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 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.


The basics
What probiotics do: Help with bloating, diarrhea and constipation

Where they are found: Yogurts and cultured dairy products and supplements

How they work: When there is an imbalance between the healthy bacteria in our intestine and the bad bacteria, boosting the healthy bacteria can help correct digestive upsets.