How to Find Functional Foods with Added Probiotics
The World Health Organization defines probiotics as ‘Live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’. In plain language, probiotics are “good microbes.” These friendly microbes help us digest food, maintain health and fight disease.
You may think probiotics are only available in supplement form, but some of the most common probiotics are offered in foods including fortified yogurts, drinks, and even formulas for children! However, these should be taken with the same caution as probiotic supplements, as not all functional foods with probiotics or “live cultures” have evidence to support their benefits.
It’s important that you talk with your doctor, pharmacist, or dietitian first before taking a probiotic, to ensure you have a proper diagnosis, or know why you are taking it. Together, you can select an appropriate probiotic that is the most suitable for you.
The issue of choosing the right probiotic for the right reasons has been addressed in the Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products.
The Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products is an evidence-based decision-making tool for clinicians, which is independently prepared and updated every year. This project has been going on since 2008, and has been recognized as the only reliable resource by international healthcare associations providing health care professionals and consumers with a list of probiotic formulations that have been specifically clinically tested – so they can select the appropriate product, dose, and formulation for a specific indication. Alliance for Education on Probiotics (AEProbio) supports publishing and distribution of this Guide.
Within the Guide, the recommendations are tied to brand names, making it easier for you to select the recommended product when purchasing in stores. Probiotic strain names and doses are also listed. Favorable published clinical evidence for the particular strain(s) presented in each product are given and include numerous gastrointestinal conditions.
The handy acronym list makes it easy for you to find the functional food that has clinical evidence for your specific condition:
- AAD– Antibiotic associated diarrhea (prevention)
- C– Constipation
- CDAD– Clostridium difficile associated diarrhea (prevention)
- CID– Common infectious disease (community acquired)
- CMPA – Cow Milk Protein Allergy (including Colic due to CMPA)
- HP – Helicobacter pylori (adjunct to standard eradication therapy)
- IBS – Irritable bowel syndrome
- ID – Infectious diarrhea
- M/A – Mood and Affect (symptoms related to stress/anxiety; not a substitute for standard treatment)
There, you will also be able to compare the functional foods based on the level of evidence, as it is graded with a I, II, or III, with level I being the highest level:
- Level I:
- Evidence obtained from at least one properly designed randomize trial
- Level II:
- Evidence obtained from well-designed controlled trials without randomization
- Evidence obtained from well-designed cohort or case-control analytic studies, preferably from more than one centre or research group
- Evidence obtained from multiple time series with or without intervention. Dramatic results in uncontrolled trials might also be regarded as this type of evidence.
- Level III:
- Opinions of respected authorities, based on clinical experience, descriptive studies, or reports of expert committees.
To make things even EASIER, the guide also includes symbols to indicate whether or not the product is gluten free, requires refrigeration and/or has been approved by Health Canada.
So, for example – if you are an adult looking for a functional food with added probiotics that may help with the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, there are two functional foods that have level I clinical evidence to support it. Referring to the Clinical Guide for Probiotic Products under the functional foods indication (page 15 of the PDF), you would find:
- GoodBelly® Probiotic Juice Drinks
How to Use the Guide:
Written in collaboration with Dragana Skokovic-Sunjic BScPh RPh NCMP, AEProbio.