Probiotic capsules or supplements are medications available at places like health food and natural foods stores. Each capsule contains tiny bacteria that is alive and that may have some benefit to human health. In particular, people may take these capsules to reduce incidence of yeast infection, to regulate digestion, or to assist with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, chronic diarrhea, or spastic colon. There is some evidence from the scientific community that some sorts of bacteria are helpful for these conditions, though there are provisos too about taking probiotic supplements.
Many probiotic supplements include bacteria that are already found in various areas of the body, like Lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifobacterium bifidus. Other ingredients may be present as well, and these can include some common yeasts or other bacteria types. The US Food and Drug Administration does not regulate amount or type of bacteria used or the relative safety of these capsules, and there are several questions raised about each different brand’s ability to be effective.
While scientific research has shown some benefit to health of certain forms of bacteria, it isn’t always the case that probiotic capsules contain exactly the same types. This would mean that, if people are looking for benefits ascribed to a certain bacteria, they ought to look for capsules or supplements that have the same kind and not assume that all supplements will be equal in this respect. It isn’t always necessary to take supplements in order to gain access to these beneficial bacteria, however, and many foods have them in abundance and may be a more natural and enjoyable means of obtaining them.
There is also some question about probiotics in regard to how well they will travel to areas that require help. A woman taking them to treat a yeast infection may not find this adequate because the bacteria may never reach the vagina. Still, there is much anecdotal evidence that certain probiotic foods and supplements may potentially be helpful in this respect, though there are few clinical double-blind trials to prove this completely.
A significant variety of probiotic capsules exist. Early forms usually required refrigeration to maintain life of bacteria, but some companies now make pills that don’t require this. Many people find that a lot of the supplements available are cultured on things like milk, although there are vegetarian and vegan capsules that most people can find with a little searching.
Prices runs from very low to quite expensive, and consumers should be aware of inflated claims on supplements that come with higher prices. While probiotic capsules may be helpful, those brands with outlandish claims suggesting they will improve all aspects of health should probably be avoided.
Though most probiotics are thought safe, people who plan to take them regularly should consult with a medical professional. In particular, those who have other medical conditions or who take other medications should make sure any supplements won’t exacerbate illnesses or interfere with other drugs. Pregnant women should also talk to a healthcare professional about probiotic supplements and parents should ask pediatricians for guidance before giving them to children.