At CHI Franciscan Health, our Alternative Medicine Committee evaluates complementary and alternative medications for safety and effectiveness. We have developed this position on probiotics based on the latest scientific research.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are a dietary supplement containing live bacteria (such as lactobacilli). People take probiotics by mouth to restore helpful bacteria to the body. Some types of probiotics include:

  • Fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi
  • Dietary supplements such as Culturelle® and Florastor®  

Alternative Medicine Committee’s position on probiotics

Research on probiotics and digestive health is encouraging, but medical professionals need more evidence to support the use of probiotics for most health conditions. What we do know at this point is that some probiotics may help:

  • Prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotics or infections
  • Relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Relieve constipation

Health care professionals highly recommend a diet that contains probiotics found in foods and is high in fiber for bowel health.

Types of beneficial probiotics in clinical studies

When choosing probiotic products to include in your diet, you should look for those that:

  • Contain the same type (strain), amount and form (such as yogurt, capsules or dry foods) of probiotics that have been found to be beneficial in research studies
  • Have been quality tested to survive stomach acidity

Products that are safe for healthy people contain probiotic strains including:

  • Lactobacillus
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Streptococcus thermophilus
  • Saccharomyces genera

Medical researchers continue to learn more about probiotic safety, especially for young children, older adults and people with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems.

Make an appointment for primary care

Talk with your doctor about integrating complementary or alternative therapies into your care. Need a primary care doctor? Find a doctor and make an appointment to begin your journey to wellness.