Probiotics are living microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, which when administered in adequate amounts, offer health benefits. These health benefits include helping to relieve conditions such as diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and even eczema in young children. Although probiotics can be taken as dietary supplements in pill form, they are also naturally-occurring in certain types of fermented foods such as yogurt and certain cheeses.\nIt may seem strange to think of ingesting live bacteria or yeast because we take antibiotics to fight bacteria, but these organisms are naturally occurring in our bodies, especially in the digestive tract.\nWhy do People Take Probiotics?\nThe digestive system contains both “good” and “bad” bacteria. There must be the correct balance of good and bad bacteria in order to maintain optimal health. That balance can be upset by several things including:\n\nDiet\nDisease\nMedications\nEnvironment\n\nProbiotics work by balancing the levels of microorganisms in the intestines, reducing the level of harmful bacteria, and boosting the immune system.\nAlthough still ongoing, research suggests that they may be helpful in treating many conditions including:\n\nDiarrhea\nIrritable bowel syndrome\nUlcerative colitis\nAcne\nEczema in children\n\nResearchers are also studying them to determine if they may help other conditions such as:\n\nStomach ulcers caused by H. pylori\nInfections\nAllergies\nDental disease\nLiver disease\n\nHowever, more research is needed to confirm their effectiveness in treating these conditions.\nWhat Type of Bacteria Should I Look For in a Probiotic?\nDifferent strains of probiotics have been shown to provide different benefits. Some common strains you should look for are:\n\nLactobacillus acidophilus \u2014 studies have shown this may help reduce the side effects of antibiotic therapy and help replenish the beneficial bacteria that may have been killed by antibiotics.\nLactobacillus casei \u2014 may help treat several forms of diarrhea.\nBifidobacterium bifidum \u2014 may aid in the synthesis of vitamins in the intestines and protect the body from losing key nutrients as well as improving digestion and immunity.\nStreptococcus thermophiles \u2014 can help with lactose intolerance by breaking down lactose into lactase, the enzyme that digests milk sugars.\n\nWhere Can I Find Probiotics and is there a Recommended Dosage?\nProbiotics come in many forms including capsules, tablets, powders, liquids and foods like yogurt and sauerkraut. Some common foods that contain probiotics naturally include:\n\nYogurt\nSauerkraut\nMiso soup\nGouda and other soft, fermented cheeses\nKefir\nSourdough bread\nButtermilk\nSour pickles\n\nThere is no set standard recommended dosage, nor is there a preferred form in which to take probiotics.\nThe amount of probiotic in each dosage is measured in colony-forming units (CFUs). Common dosages range from 10-20 billion CFUs per day for adults.\nTalk with your doctor before beginning a probiotic regimen to determine the appropriate dosage for you and discuss any potential side effects or reactions with other medications you may be taking. If you believe you may be suffering from a stomach disorder, please visit the UPMC Digestive Disorders Center website or call 1-866-4GASTRO (4427876) to schedule an appointment.