Probiotics are live and active microorganisms similar to those present in the human intestinal flora. Often referred to as “good” or “friendly” bacteria, probiotics may help treat and relieve symptoms of certain health conditions, such as diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and reduce bladder cancer, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Although probiotics appear to be beneficial, they still require further study. You should, therefore, always consult your physician prior to choosing or taking a probiotic.
Select a probiotic food or supplement that contains the strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG. A July 2008 study published in the "Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology" found that LGG may help relieve symptoms associated with atopic eczema and milk allergies in toddlers and infants. Although all lactobacilli facilitate digestion, this specific strain provides additional benefits.
Find probiotics with Streptococcus thermophilus as it may alleviate disruptions resulting from lactose intolerance and diarrhea, according to the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Although certain streoptococci are pathogenic, this particular strain may promote regularity and digestion.
Use bifidobacteria probiotic supplements alone or in tandem with other friendly bacteria. Generally, bifidobacterium are present in mainstream yogurts and yogurt drinks. These microorganisms are naturally-occurring in the intestinal tract and may possibly be effective in preventing intestinal lining infections, diarrhea in infants and traveler’s, ulcerative colitis and in reducing the side effects of ulcer-causing pathogens. You should especially use this probiotic following a course of antibiotics.
Choose probiotic supplements that contain Saccharomyces boulardii. Saccharomyces may be particularly helpful in preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea, infant diarrhea, traveler's diarrhea and in the prevention of intestinal disease caused by Clostridium difficile, according to MedlinePlus. This fungi is naturally present in lychee and mangosteen fruit.
Consume dairy alternatives if you prefer to avoid milk-based fermented foods. Purchase probiotic soy yogurt and milk as sources for bifidobacterium, streptococcus thermophilus and lactobacilli.
There is insufficient evidence to suggest that a fermented milk product is more effective than a supplement. In many cases, supplements are easier to take and can reach a wider range of people as there are no noted interactions with other foods, herbs or supplements. Alternatively, fermented milk products may digest more effectively than supplements.
If you're selecting yogurt as a source of probiotics, choose plain nonfat or low-fat varieties. Flavored yogurts, especially those that contain fruit, are usually high in sugar, which is detrimental to your digestive process.
Do not take probiotics if you have short bowel syndrome or a suppressed immune system as this may lead to infection, the Cleveland Clinic warns.