Stroll down your local dairy aisle and observe: Many products boast probiotics, good-for-you bacteria that can help our bodies’ digestion and boost our immunity. But what does it all mean?

 

“Probiotics in general are a bit of a Wild West situation,” says gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Yale University, Dr. Anish Sheth. “It’s a buzz word, something a lot of people are touting, but there is a lack of quality control.”

 

He explains that there are two forms available to consumers: One is probiotic supplements such as Phillips Colon Health, for which Dr. Sheth is a spokesperson. The other is through food products, such as yogurts, cereals, chocolates and drinks.

 

“In food, it’s less clear how many billion colonies [of bacteria] you get if you ingest, say, a smoothie,” Dr. Sheth says. “Because [probiotics] are not regulated by the FDA, these food products are suited for maintaining general health. They aren’t designed to specifically tweak serious gastrointestinal problems.”