Probiotics are live microorganisms that are found in some foods and dietary supplements. They are frequently referred to as “good bacteria” and are the same or similar to microorganisms that already exist in your body. In theory, probiotics can help restore or maintain healthy digestion and also boost immune function. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Although some probiotics have shown promise in research studies, strong scientific evidence to support specific uses of probiotics for most health conditions is lacking.”
At this point in time, the medical community is optimistic about probiotics and watching the research closely.
Gastrointestinal (GI) Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics may provide gastrointestinal (GI) benefits for some patients with these conditions:
There is no conclusive research data to prove the effectiveness of probiotics for IBS or acute diarrhea; however, we find that some patients experience an improvement in certain symptoms. We are unable to predict who will and who will not benefit. Many patients suffering with these difficult symptoms are willing to try probiotics since they usually do not have negative side effects or worsen symptoms. They are in the realm of “unlikely to cause harm and can be of some help.”
Sources of Probiotics
Probiotics can be found in fermented foods including yogurt with live and active cultures, kefir, aged cheese, sauerkraut and kimchi.
Probiotics are also found in supplements. There are many different supplements available. Each supplement contains a different type(s) or strain of bacteria. The type of supplement and dosage will vary depending on the health concern.
You should talk with your doctor before taking probiotic supplements. In rare cases, these supplements are not safe for people with serious health conditions.
Future of Probiotics
There is much we do not understand about the gut microbiome, which includes trillions of bacteria living in our intestines. Promising research suggests that these bacteria may have a strong influence on our overall health. As we learn more, we are hopeful that we can tailor individual therapies in the future to treat diseases such as obesity. It is possible that probiotics may play a role in future targeted therapies but “the jury is still out.”
The physicians at Richmond Gastroenterology treat all types of digestive conditions. Contact us to schedule an appointment.
Disclaimer: This blog article is intended to be informative and is not medical advice.