Probiotics

Posted by Pharmacist on May 07, 2010

Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut.  Probiotics are available in both foods and dietary supplements.  Foods containing probiotics include yogurt, some juices and soy beverages, miso, fermented and unfermented milk, and tempeh.  The bacteria can be added or may have been present originally in both foods and supplements.  Probiotic dietary supplements take the form of powders, capsules or tablets.  In America, spending on probiotics has tripled from 1994 to 2003.

Interest in the use of probiotics has grown due to promising reports of potential prevention and treating of certain health conditions.  A 2005 conference of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the American Society for Microbiology found encouraging  evidence for the use of probiotics.  The following are some examples:

-Treatment of diarrhea, especially diarrhea from rotovirus

-Prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections

-To shorten an intestinal infection caused by Clostridium difficile

-To reduce recurrence of bladder cancer

-To treat irritable bowel syndrome

-To prevent and treat pouchitis

-To prevent and manage eczema in children

More research needs to be done to determine firmer conclusions.  The safety of probiotics has not been thoroughly studied scientifically.  Although, probiotic potential side effects tend to be mild such as bloating or gas.  There is a potential that probiotic use could cause infections or could stimulate unhealthy metabolic activities.

Most likely consuming yogurt or other foods containing probiotics daily would not be harmful.  As far as probiotic supplements, these are considered dietary supplements and there are currently no guidelines on recommended amounts.  It is imperative that you consult your health care provider before taking probiotics as a treatment or let your health care provider know if you are currently taking them.

Bottom line, moderate daily use of probiotics in foods should be fine and you could see several potential benefits.  If you are considering taking probiotic supplements, definitely consult your health care provider first and do not use as a substitute for prescribed medication.

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