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Benef Microbes. 2017 Aug 24;8(4):507-519. doi: 10.3920/BM2016.0146. Epub 2017 Jun 16.

Probiotic guidelines and physician practice: a cross-sectional survey and overview of the literature.

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1 Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Stanford School of Medicine, 300 Pasteur Drive, MC 5187, Stanford, CA 94305-5119, USA.
2 Division of Infectious Diseases and Geographic Medicine, Stanford School of Medicine, 300 Pasteur Drive, MC 5187, Stanford, CA 94305-5119, USA.
3 Health Research and Policy, Department of Medicine, Stanford School of Medicine, 150 Governor's Lane, HRP Redwood Building, Stanford, CA 94305-5405, USA.


Probiotic use by patients and physicians has dramatically increased over the last decade, although definitive evidence is often lacking for their use. We examined probiotic-prescribing practices among health care providers (HCP) at a tertiary medical centre and compared these practices to clinical guidelines. HCP at the Stanford Medical Center received a survey on probiotic prescribing practices including choice of probiotic and primary indications. A broad overview of the literature was performed. Among 2,331 HCP surveyed, 632 responded. Of the 582 of these who routinely prescribed medications, 61% had recommended probiotic foods or supplements to their patients. Women and gastroenterologists were more likely to prescribe probiotics (odds ratio (OR): 1.5, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.0-2.1; OR: 3.9, 95% CI: 1.5-10.1, respectively). Among probiotic prescribers, 50% prescribed inconsistently or upon patient request, and 40% left probiotic choice to the patient. Common indications for probiotics, particularly Lactobacillus GG, were prevention and treatment of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea (79 and 66%, respectively). Probiotics were often prescribed for 'general bowel health' or at patient request (27 and 39% of responders, respectively). Most respondents (63%) thought an electronic medical record (EMR) pop-up would change probiotic prescribing patterns. However, a review of published guidelines and large trials found inconsistencies in probiotic indications, dosages and strain selection. Probiotic prescribing is common but lacks consistency, with choice of probiotic frequently left to the patient, even for indications with some strain-specific evidence. Implementation of EMR pop-ups/pocket guides may increase consistency in probiotic prescribing, although the lack of clear and consistent guidelines must first be addressed with large, well-designed clinical trials.


alternative; complementary; microbiome

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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