Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up
Font Size

When Can Probiotics Help?

Probiotics to Ease Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which afflicts an estimated 58 million Americans, can cause bloating, cramps, and diarrhea. The underlying cause is not well understood. Some preliminary findings suggest the probiotics may help ease symptoms, although there are negative studies as well.

A 2010 study of children and teenagers found that the combination of eight probiotic organisms called VSL#3 significantly reduced symptoms of IBS.

Organisms that may be helpful:Bifidobacterium infantis, VSL#3

Probiotics for Ulcerative Colitis

In its 2008 recommendations, the Yale University panel found little convincing evidence that probiotics helped treat the inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis.

Some recent findings are more promising. In 2010, researchers from China Medical University in Taiwan reviewed 13 trials. They concluded that probiotics were more effective than placebos in warding off flare-ups of ulcerative colitis.

Organisms that may be helpful: Bifidobacterium longum, VSL#3

Probiotics Help Fight Common Childhood Infections

By enhancing immune function, probiotics may help ward off childhood illnesses such as ear infections, colds, and infectious diarrhea. The Yale University panel gave a grade of “A” to evidence that probiotics improve immunity.

A Georgetown University study published in 2010 found that children who drank a yogurt drink containing the probiotic Lactobacillus casei were 19% less likely than those who didn’t to come down with a common infection.

Organisms that may be helpful:Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus LGG, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium lactis, and Lactobacillus johnsonii

When Probiotics Don’t Seem to Help

Probiotics aren’t useful for all gastrointestinal complaints. There’s little strong evidence that they help treat the symptoms of Crohn’s disease, a sometimes-debilitating inflammatory bowel disease.

The Yale University review panel also found inadequate evidence that probiotics help treat vaginosis or vaginitis.

Still, only a small number of potentially beneficial organisms have been tested. Ongoing research may find additional uses for probiotics.

“We still have a lot more to learn about when and how to use probiotics,” says Stefano Guandalini, MD, professor of pediatrics and gastroenterology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. “But the use of these safe and effective therapies is likely to increase as we increase our knowledge.”

1|2
Reviewed on January 04, 2013

Today on WebMD

man holding his stomach
Get the facts on common problems.
blueberries in a palm
Best and worst foods.
 
woman shopping
Learn what foods to avoid.
fresh and dried plums
Will it help constipation?
 
top foods for probiotics
Slideshow
couple eating at cafe
Article
 
sick child
Slideshow
Woman blowing bubble gum
Slideshow
 

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Woman with crohns in pain
Slideshow
Woman with stomach pain
Slideshow
 
diet for diverticulitis
Video
what causes diarrhea
Video