The Right Probiotics for Your Stomach Problems

Some probiotics can be more helpful than others, depending on the health issue.

Probiotics have emerged as a possible remedy for issues affecting the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Probiotics for stomach pain, diarrhea, or other stomach-related problems are now on the shelves in many pharmacies and stores. So how do you decide which one to take?

Read on for tips on which probiotics may help your most common stomach complaints.

What Are Probiotics?

In a healthy body, trillions of bacteria and other living organisms (like yeast) colonize the skin, mouth, intestines, and genital tract. Among these are probiotics. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, probiotics are "live microorganisms" in the gut to help keep a person's body healthy.

"They do a great job fighting off disease-causing microbes trying to gain entry," said University of Washington epidemiologist Lynne McFarland, PhD, the co-author of The Power of Probiotics.

According to the National Institutes of Health, you can add probiotics to the gut by consuming supplements or fermented foods like yogurt and cheese. Many food manufacturers add them to a variety of food products as well.


The American College of Gastroenterology (AGA) notes that much more high-quality studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of probiotics for gastrointestinal disorders.

The AGA does have recommendations regarding probiotic use. According to AGA guidelines:

  • Adults and children on antibiotic treatment can use certain probiotics to prevent C difficile infection.
  • Children with acute infectious gastroenteritis should not use probiotics.
  • People with Clostridium difficile infection, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, or symptomatic irritable bowel syndrome should only use probiotics in the context of a clinical trial.


Studies show that probiotics have some promise in supporting stomach health, such as preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea, according to a 2017 review and meta-analysis published in Antibiotics. But probiotics aren't all created equal, said University of Western Ontario microbiologist Gregor Reid, PhD, who has studied them.

For example, a 2015 meta-analysis published in the World Journal of Meta-Analysis suggests the probiotic strain Saccharomyces boulardii CNCM I-745 is much more effective in treating a stomach infection by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori than the strains C. butyricum and L. acidophilus.

Stomach Problems Probiotics May Help

Researchers of a 2021 International Journal of Agricultural Environment and Food Sciences study indicated that there are probiotics that improve the microbial balance of the gastrointestinal tract, inhibit pathogenic microorganisms, and strengthen the immune system. To that end, there are several stomach-related issues that probiotics may alleviate.

Antibiotic-Associated Conditions

When harmful bacteria start to make you sick, you may be prescribed antibiotics to fight off bacterial infections. "But taking antibiotics can open up a window of opportunity for pathogens to move in," McFarland said.

According to a 2018 literature review published in the journal Royal College of Physicians, so-called antibiotic-associated diarrhea is a classic example, with the bacterium Clostridium difficile being a common culprit.

In their 2020 probiotic practice guidelines published in Gastroenterology, the American Gastroenterology Association noted that certain probiotic strains and strain combinations might help reduce the risk of Clostridium difficile infection while on antibiotics.

Such probiotic strains and strain combinations include S boulardii; L acidophilus CL1285 and L casei LBC80R; and the three-strain combination of L acidophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp bulgaricus, and Bifidobacterium bifidum.

A 2015 review and meta-analysis published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics found that the probiotic strain Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus GG may help reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children and adults.

And another 2015 review published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics found that the probiotic strain Saccharomyces boulardii might also be beneficial in treating antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children and adults.

More studies are needed to further determine the effectiveness of probiotics for antibiotic-associated conditions.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

In the adult population, up to 20% of individuals know the belly pain and bloating discomfort of IBS, according to the Office on Women's Health. While more research is needed to know if probiotics can truly ease IBS symptoms, studies have suggested that the probiotic strains Bifidobacterium longum 35624 and Lactobacillus plantarum CCFM8610 may be able to.

For example, 233 patients with IBS in a February 2022 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology benefited from 30 days of Bifidobacterium longum 35624 treatment for their symptoms.

And a March 2021 study published in Engineering found that eight weeks of Lactobacillus plantarum CCFM8610 treatment alleviated symptoms in 23 patients with IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D).

Travelers' Diarrhea

According to the National Library of Medicine, 40% to 60% of individuals can be affected by travelers' diarrhea. This is caused by parasites and infectious bacteria in unsanitary water, which are common in resource-limited countries.

Researchers of a February 2022 review in Gastroenterology & Hepatology Letters noted the probiotic yeast Saccharomyces boulardii could have protective properties regarding the condition.

However, research is ongoing to confirm the effectiveness of probiotic prevention.

What About Prebiotics?

If certain gut bacteria promote good health, it makes sense to eat a diet rich in the nutrients that make those microbes happy. That's the concept behind prebiotics, which include several kinds of soluble plant fiber abundant in foods like onions, garlic, and leeks.

According to a 2018 literature review published in the journal Advances in Therapy, prebiotics like transgalacto-oligosaccharides and fructo-oligosaccharides appear to promote the growth of good microbes such as bifidobacteria that fight gut invaders like salmonella.

Research continues to develop to see if such prebiotics can aid in reducing symptoms of conditions like IBS.

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