Probiotics (cont.)

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What foods contain probiotics?

Fermented dairy products have been advertised as containing "beneficial cultures." These cultures are what would now be considered probiotics. Other foods currently claiming to provide probiotics are cereal, juice, frozen yogurt, granola, candy bars, and cookies. While they may contain probiotics, there is no guarantee that they have them in the amount or in the form that is necessary to get the health benefits you are looking for. Only the manufacturer of the product can tell you if there are any studies to support their specific product.

What are the side effects and risks of probiotics?

Supplements are not monitored in the U.S. the way that food or medication is. They fall under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). This requires that the dietary supplement or dietary ingredient manufacturer be responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement or ingredient is safe before it is marketed. The only time that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may get involved is if action is needed to be taken against a manufacturer after the supplement is marketed and then found to be unsafe. This means that as much as we may know about probiotics, we can't be certain of the safety or content of the supplements available to us.

There is one Voluntary Certification Program by which a supplement manufacturer can choose to be evaluated. ConsumerLab.com (CL) is the leading provider of independent test results and information to help consumers and health care professionals identify the best quality health and nutrition products. Products that have passed their testing for identity, strength, purity, and disintegration can print the CL Seal of Approval on their product. This is one step toward being confident that you are getting the amount and type of probiotic promised by the manufacturer.

While some studies have shown many health benefits of probiotics, more research still needs to be done to be sure that they are safe and effective as a supplement and in foods. This is especially true for children, pregnant women, elderly people, and people with compromised immune systems. For people with suppressed immune systems due to disease or treatment for a disease (such as cancer chemotherapy), taking probiotics may actually increase your chances of getting sick. Always speak with your doctor before taking any supplement under these circumstances.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/15/2014

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