~~~ Probiotics deliver Cellular Bio-Availability. Vitamins Protocol provide Healing Nutrients. Synergy for Cure. Heal Chronic Conditions. ~~~
The probiotic answer to the business of beneficial bacteria seems to be booming, with the word "probiotics" showing up on labels of everything from supplements to yogurt to granola bars.
Probiotics are "friendly bacteria" that are similar to organisms that occur naturally in the digestive tract. Certain strains or types of probiotics have been linked to all sorts of health benefits, from helping with irritable bowel syndrome and traveler’s diarrhea to boosting the immune system. They're sometimes used with antibiotics to combat the diarrhea that may result from taking antibiotics.
As the supermarket invasion of probiotic products kicks into high gear, you may have some questions about how to buy and use them. Here are some answers to five common questions about probiotics and products that contain them.
1. Does the FDA Regulate the Term "Probiotics"?
In 2001, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations – not the FDA -- defined "probiotics" as "live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host."
So far, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved no specific health claims for probiotics. Further, the amounts of probiotics that studies have found to be beneficial vary from strain to strain and condition to condition.
In 2007, the FDA enacted regulations requiring dietary supplements to be produced in a quality manner, to be free of contaminants or impurities, and to be accurately labeled. Many probiotic researchers are hoping these regulations will improve the quality of probiotic supplements in the United States
2. Which Strains of Probiotics Should I Look For?
Studies have shown different strains of probiotics to provide different benefits and probiotic answer to specific medical conditions. If you're looking for dietary support for the immune system, probiotic microbiology consultant Mary Ellen Sanders, MS, PhD, suggests looking out for:
And if you want to provide dietary support for diarrhea associated with antibiotic use, Sanders suggests looking for:
3. What Should I Look for on the Label of a Food Containing Probiotics?
The first probiotic answer you want to look for is the full probiotic name, which includes the genus, species, and then the strain. Many products containing probiotics list only the genus and species on the package, such as "bifidobacterium lactis" in Kraft’s LiveActive Cheddar Cheese Sticks.
You might want to check out the web site of the company that sells the product. It may tell you more about:
4. Are probiotic supplements worthwhile?
Sanders believes that probiotics can be effective when consumed either in food or pill form.
"Food sources of probiotics have the advantage in that they offer good nutrition along with the probiotic bacteria," she says. Still, supplements can be more convenient for some people and may provide higher levels of probiotic, depending on the product in question, she says.
"The most important consideration is that the product -- food or supplement -- deliver adequate numbers of efficacious probiotic answer for your needs," Sanders says.
5. Are Probiotics Safe for Everyone?
People who are acutely ill or who have a compromised immune system should be cautious about consuming probiotic products and supplements. Researchers are still trying to figure out which types of disease and illnesses should preclude the use of probiotics.
Although no studies have shown probiotics to be harmful in healthy people, Barry Goldin, MS, PhD, a professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, says terminally ill cancer patients and people with conditions with the potential for leaky bowels, including acute pancreatitis, should NOT consume probiotics.Just to be safe, tell your doctor if you’re thinking about taking (or eating) probiotics regularly.
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD