The use of probiotics has skyrocketed in recent years, with more than 3.9 million American adults taking probiotics.1 At the same time, there is limited scientific data supporting the health claims of probiotics, as well as misleading information on the web. To address these concerns, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) has developed a new resource to guide patients in deciding if they should take probiotics and which products to take.
“All too often, we see patients who choose their probiotics based on an advertisement or something they read on the internet,” says Purna Kashyap, MBBS, scientific advisory board member for the AGA Center for Gut Microbiome Research and Education and assistant professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. “There is a lot we still don’t know about probiotics, such as which strains are best for which patients and whether they interfere with certain medications. To address this, the American Gastroenterological Association has developed trusted resources to help patients navigate the probiotics aisle.”
1. Talk to your health care provider first.
The best tip for choosing a probiotic is talking to your health care provider or pharmacist. They can assist you in choosing which probiotic is best for your specific symptoms and recommend certain types for you to try.
2. Decide if probiotics are right for you.
There are certain health issues that probiotics may help to relieve, specifically digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Experts also believe probiotics may provide general benefits like boosting your immune system and maintaining a healthy nervous system. However, more studies are needed to help find out which probiotics are helpful and which might be a waste of money. That’s where your health care provider can help.
3. Look for credible information.
If you and your health care provider decide to move forward with probiotics, be wary of the information you find on the internet. Unfortunately, there are scammers that will send fake products labeled as probiotics, so stick to trusted companies you know. When looking for general information on probiotics on the web, look for information from leading health care organizations, such as the American Gastroenterological Association.
4. Contact the company.
Many probiotic labels don’t indicate which strain is in the product and only list the group and species. One way to get around this is to call the company and directly ask which strain its products contain. The information may also be available on that company’s website. You can discuss the specific strain with your doctor to see if it’s right for your symptoms.
For even more tips and information on probiotics, visit the probiotics page in the AGA GI Patient Center. Experts from the AGA Center for Gut Microbiome Research and Education developed this information specifically for patients. In the GI Patient Center, you’ll find a wealth of information on digestive health conditions and procedures, all developed by specialists, for patients.