Franciscan Alternative Medicine Committee Position on Probiotics

Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host. Research in the area of probiotics and digestive health is active and encouraging, but at this point is inconclusive. Despite the lack of conclusive evidence, many consumers want to try probiotic products to improve their “intestinal health.”

Some specific strains of probiotics have been shown to increase bowel transit time in some people who have occasional constipation. Other strains have been studied for their effects on decreasing the frequency of diarrhea associated with antibiotic use and decreasing symptoms of lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel conditions. If choosing to consume probiotic products consumers should look for those that contain the same type (genus, species and strain), amount and form (e.g. yogurt, pills, dry foods) of probiotics found to be beneficial in human studies.

The commercially available products that contain probiotic strains from the Lactobacillus, Bifido bacterium, Streptococcus thermophilus, and Saccharomyces genera are considered safe for the healthy population. Supplements should be chosen that have been quality tested to survive stomach acidity. More information on safety is needed especially in regard to people with underlying health conditions, young children, elderly and people with compromised immune systems. A diet that contains probiotics found in foods and is also high in fiber is highly recommended for bowel health.

Resources:

Culturellle
Probiotic Handout
Probiotic Position Statement
Probiotics Prebiotics

References:

  1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/World Health Organization Working Group on Drafting Guidelines for the Evaluation of Probiotics in Food. Guidelines for the Evaluation of Probiotics in Food. London, Ontario, Canada April 30 and May 1; 2002.
  2. Douglas LC, Sanders ME Probiotics and prebiotics in dietetics practice. J Am Diet Assocn. 2008; 108: 510-521.
  3. USProbiotic.org Probiotics: Background and Product Table. Available at: www.usprobotics.org/basics.asp and www.usprobiotics.org/products.asp Accessed October 2009.
  4. National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. An Introduction to Probiotics. Available at: www.nccam.nih.gov/health/probiotics/ Accessed October 2009.