What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live micro-organisms (mainly bacteria but also yeasts) which are thought provide numerous health benefits. In order to provide these health benefits, probiotics need to be able to survive the acidic environment of the stomach. They also need to be eaten in adequate quantities
What are the proven health benefits of probiotics?
There is a good deal of scientific evidence suggesting that probiotics are effective for gastrointestinal problems including:
- Diarrhea: specifically antibiotic associated diarrhea including episodes caused by infection with C. difficile and infectious diarrhea.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease: ulcerative colitis, pouchitis, and Crohn’s Disease.
- Food intolerance.
- Helicobacter pylori infection.
Are all probiotics the same in terms of their health benefits?
No, the health benefits are specific and related with a number of different factors. From a scientific prespective, a suitable description of a probiotic product as reflected on the label should include: Genus and species identification, with nomenclature consistent with current scientifically recognized names; Strain designation; Viable count of each strain at the end of shelf-life; Recommended storage conditions; Safety under the conditions of recommended use; Recommended dose, which should be based on induction of the claimed physiological effect; An accurate description of the physiological effect, as far as is allowable by law; Contact information for post-market surveillance.
How can I add probiotics to my diet?
You can add probiotics to your diet either by eating probiotic foods (including beverages) or by taking probiotic supplements. Generally speaking, probiotic supplements usually contain higher numbers of probiotic organisms than probiotic foods. Be aware too that many of the processed probiotic foods (e.g. cereals, granola and ice-cream) that have recently appeared on our grocery-store shelves are often high in sugar and additives.
When is the best time to take probiotics?
Take your probiotics 15-30 minutes before food on an empty stomach when the acid content is at its lowest. Less acid content gives the bacteria and yeasts a better chance of living, so they do not stuck in the stomach behind the food as they make their way down to your intestines where they do their best work. In case of an oral antibiotic administration, take the probiotic at least 2 hours before.
Where can I purchase probiotics?
You can purchase probiotic foods from grocery and health food stores. As far as probiotic supplements are concerned, these can be purchased from on-line retailers and over-the-counter from pharmacies.
What side-effects should I expect when starting probiotics?
You may experience symptoms of bloating, flatulence (gas), abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea in the first few days of probiotic therapy. These symptoms occur as your digestive system rebalances in favor of the good bacteria. The symptoms should subside after a few days. However, if they persist, then you can always reduce your dosage and ramp back up slowly.
Are probiotics safe for children?
Yes, both probiotic foods and supplements are safe for children. There is a wide range of probiotic supplements which are suitable for children. There are available in a variety of forms including chewable tablets, capsules and powder. Probiotics are also suitable for infants. Once weaned, probiotic foods can be introduced into a baby’s diet. Certain probiotic supplements are also appropriate for infants.