Probiotic dietary supplements have become quite popular in recent years, touted for such conditions as general health (prevention), immune health (prevention), leaky gut, diabetes mellitus, and dysbiosis from antibiotic overuse, among others.
Probiotics are generally safe for a heathy person (Generally Recognized as Safe [GRAS] per the FDA classification). However, some live probiotic strains may negatively play on a weakened immune system in at-risk persons, allowing unwanted organisms to enter the body and cause pneumonia, endocarditis, or sepsis. Probiotic supplements are not for everyone!
Activia yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, and kombucha are examples of food sourced-probiotics. Culturelle and Align are popular probiotic dietary supplements. Florastor is a prescription medication. Examples of probiotic strains include, but are not limited to, bacteria (e.g. Lactobacillus, Lactococcus, Leuconostoc, Pediococcus, Bifidobacterium, Bacillus) and yeast (e.g., Saccharomyces).
It’s important to choose the right probiotic product for your health needs with the help of your pharmacist, who can thoroughly evaluate the product before recommending it to you. Product criteria:
- strain identification by genome sequencing
- transmissible antibiotic resistant gene profile
- toxicology in vitro and in vivo studies
- clinical studies on efficacy (how well does the product work)
- target population (healthy vs sick)
- product formulation and labeling (product purity, contaminants)
If probiotic manufacturers claim to treat/prevent disease, their probiotics should be studied and marketed as drugs, rather than as supplements, upholding FDA regulation. Probiotics are not drugs, not magic bullets, nor are they universally safe and effective.
The appropriate probiotic strain and formulation should be recommended by your healthcare professional based on your individual health needs.
For more information or to schedule a wellness consultation with Dr. Cathy Rosenbaum, holistic clinical pharmacist and certified health coach in Blue Ash OH, please visit www.rxintegrativesolutions.com.
–Dr. Cathy Rosenbaum
Kothari. Probiotic supplements might not be universally-effective and safe: A review. Biomed Pharmacother 2019;111:537-547.