Nancy Toedter Williams


Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2010;67(6):449-458. 

In This Article


Probiotics have been used for the prevention and treatment of various medical conditions and to support general wellness. Some of their beneficial health effects have been validated, while other uses are supported by limited evidence. Not only are probiotic effects strain specific, probiotic products may vary from each other, and greater benefits may be seen with one lot of probiotics versus another due to the complexity of quality control with live microorganisms. Furthermore, combination agents can make it challenging to quantify particular clinical benefits.[2,12,13]

Illnesses associated with the gastrointestinal tract have been a common target of probiotics, mainly due to their ability to restore gut flora. The strongest evidence for the use of probiotics lies in the treatment of certain diarrheal diseases, especially rotaviral diarrhea in children. Clinical studies have also supported the role of probiotics in treating pouchitis.[2,8,9] Data are inconsistent regarding the efficacy of probiotics for antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) and travelers' diarrhea.[2,8] Although clinical trial results are conflicting, probiotic therapy may also be beneficial in the treatment of Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis (UC), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and Helicobacter pylori infections.[5,8,14,15] Probiotics have also been shown to decrease the symptoms of lactose intolerance.[11,15–17]

Other illnesses not associated with the gastrointestinal tract or gut microbiota, including various urogenital problems (e.g., bacterial vaginosis, candidal vaginitis, urinary tract infections), may also respond to probiotics.[2,6,8,15] Probiotics have also been studied for their role in treating upper respiratory infections (e.g., acute otitis media); reducing the risk of colon and bladder cancer, allergic diseases, and atopy; boosting immune response; and preventing dental caries.[2,14,15,17,18]


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