesterol levels found little effect of 8.5 mg/dl (0.22 mmol/l) (4% decrease) in total cholesterol concentration, and a decrease of 7.7 mg/dl (0.2 mmol/l) (5% decrease) in serum LDL concentration.[rx]
- Eczema – Probiotics are commonly given to breast-feeding mothers and their young children to prevent eczema, but no good evidence shows they are effective for this purpose.[rx][rx]
- Helicobacter pylori – Some strains of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) may affect Helicobacter pylori infections (which may cause peptic ulcers) in adults when used in combination with standard medical treatments, but no standard in medical practice or regulatory approval exists for such treatment.[rx] The only peer-reviewed treatments for H. pylori to date all include various Antibiotic Regimes.[rx]
- Immune function and infections – Some strains of 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.[rx][rx]
- Inflammatory bowel disease – Probiotics are being studied for their potential to influence inflammatory bowel disease. Some evidence supports their use in conjunction with standard medications in treating ulcerative colitis and no evidence shows their efficacy in treating Crohn’s disease.
- Irritable bowel syndrome – Probiotics are under study for their potential to affect irritable bowel syndrome, although uncertainty remains around which type of probiotic works best, and around the size of possible effect.[rx][rx]
- Necrotizing enterocolitis – Several clinical studies provide evidence for the potential of probiotics to lower the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis and mortality in premature infants. One meta-analysis indicated that probiotics reduce these risks by more than 50% compared with controls.[rx]
- Recurrent abdominal pain – A 2017 review based on moderate to low-quality evidence suggests that probiotics may be helpful in relieving pain in the short term in children with recurrent abdominal pain, but the proper strain and dosage are not known.[rx]
- Urinary tract – Research has been promising for these friendly critters. Potential benefits of probiotics have been seen in the treatment or prevention of
- Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea
- Clostridium difficile Infection
- Diarrhea Caused by Cancer Treatment
- Diverticular Disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Traveler’s Diarrhea
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- H. pylori (the cause of ulcers)
- Vaginal infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Recurrence of bladder cancer
- Infection of the digestive tract caused by Clostridium difficile
- Pouchitis (a possible side effect of surgery that removes the colon)
- Eczema in children.
Conditions in Infants
- Infant Colic
- Necrotizing Enterocolitis
- Sepsis in Infants
- Dental Caries (Tooth Decay)
- Periodontal Diseases (Gum Disease)
Conditions Related to Allergy
- Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)
- Atopic Dermatitis
- Prevention of Allergies
- Hepatic Encephalopathy
- Upper Respiratory Infections
- Urinary Tract Infections
Can Probiotics Be Harmful?
- Probiotics have an extensive history of apparently safe use, particularly in healthy people. However, few studies have looked at the safety of probiotics in detail, so there’s a lack of solid information on the frequency and severity of side effects.
- The risk of harmful effects of probiotics is greater in people with severe illnesses or compromised immune systems. When probiotics are being considered for high-risk individuals, such as premature infants or seriously ill hospital patients, the potential risks of probiotics should be carefully weighed against their benefits.
- Possible harmful effects of probiotics include infections, production of harmful substances by the probiotic microorganisms, and transfer of antibiotic resistance genes from probiotic microorganisms to other microorganisms in the digestive tract.
- Some probiotic products have been reported to contain microorganisms other than those listed on the label. In some instances, these contaminants may pose serious health risks.
Are Probiotics Safe?
- Most probiotics are like what is already in a person’s digestive system. Some probiotics have been used for a very long time throughout history, such as in fermented foods and cultured milk products. These don’t appear to cause illness.
- But more study is needed on the safety of probiotics in young children, the elderly, and people who have weak immune systems. As with any natural health product, be aware that probiotic supplements are regulated as foods, not drugs. Tell your doctor about everything you are taking, including the specific bacteria in your probiotic supplement.
Dosage of Probiotics
- As a dietary supplement, take one (1) veggie probiotic capsule once daily. Because our probiotic uses delayed-release capsules, do not chew or crush. Our capsules help ensure the active probiotic strains reach your intestinal tract.