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June 9, 2016

Probiotics? Do they actually work?

To best understand the cause, effects, and usefulness of probiotics- one must first understand what a probiotic is. Probiotics are live microorganisms (bacteria) that are intended to have health benefits. Although people often think of bacteria and other microorganisms as harmful “germs,” many microorganisms help our body function properly. For example, bacteria that are typically present in our intestines help digest food, eliminate disease-causing microorganisms, and generate vitamins.

Probiotics help move food through your gut. There are two main types of probiotics. Lactobacillus. The most common probiotic-- usually found in yogurt and other fermented foods. This probiotic can aid with diarrhea and indigestion.

Bifidobacterium. Found in dairy products- helps ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastro-conditions. Some common conditions they treat are:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Infectious diarrhea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites)
  • Antibiotic-related diarrhea

Products sold as probiotics include foods such as yogurt, dietary supplements, and products that are not used orally, such as skin creams.

So, What is the bottom line?

Although a great deal of research has been done on probiotics, much remains to be learned. Some probiotics may help to prevent diarrhea that is caused by infections or antibiotics. They may also help with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. However, benefits have not been conclusively determined. This is because not all probiotics have the same effects. In healthy people, probiotics usually have only minor side effects, if any. However, in people with underlying health problems (for example, weakened immune systems), serious complications such as infections have occasionally been reported.

For more information if probiotics are right for you- Contact one of the specialists at InSite Digestive Health Care here.

References: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm#hed1