2018-03-01 14:23:06 UTC

Probiotics 102: Who Should Take Probiotics?

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Since there are many kinds of probiotics, talk to your doctor to find the right one for you. Researchers are still learning which probiotic should be used for which symptoms or health issues. Probiotics may supplement treatments, but do not often replace them. Below are some of the most common health issues for which probiotics may help.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

  • IBS is an issue that can cause diarrhea (loose stool), constipation (hard stool or trouble passing stool) or both. 
  • Probiotics, particularly Bifidobacterium infantis, Sacchromyces boulardii, Lactobacillus plantarum and a blend of bacteria, may help with symptoms of IBS. 
  • Probiotics may help ease the sensation of bloating (swelling). 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

  • IBD is an issue of the immune system triggering inflammation in the digestive tract. This can cause pain, diarrhea, weight loss and blood in your stool. 
  • Some studies suggest that probiotics may help lessen inflammation.
  • Ulcerative colitis seems to react better to probiotics than Crohn’s disease. 
  • It appears that E. coli Nissle, and a mixture of the strains of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Streptococcus may be most helpful out of the probiotics that have been tested. 

Infectious Diarrhea

  • Infectious diarrhea is caused by harmful bacteria, viruses or parasites. 
  • There is research to show that probiotics, such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus casei, may be helpful in treating diarrhea caused by rotavirus, which often affects babies and small children.
  • Many strains of Lactobacillus and a strain of the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii may help treat and shorten the course of infectious diarrhea.

Antibiotic-Related Diarrhea

  • Research shows that taking probiotics when you first start taking an antibiotic may help stop antibiotic-related diarrhea.
  • Sometimes taking an antibiotic can cause infectious diarrhea by lowering the number of beneficial microorganisms in your gut. Bacteria that may not otherwise give you any trouble, can grow out of control.
  • One such bacterium is Clostridium difficile (C. diff.), which is a major cause of diarrhea in hospitalized patients and people in long-term care places, like nursing homes. 
  • C. diff. tends to come back even after treatment, but there is research that shows taking probiotics, such as Saccharomyces boulardii, may help stop this. 
  • It is important to note that most antibiotic-associated diarrhea is NOT infectious, but rather is a result of lowering the number of beneficial microorganisms in your gut.

Other Uses

  • Keeping up a healthy mouth, gums, and teeth.
  • Putting off and treating certain skin issues, like eczema (a skin rash).
  • Keeping up a healthy urinary tract and vagina.
  • Helping allergies (mainly in children). 

There is not as much research about these uses as there is about the use of probiotics to help your gut health, and studies have had mixed results. Talk to a doctor to see if probiotics could help your health issue. 

How Long Should You Take a Probiotic?

If your doctor has prescribed a probiotic for you, be sure to take it just as you are told to. If not, the helpful effects of probiotics could last only a short time and might go away within a few weeks. Probiotics are generally thought to be safe if you have a normal immune system, though there is not much known about using them for a long time.

©AGA, July 2016

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