Foods fortified with probiotics and probiotic supplements deliver live bacteria that can help with digestive health. But while the list of potential benefits of probiotics is growing, there are still questions about their effectiveness.
Though probiotics might seem like the latest health trend, they are not new, says Susan Lucak, MD, a gastroenterologist in New York City and a special lecturer at the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Columbia University. “Probiotics have been consumed by humans in one form or another for more than 100 years,” Dr. Lucak says.
The Many Possible Benefits of Probiotics
Research to determine the full health benefits of probiotics is ongoing. Studies are looking into a wide range of possibilities, from whether probiotics can play a role in preventing tooth decay and periodontal disease to helping treat a variety of medical conditions, including:
- Skin infections and eczema
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Vaginal infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Stomach and respiratory infections children acquire in day care settings
- Antibiotic-related diarrhea
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) — patients with ulcerative colitis appear to respond better to probiotics than those with Crohn’s disease