4 Things You Should Know About Probiotics

You probably didn’t even know what probiotics were a year ago. All of a sudden, you can find “good bacteria” in everything from toothpaste to chocolate. Probiotics have their place, but adding them to foods that lack natural beneficial bacteria may not make the foods any healthier or even worth consuming. When it comes to probiotics, there are certain guidelines that will help you separate hype from help. Here’s what Dr. Patricia Hibberd, a professor of pediatrics and chief of global health at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston advised in a recent Huffington Post article.

Unlike Drugs, Probiotics Are Not Regulated

While probiotic supplements are generally considered safe, they don’t require FDA approval or pass the same rigorous safety and effectiveness tests as drugs. When buying probiotics, be wary of vague claims, like “promotes digestive health.” Know, too, that there are no standardized levels of microbes or minimum levels required in foods or supplements.

Know Your Probiotic-Rich Foods

Dairy products usually have the most probiotics. Look for products containing “live and active cultures.” These include kefir, fermented milk drinks, aged cheeses, such as cheddar, Gouda or Parmesan. You can also get probiotics from pickles packed in brine, sauerkraut, tempeh (a soy-based meat substitute) and kimchi (a spicy Korean condiment). Mild side effects may include gas and bloating, at least for the first few days.

Read Labels & Expiration Dates

Follow instructions on the package for proper dosage, frequency, storage and expiration dates—live organisms can have a limited shelf life. Some supplements must be refrigerated, or at least kept at room temperature in a cool, dark place.

Probiotics Are Not Safe for Everyone

If you have a weakened immune system, are undergoing an organ transplant, or had much of your gastrointestinal tract removed, you should avoid probiotics in foods or supplements. The same holds true if you’re being hospitalized and have central IV lines. If you have abnormal heart valves or need heart valve surgery, probiotics can pose the risk of infection. To help prevent or treat a specific health concern with probiotics, first consult your doctor.

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Janet B.
Janet B3 years ago


Elena T.
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you :)

Nancy Gizuk
Nancy Gizuk3 years ago

Confusing labels get me every time

Karen K.
Karen K3 years ago

Look for L. caseii, rhamosus, gigi, planterum, bifidis (sp?) to help with health. Most yogurts have acidophilus which don't make it to the colon but can help with stomach ulcers.Good tips above for those who should be careful. It may help to take probiotics if you are taking antibiotics to prevent c. diff.

Charmaine C.
Charmaine C3 years ago

Thank you. I have on occasion taken probiotics but at no point did the stores that sold it to me give me any of the information mentioned in this article.

Lucy Schneider
Past Member 3 years ago

The best probiotics on the market are Raw Probiotics by Garden of Life.
Their potency is guaranteed as they "arrive alive." They contain 85 billion Live Cultures and 33 Probiotic strains. Good stuff! Requires refrigeration. ( No fillers,binders, or carriers.) Are Vegetarian too!

Marianne R.
Marianne R3 years ago

Thank you for this interesting article

Linda Walcroft
Linda Walcroft3 years ago

Probiotics should not be added to foods or toothpaste since some people don't do well on them. Personally I've found that many probiotics make me itch, probably because I am allergic to yeast and it often grows during the fermentation process.

Kath P.
Kath P3 years ago

Love to eat all the foods you've mentioned. I had no idea that eating them could cause some people problems....good to know. TY

Jeffrey Stanley
Jeff S3 years ago

Thank you.