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Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are thought to improve health. The most common probiotics include lactobacillus, bifidobacteria, and Saccharomyces boulardii.

Many bacteria and other organisms live in our bodies normally. These "good" bacteria and yeasts can help break down food, absorb nutrients, and fight off "bad" organisms that might cause diseases. Probiotics are sometimes taken as supplements and are also found in foods such as yogurt.

Probiotics are used for many different types of diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, and many other conditions. Keep in mind that not all probiotics have the same effects. So, one probiotic or combination of probiotics may be helpful for certain conditions, while other probiotics are not. Also, there is no good evidence to support using any probiotics for COVID-19.

Natural Medicines rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
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When taken by mouth: Probiotics are likely safe for most adults. Lactobacillus probiotics appear to be safe when taken for up to 9 months. Bifidobacteria probiotics appear to be safe when taken for up to 12 months. Streptococcus thermophilus probiotics appear to be safe when taken for up to 12 months. Saccharomyces boulardii probiotics appear to be safe when taken for up to 15 months. Side effects are usually mild and most often include gas or bloating. There isn't enough reliable information about the safety of other probiotic species.

When inserted into the vagina: Probiotics containing lactobacillus are likely safe when used short-term. There isn't enough reliable information to know if other probiotic species are safe.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Probiotics containing certain lactobacillus or bifidobacteria species are possibly safe when used by mouth when pregnant or breast-feeding. There isn't enough reliable information to know if other probiotic species are safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Children: Probiotic products containing bifidobacteria or lactobacillus are likely safe in children. Bifidobacteria probiotics appear to be safe in children when used for up to 12 months. Lactobacillus probiotics appear to be safe in children when used for up to 12 weeks. Probiotics containing Saccharomyces boulardii are possibly safe when used in children. There isn't enough reliable information to know if other probiotic species are safe for children.

Central lines: Infections of the blood have been reported in people who have central lines and take probiotics containing either lactobacillus or Saccharomyces boulardii. In many cases, infections were caused when the catheter became contaminated by the air or surfaces or hands that had touched the probiotics. If you have a central line, talk with your healthcare provider before taking probiotics.

Digestive system problems: Infections of the blood have been reported in a small number of people with digestive system conditions such as short bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, or intestinal obstruction (after abdominal surgery) who were taking probiotics containing lactobacillus or bifidobacterium probiotics. If you have any of these conditions, talk with your healthcare provider before taking probiotics.

Weakened immune system: Probiotics have caused blood infections in a small number of people with weakened immune systems. This includes people with HIV/AIDS or cancer, or people who are taking medications to prevent transplant rejection. The actual number of cases of probiotic-related infections is hard to determine. If you have a weakened immune system, talk with your healthcare provider before taking probiotics.

Damaged heart valves: Probiotic preparations containing lactobacillus can cause an infection in the inner lining of the heart chambers and heart valve. This is extremely rare, but people with damaged heart valves might be more likely to develop this type of infection. People with damaged heart valves should stop taking probiotics before dental procedures or surgical procedures.

Yeast allergy: People with yeast allergy can be allergic to probiotic products containing Saccharomyces boulardii and should avoid these products if possible.

There are no known interactions with medications. Before taking this product, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

There are no known interactions with foods.

Probiotics are commonly taken in dietary supplements and foods, such as yogurt. The most common probiotics found in these products include lactobacillus, bifidobacteria, and Saccharomyces boulardii. But many other bacteria and yeast species can be found in probiotic products.

The strength of bacterial probiotics is usually given as the number of living organisms, or colony-forming units (CFU), per capsule. The strength of fungal probiotics is usually given in micrograms or milligrams. To learn more about how specific probiotics are typically used, review our monographs on those topics.

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