Image for Probiotics (, , )
Probiotics (Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, Saccharomyces boulardii)

Synonyms/Common Names/Related Substances:

  • AB-yogurt, acidophilus, acidophilus milk, antibiophilus, Bacillus, bifidobacteria, Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis (BB-12), Bifidobacterium DN-173 010, CAUSIDO®, Enterococcus, Enterococcus faecium M-74, Escherichia, fermented soy milk, flora, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), Helicobacter pylori, L. acidophilus milk, L. acidophilus yogurt, lactic acid bacteria, lacto bacillus, Lactobacillaceae (family), lactobacilli, Lactobacillus, Lactobacillus casei DN-114 001, Lactobacillus casei Shirota, Lactobacillus coryniformis CECT5711, Lactobacillus gasseri CECT5714, Lactobacillus johnsonii LA1, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1, Lactobacillus paracasei ssp. paracasei (CRL-431), Lactobacillus reuteri B-54, Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14, Lakcid L, Medilac® DS, Nutri-health®, oligofructose, oral bacteriotherapy, Paraghurt®, prebiotic, Prescript-Assist®, Saccharomyces boulardii, VSL#3, yogurt.
  • Note: This monograph covers the topic of probiotics as a whole and includes information available from meta-analyses and systematic reviews on probiotics. Examples of some randomized controlled trials are included in the evidence discussion summaries and in the dosing section. Individual probiotic monographs are available separately from Natural Standard. Probiotics should not be confused with prebiotics (complex sugars used by beneficial gut bacteria to stimulate their growth and activity).

Clinical Bottom Line/Effectiveness

Brief Background:

  • Probiotics are live microorganisms and are similar to the microorganisms that are found in the human gut. Probiotics, also called "friendly bacteria" or "good bacteria," help to maintain the natural balance of organisms (microflora) in the intestines. The normal human digestive tract contains about 400 types of probiotic bacteria that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. The largest group of probiotic bacteria in the intestine is lactic acid bacteria, of which Lactobacillus acidophilus, found in yogurt, is the best known. Other types of probiotics include different strains of Bifidobacterium and Saccharomyces boulardii. Saccharomyces boulardii has been described as the yeast probiotic, as it has been shown to antagonize disease-causing bacteria. Probiotics are available to consumers mainly in the form of dietary supplements and foods. Examples of foods containing probiotics are yogurt, fermented and unfermented milk, miso, tempeh (soybean cake), some juices (black currant juices containing probiotic cultures), and soy beverages (soy milk).
  • Probiotics should not be confused with prebiotics. Prebiotics are complex sugars (such as lactulose, lactitol, a variety of fructooligosaccharides, and inulin) that are used as fuel by bacteria, such as those from the genus Bacteroides, in the gut to stimulate their growth and activity while suppressing the growth and activity of harmful organisms. Probiotics are thought to work by colonizing the small intestine and crowding out disease-causing organisms, thereby restoring proper balance to the intestinal flora. They compete with harmful organisms for nutrients and may also produce substances, such as ammonia, that inhibit growth of harmful organisms in the gut. Probiotics may be used to treat problems in the stomach and intestines, including diarrhea. However, only certain types of bacteria or yeast have been shown to work in the digestive tract, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
  • In November 2005, a conference that was co-funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and convened by the American Society for Microbiology explored the topic of probiotics. According to the conference report, some uses of probiotics for which there is some encouraging evidence from the study of specific probiotic formulations are to treat diarrhea, to prevent urinary tract infections, to treat irritable bowel syndrome, to reduce the recurrence of bladder cancer, to shorten intestinal infections, to prevent and treat pouchitis, and to prevent and manage atopic dermatitis (eczema) in children.
  • Probiotics have also been examined for a variety of other indications, including allergies, asthma, ear infections, and rheumatoid arthritis, without conclusive evidence. The use of probiotics for weight loss following pregnancy is currently being investigated.

Dosing/Toxicology

  • Content available for subscribers only.

Precautions/Contraindications

  • Content available for subscribers only.

Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

  • Content available for subscribers only.

Mechanism of Action

  • Content available for subscribers only.

History

  • Content available for subscribers only.

Evidence Table

  • Content available for subscribers only.

Evidence Discussion

  • Content available for subscribers only.

Products Studied

  • Content available for subscribers only.

Author Information

  • Content available for subscribers only.

References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  • Content available for subscribers only.
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.