When patients ask about taking a probiotic product to address a symptom, physicians often have difficulty making evidence-based recommendations and are faced with the time-consuming task of finding and comparing results from published clinical studies.

Making recommendations has recently become easier with the use of a new tool for physicians: the US edition of the Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products. The new guide lists the brand names of probiotic products available in the US, along with each product’s strain(s), format, recommended dosage, and CFU (colony-forming units) per dose. Most importantly, the chart details the level of evidence that supports the use of that product for various adult and pediatric health indications.

“Patients often choose probiotics at health food stores, based on what the product label says or what someone at the store tells them,” says Dan Merenstein, MD, Research Division Director and Associate Professor of Family Medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC (USA). Merenstein says the chart will help him steer his patients in the right direction, increasing the likelihood that they will find a probiotic product suited to their needs.

“A lot of people think one probiotic is the same as every other probiotic, and the nice thing here is it shows they have different indications and they’ve been studied for different reasons,” says Merenstein.

The guide lists both single strain and multi-strain products, and is available online or through a mobile app. The Alliance for Education on Probiotics developed the tool through an unrestricted educational grant, with lead author Dragana Skokovic-Sunjic under the direction of an expert review board. A similar guide for Canada has been available since 2010.

Merenstein also notes that the chart lays out different choices for patients, including ‘functional foods’ with added probiotics. He says, “One of the beautiful things is that the chart shows there’s a lot of products out there. There’s a decent amount of evidence and a decent number of products.”

Merenstein says, however, the chart will not be relevant to every case he sees as a physician. “Many people take probiotics for general health, just like they take multivitamins,” he says. “The chart doesn’t address general health, and I think that’s a limitation.”