Adriana Perez
June 21, 2014

Probiotics what are they and can they improve my health?

Somewhere between 300 and 1000 different bacteria live in our intestines (12). These microorganisms perform useful functions, such as fermenting unused energy, preventing growth of harmful bacteria, producing vitamins, and many more.(10) However, in certain conditions, some these microorganism are thought to be capable of causing disease by producing infection or increasing cancer to our bodies.(10)

Probiotics are bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of organisms in the intestines. (8) They work by reducing harmful organisms in the intestine, producing substances that destroy or suppress the growth of microorganisms, and stimulating the body’s immune response. (5)

From the numerous types of Probiotics, the most commonly used are: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium (5). Lactobacillus can be found in many yogurt and soft chesses, and helps convert lactose and other sugars into lactic acid, particular helping the lactose intolerant. Bifidobacteria, prevents gastrointestinal disorders, including infections, irritable bowel syndrome and constipation (2).


Research on Probiotics:
Probiotics where discovered in 1960 by Nobel Prize recipient Eli Metchnikoff (11), and since that time have been vigorously studied. The studies seemed scattered, and arrived at no valid conclusions for 40 years. For that matter, The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Evaluation of Health and Nutritional Properties of Probiotics in Food recognized that there was a need for guidelines to set out a systematic approach for the evaluation of probiotics (1)

From that point on, some important finding have been:

Usage Correlations:
Clinical Indications for Probiotics by BR Goldin and SL Gorbach stated that: “Proven benefits of probiotics include:

treatment of acute and antibiotic-associated diarrhea,
prevention of atopic eczema and traveler's diarrhea
prevention respiratory infections in children
prevention dental caries
elimination of nasal pathogen carriage
prevention gastroenteritis
treatment of inflammatory bowel disease

and proposed future applications include:

treatment of rheumatoid arthritis
treatment of irritable bowel syndrome
cancer prevention
prevention of ethanol-induced liver disease
treatment of diabetes
prevention or treatment of graft-versus-host disease” (9)

Possible Beneficiaries:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 14,000 American die every year from C. difficile-related diarrhea.

Bradley Johnston, from The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in Toronto, Canada stated in his research that: "For older patients that are in hospital or in nursing homes who are exposed to antibiotics, we've shown that certain probiotics regimens at certain dosages result in large reductions in the incidence of C. difficile-associated diarrhea,". (3)

Probiotics and Antibiotics:
The Cochrane Collaboration evaluated probiotics for treating Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD), which can develop when taking antibiotics. Found that probiotics given with antibiotics, cut the risk of developing CDAD by 64 percent.(7)

Risks and Side Effects:
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine notes that: “the current evidence does not suggest a widespread risk of negative side effects associated with probiotics. However, the risk of serious side effects may be greater in people who have underlying health conditions.”

Dietitian Jane Dummer writes that: “It is best to discuss probiotic use during your personalized nutrition plan with your dietitian.”(6) Furthermore, it is important to know that Probiotics as a dietary supplement are regulated as foods, not drugs. Taking Probiotics should be a decision planed by your physician or dietary consultant in all cases (8).

Nutrition Business Journal stated that people in the United States spent $947 during 2012 towards probiotics. noted that Probiotics are one of the most expensive dietary supplements, costing consumers more than one dollar a day (3).

Typically Probiotics cost varies, but a average cost for a thirty-day supply, is $30. Dr. Shira Doron told Reuters Health that a healthy patient needs on average 2-4 pills a day to see an effect (3). In total costing patients on average $60 dollars a month.

Foods and Products:
Choosing Probiotics by Strain: (California Daily Research Foundation)
Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 10.35.19 PM.png

MSN Healthy Living’s: 10 Unexpected Sources of Probiotics

  1. Miso
  2. Kimchi
  3. Oatmeal with bananas and honey
  4. Sauerkraut
  5. Pistachios
  6. Red Wine
  7. Tempeh
  8. Cheese
  9. Kombucha


Probiotics are a proven way to improve the digestive system. Studies have shown a direct correlation with digestive problems and some strains of Probiotics. As costly as they might seem, for people with digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, or others, these microorganisms can be significantly healthful. Nevertheless, the US has taken Probiotics as a means for weight loss, and as a health trend.

From my research, I can infer, that the use of Probiotics should not in any way, be recommended for all as a every day supplement. In my opinion, only people with digestive issues should partake in the taking of these supplements every day. I also think that proper education of what Probiotic strain to take is imperative for actual health benefit. This costly product can be easily replaced with a balance diet for those who do not have digestive problems.

However, I do find interesting the use of Probiotics for developing countries. There is not a lot of published research regarding this topic, but the little that exist has significant possibilities. For people that have limited access to clean water, and a proper diet, probiotics are can help strengthen their immune system and attack the bad bacteria consumed by dirty water or rotten foods.

Probiotics can be the future, but are not the present. There are cheaper, natural ways to improve the digestive system without them. Bone Broth, Magnesium, and even being active are some examples of ways to improve our digestion. Nevertheless, for those who actually have digestive issues, Probiotics can be your solution.


  1. Ali AA, Adam R, Taylor D, Murchie P. Use of a structured palliative care summary in patients with established cancer is associated with reduced hospital admissions by out-of-hours general practitioners in Grampian. BMJ Support Palliat Care. 2013;3(4):452-5.
  2. Available at: Accessed June 20, 2014.
  3. Available at: Accessed June 20, 2014.
  4. Available at: Accessed June 20, 2014.
  5. Available at: Accessed June 22, 2014.
  6. Available at: Accessed June 21, 2014.
  7. Available at: Accessed June 20, 2014.
  8. Available at: Accessed June 20, 2014.
  9. Goldin BR, Gorbach SL. Clinical indications for probiotics: an overview. Clin Infect Dis. 2008;46 Suppl 2(s2):S96-100.
  10. Guarner, F; Malagelada, J (2003). "Gut flora in health and disease". The Lancet 361 (9356): 512–9. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(03)12489-0. PMID 12583961. 3
  11. Metchnikoff, E. 1907. Essais optimistes. Paris. The prolongation of life. Optimistic studies. Translated and edited by P. Chalmers Mitchell. London: Heinemann, 1907
  12. Sears, Cynthia L. (2005). "A dynamic partnership: Celebrating our gut flora". Anaerobe 11 (5): 247–51. doi:10.1016/j.anaerobe.2005.05.001. PMID 16701579. 4