History of Probiotics
Fermented foods have been a part of the human diet for thousands of years. Fermentation is a process in which microorganisms like yeast and bacteria break down food components and convert them into other products.
The most recognized example is the conversion of carbohydrates such as starches and sugars into alcohol such as in beer or wine. However, fermentation has also been used to make foods more digestible, nutritious, or to impart texture and flavor. Examples include leavened breads, cheeses, yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut or kimchi, or miso.
Historically, Ancient Egyptian and Middle Eastern civilizations used fermentation as a method of preserving foods.1Ancient China used fermentation techniques for various foods as well. It was not until the early 1900s that fermented dairy products, such as yogurt, began to be associated with health benefits.1 Recognizing the beneficial effects the ingestion of certain bacterial species had on human health, the term ‘probiotic’ was coined in the 1960s.1 Derived from the Latin word ‘pro’ meaning ‘for’ and the Greek word ‘bios’ meaning ‘life’, probiotics can be thought of as, "for life.
Today, the scientific community recognizes probiotics as living microorganisms that provide health benefits when taken in adequate amounts.2
Why are Probiotics Important?
Your body is home to 38 trillion microorganisms that assist in keeping you healthy.**3 Different areas of the body, such as the skin, digestive tract, and mouth, have different communities of microorganisms and their own unique microbiomes. The digestive tract has the highest density of resident microorganisms and is the most studied.3
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that provide health benefits by supplementing the microbes naturally living in our bodies.
The roles these microorganisms play is as diverse as they are. Just like vitamins and minerals have different roles to play in promoting optimal health, different types of probiotics will have different health benefits. Some probiotic products provide a blend of different strains similar to a multivitamin. Other products take a more targeted approach by providing just one strain akin to taking a letter vitamin.
Depending on the species and strain, a probiotic may impact one or more of the following areas of health
Digestive Health & Comfort
helps maintain optimal overall
health and to reduce occasional
Maintains a healthy
balance between beneficial
and less favorable
microorganisms in the gut**
keeps you at
your healthy best**
Gas & Bloating
helps keep you regular
and relieve occasional
gas and bloating**
Digestion & Nutrient Absorption
so your body can utilize
the healthy foods you eat**
gut bacteria produce vitamin K
and several B vitamins**4
What to look for on a probiotic label
CFU: CFU stands for colony forming units. This number represents the number of live, active microbial cells in a probiotic product. CFUs give a more accurate representation of the potency of a probiotic compared to products than only list mg amounts.
Strains: Some products will only identify their probiotics to the species level (ex. Lactobacillus acidophilus), look for probiotics that are identified by genera, species, and strain (ex. Lactobacillus acidophilus La-14). The strain level of identification is analogous to a dog breed. Just as it is important to know whether you are bringing home a new Chihuahua or a German Sheppard, knowing the strain in addition to the genus and species can tell you a lot about the probiotic you are purchasing.
Expiration: Look for probiotic products with guaranteed quality and CFU through the printed expiration date.
Structure/Function Claims: Probiotics are a diverse category with a wide variety of potential health benefits. Some strains provide everyday digestive support while others may support immune function, abdominal comfort or more.* Reviewing the product copy can help you better understand the health benefits so you can select the right probiotic for your unique needs.
Q: Should I take probiotics while on antibiotics?
Antibiotics may deplete or alter the composition of microorganisms naturally residing in the gut.5 Probiotics provide friendly bacteria for the digestive system.** Puritan’s Pride probiotic products are not intended to serve as a replacement for antibiotic medications, nor should you discontinue taking prescribed medications while supplementing with probiotics.
Q: Can probiotics help with gas and bloating?
Just like eating one type of food is not going to cover all of your nutritional needs, one strain of probiotic is unlikely to cover all of your digestive concerns. The benefits of a probiotic are dependent on the amount and type of strains included in the formula. Certain probiotic strains, like those found in Puritan’s Pride® Probiotic Gummies provide relief from occasional constipation, gas and bloating when taken daily.**
Q: What is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?
Both probiotics and prebiotics can support your gut microbiota but there are important differences between the two.**Probiotics are live microorganisms that are intended to introduce new, friendly bacteria to your gut. Prebiotics can be thought of as food for the microorganisms already residing within your gut. Unlike probiotics, prebiotics are not alive. They are food substances, like fibers, that we cannot digest ourselves but are selectively utilized by the beneficial microorganisms already residing in our gut.
Q: If I eat fermented foods, I will not benefit from a probiotic supplement?
Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso and kimchi are produced using microorganisms. However, these microorganisms are chosen for their role in food production, not necessarily for their health benefits and typically only use a single type of probiotic. After cooking, processing, and storage, not all fermented foods will contain live, viable microorganisms by the time you are ready to enjoy them. A diet that includes fermented foods can be supplemented with probiotics to improve the quality, quantity and variety of strains consumed to provide optimal health benefits.**
Q: Should Probiotics only be taken for short periods?
For continued benefits, probiotic supplements should be taken on a routine, ongoing basis. The changes that occur to gut microbiota with supplementation are temporary. If supplementation is discontinued, a person’s microbiota will typically return to its previous status within one to three weeks.1
Q: Should I store all probiotics in the refrigerator?
Since probiotics are live microorganisms, they need to be stored properly with care. Proper storage conditions will vary depending on the strains of probiotics in the product. Probiotics should not be stored in the refrigerator unless instructed to do so on the packaging by the manufacturer.
At Puritan’s Pride®, we take special care to choose the right packaging to suit the particular needs of the strains in our products. Strains that are sensitive to humidity are packaged in advanced bottles with desiccant technology to control moisture. Other strains are happy in our opaque white bottles that block out light. Things you can do at home to ensure the potency of your probiotics are to make sure the bottle is tightly sealed and avoid storing in areas such as the bathroom where showers can generate excessive humidity.
- 1. Khalesi S, Bellissimo N, Vandelanotte C, Williams S, Stanley D, Irwin C. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2019;73(1):24-37.
- 2. Hill C, Guarner F, Reid G, et al. Expert consensus document. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nat Rev Gas troenterol Hepatol. 2014;11(8):506-514.
- 3. Probiotics. International Scientific Associated for Probiotics and Prebiotics. https://isappscience.org/for-consumers/learn/probiotics/. Accessed November 18, 2020.
- 4. Morowitz MJ, Carlisle EM, Alverdy JC. Surg Clin North Am. 2011;91(4):771-viii.
- 5. Vanderhoof, J.A. et al. J. Pediatr. 1999, 135(5):564-8