Seunga (Jasmine) Han, PharmD Student
While shopping at the grocery store, you may have noticed some dairy products containing probiotics. You may have also noticed that various probiotics in the vitamin and herbal aisle claim to have health benefits. It can be overwhelming to see this wide array of products and try to decipher what is really good for you. Today, we’ll talk about probiotics and, hopefully, provide some answers to the questions you may have.
What is a probiotic?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), probiotics are defined as “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are defined as “dietary ingredients that are used or fermented by microorganisms to yield a beneficial result for human host.”
What are some possible side effects?
For the most part, probiotics are often well-tolerated. Some of the most common side effects include: flatulence, constipation, nausea, hiccups, and rash.
How do they work?
Currently, there is no known mechanism of action to support probiotics providing health benefits. Based on some hypotheses, it appears that probiotics help with:
- maintaining gut wall/lining
- inhibiting pathogens from lining the gut wall
- regulating and maturing gut immune system
- breaking down carbon compounds that our body’s enzymes can’t digest
What are the benefits? Which one should I take?
Based on current evidence, it seems like probiotics are primarily beneficial in preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea. You can consider using probiotics for the duration of your antibiotic therapy, plus 5-7 days after completion of antibiotic treatment. It’s recommended to take probiotics about 2 hours before or after you take your antibiotic.
The following are some examples of the probiotic species available and their typical dosing information to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea in adults:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus + Lactobacillus casei (Bio-K+®): 2 capsules once per day (50 billion CFUs/capsule)
- Yogurt with Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus bulgars, and Streptococcus thermophilus (DanActive®): 1 probiotic yogurt drink (97mL) twice per day
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus (Culturelle®): 1 capsule twice per day (10 billion CFU/capsule)
- Saccharomyces boulardii (Florastor®): 1 capsule twice per day (1 billion CFU/capsule of 250mg)
The following are probiotic options for preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children:
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus (Culturelle®): 1 capsule once or twice per day (10 billion CFU/capsule)
- Saccharomyces boulardii (Florastor®): 1-2 capsule(s) per day (1 billion CFU/capsule of 250mg)
While some claim that probiotics are effective for preventing traveller’s diarrhea, infections, eczema, and/or reducing IBS symptoms, constipaton, and other illnesses related to the digestive system, the evidence surrounding these claims is lacking and too inconsistent to make a definitive recommendation.
Nonetheless, you can always speak to your local healthcare provider to see if probiotics would be worth a try. Remember, it’s always important to speak to them to ensure that your medical conditions and other medications don’t interact with probiotics.
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