Probiotics are often bacteria or other living organisms, like yeasts, that are usually found in foods or dietary supplements. Experts continue to study the side effects of probiotics.
Since there are many kinds of probiotics, talk to your doctor to find the right one for you. Researchers are still learning which probiotic should be used for which symptoms or health issues. Probiotics may supplement treatments, but do not often replace them.
According to the AGA probiotic guideline, below are some health issues for which probiotics may help:
When not to use probiotics:
Talk to your gastroenterologist to determine if there is clear benefit to the use of probiotics. The effects of probiotics are not species-specific, but strain- and combination-specific.
There is not as much research about these uses as there is about the use of probiotics to help your gut health, and studies have had mixed results. Talk to a doctor to see if probiotics could help your health issue.
How long should you take a probiotic?
If your doctor has prescribed a probiotic for you, be sure to take it just as you are told to. If not, the helpful effects of probiotics could last only a short time and might go away within a few weeks. Probiotics are generally thought to be safe if you have a normal immune system, though there is not much known about using them for a long time.
Probiotics have been around for many years. Now, there are so many to choose from it can be hard to figure out which are right for you. Scientists and doctors say more studies are needed to figure out which probiotics are helpful and which might be a waste of money.
In general, not all probiotics are the same, and they don’t all work the same way. Each group of bacteria has different species, and each species has different strains. This is important to remember, because different strains from the same species may have different impacts on different parts of your body. For example, consider the species E. coli and the strains that come from it: Nissle are probiotics and can help the body, while other strains (e.g., 0157:H7) are pathogens and can harm the body.
Keep in mind that probiotics are considered dietary supplements and are not FDA-regulated like medicines. They are made in different ways by different companies. How well a probiotic works may differ from brand to brand and even from batch to batch within the same brand.
Probiotics also vary in cost. Higher cost does not always mean higher quality or performance.
Side effects may vary, too. The most common are gas and bloating. These are usually mild and don’t last long. More serious side effects include allergic reactions, either to the probiotics themselves or to other ingredients in the products. In people with a weak immune system, they could possibly cause an infection.
Probiotics can be bought from your supermarket, pharmacy or health food store, as well as on the Internet. Not all claims made on labels are true, so talk to a health care professional for more advice.
Here are some tips to help you choose:
The best tip for choosing the right probiotic is to talk to your doctor.
Below is important information to help guide your conversation with your health care provider about probiotics based on AGA’s interpretation of the latest probiotics research:
Talking to your health care provider about probiotics