In an article published on the MedicineNet website, a registered dietitian provided readers with important information about the use of probiotics. Author Betty Kovacs Harbolic, MS, RD, indicates that probiotics are live microorganisms that promote digestive and immune health. Probiotics are available in some foods such as yogurt and in dietary supplements. Probiotic supplements may contain one or more different species from genera, including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces. The Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics defines probiotics as “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”

The article also provides information about prebiotics and the possible health benefits associated with prebiotics, such as acting as a remedy for gastrointestinal (GI) complications, including constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and prevention and treatment of various cancers; decreasing allergic inflammation; treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and fighting immune-deficiency diseases. There has also been research demonstrating that the dietary intake of particular food products with a prebiotic effect have been exhibited, especially in adolescents but also tentatively in postmenopausal women, to increase calcium absorption as well as bone calcium accretion and bone mineral density.

The author notes that research has revealed some benefits for the use of probiotics for infectious diarrhea, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, gut transit, IBS, abdominal pain and bloating, ulcerative colitis, Helicobacter pylori infection, NAFLD, and necrotizing enterocolitis. Another way that probiotics can be valuable is via the beneficial effects that they exert on the immune system. Some health experts believe that the role of probiotics in immune health is the most important benefit and can protect the immune system against infection, allergic reactions, autoimmune disorders (for example, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis), and infections (for example, infectious diarrhea, H pylori, skin infections, and vaginal infections).

Research into the benefits of probiotics continues to evolve, and new areas of interest are emerging. Preliminary research has linked them to supporting the health of the reproductive tract, oral cavity, lungs, skin and gut-brain axis, and the prevention and treatment of obesity and type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The author also reminded consumers electing to use probiotics that caution should be used in pediatric patients, pregnant women, elderly patients, and those with compromised immune systems, since probiotic use in these patient populations can actually expand one’s chances of becoming ill. For example, the use of probiotics in those who are immunocompromised or in patients with a leaky gut has resulted in infections and sepsis.

Finally, the author noted that the requirements for a microbe to be considered a probiotic are that it must be alive when administered, must be documented to have a health benefit, and must be administered at levels sufficient to confer a health benefit. Consumers should seek guidance from their pharmacist or primary healthcare provider if they are uncertain about which type of probiotics they should take or whether they are appropriate based on their overall health

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.

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