Probiotics must be tested in humans and shown to have health benefits.

Here are some tips to help you find a credible probiotic product, from the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (www.isapp.net)

Clinically proven: Do your homework

Make certain that product claims of health benefits are based on sound research done on the particular probiotic. The product should contain the specific strain(s) of bacteria at the same levels as used in published research. The studies should be performed in humans and published in peer-reviewed, reputable journals.

Check product websites to see study results. Your pharmacist or healthcare provider should be able to help you sort through the scientific language.

Claims: What do they mean?

Most probiotics are sold as dietary supplements or ingredients in foods, and cannot legally declare that it can cure, treat or prevent disease. Claims which relate the product to health are allowable. Any claim made on a product, no matter how general, is supposed to be truthful and substantiated – but not all manufacturers have this clinical substantiation.

Get your doctor’s OK

Consult a physician before administering probiotics to newborns or infants, or to people with compromised immune systems or other major underlying illnesses. Read "Warnings" and "Other Information" on the product package and be aware of any expected symptoms or side effects. Probiotic foods should be safe for the generally healthy population to consume.

More information

The product you choose should offer resources to find more information, including a website or consumer hotline.

Remember, some products labeled "probiotic" do not have clinically validated strains or levels in the product. Although the scientific definition of probiotic stipulates that products be clinically evaluated, not all manufacturers abide by that.

Source: Adapted from the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics "Ps and Qs of Probiotics: A Consumer Guide for Making Smart Choices," accessed December 20, 2013.

Join the conversation

join conversation

Keep up-to-date on the latest news, stories, tips, research highlights, and more!

Sign up for eNewsletter

Connect through Facebook

Follow us on twitter