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How to Find and Choose a Probiotic

By Mary Jo DiLonardo
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD

If you’re ready to add probiotics to your diet, you have a lot of options. Now that more research shows these "good bacteria" may help with digestive problems, you just need to know where to find them.

One common source is supplements. You can buy them as tablets, capsules, powders, or liquids. Look for them in health food stores, grocery stores, drugstores, and online.

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You can also find probiotics in many foods. Yogurt is the most well-known source, but they're also in:

  • Dairy foods like buttermilk, some soft cheeses, fermented and unfermented milk, and kefir
  • Soy drinks and products like miso and tempeh
  • Kimchi, sauerkraut, and many pickles

Which One Is Right for You?

Many types of bacteria are probiotics. Each has its own benefits, so talk to your doctor about which one might help you the most.

For example, different strains of the bacteria lactobacillus -- found in some yogurts -- can help with lactose intolerance and types of diarrhea.

Read the Label

If you choose yogurt or another dairy food, look on the label for the phrase "contains live active cultures" or "contains probiotics." Not all yogurts have them. Frozen yogurt doesn't have any.

If you go with a supplement, know that the FDA regulates these products but treats them like foods and not medications. Unlike drug manufacturers, supplement makers don’t have to show their products are safe or effective to sell them. That means that these firms are in charge of checking the safety and labeling of their products before they sell them to make sure they meet FDA rules.

How a probiotic works can vary from brand to brand. That's why it's key to get as much info as you can before you buy. Here are some things you should be able to find on the label:

  • The genus, species, and strain of the probiotic (Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, for example)
  • The number of organisms that will be alive by the use-by date
  • The dose
  • The company name and contact information

If you can't find this on the label, you may be able to find it on the company's web site. While you’re there, look for studies that back up the product's health claims.

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