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Are Probiotic Pills a Good Idea?

 Nutrition Diva explains the pros and cons of probiotic pills. 

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Q. Do probiotics in pill form provide the same benefits as the bacteria in cultured foods? 

A. Compared with cultured foods like yogurt, probiotic supplements offer both advantages and disadvantages.  On the plus side, they are usually more potent and may contain specific bacterial strains that you might not find in foods.  On the negative side, they are more expensive and somewhat unreliable. Consumer watchdogs have repeatedly busted companies for selling products that were either contaminated with “unauthorized” strains of bacteria or did not contain anywhere near the number of live and active bacteria promised on the label.

In my opinion, it doesn’t make sense to take probiotic supplements on an ongoing basis, like a vitamin. For general health and well-being, I recommend making probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, fresh sauerkraut or kim-chee a regular part of your diet.  

Probiotic supplements can be helpful for specific medical situations, such as preventing or treating traveler’s diarrhea or following intensive antibiotic therapy, but it’s a good idea to ask a healthcare professional for a recommendation for a trusted brand. I usually suggest Culturelle, which is available in most drug stores.  

Related Content: 

Cultured and Fermented Foods

Is Frozen Yogurt Good For You?

Pill image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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