Is Probiotics a hype?
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are “friendly bacteria” that are similar to organisms that occur naturally in the digestive tract. Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in our gut. We have trillions of bacteria in our colon, including over 1,000 different types, with most of them being beneficial. “As long as we maintain a high ratio of good to bad, the bad bacteria behave,” says Dr.Shekhar Challa. “The problem occurs when this ratio gets out of whack.” He adds, “probiotics have long been used in Japan, China and India and it is new buzzword in the United States.
“In societies with very good hygiene, we have seen a sharp increase in autoimmune and allergic diseases,” Guandalini tells. “That may be because the immune system isn’t being properly challenged by pathogenic organisms. Introducing friendly bacteria in the form of probiotics is believed to challenge the immune system in healthy ways.”
Benefits of Probiotics
In 2011, the experts at Yale University reviewed the research on probiotics. They concluded that probiotics are most effective for:
· Treating childhood diarrhea.
· Treating ulcerative colitis.
· Treating necrotizing enterocolitis a type of infection and inflammation of the intestine mostly seen in infants.
· Preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea and infectious diarrhea.
· Preventing pouchitis, an inflammation of the intestine that can follow intestinal surgery.
· Treating and preventing eczema associated with cow’s milk allergy.
· Helping the immune system.
The Yale University panel experts concluded that probiotics may be helpful in other ways although evidence is less convincing. These include,
· Treating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
· Treating vaginitis.
· Treating diarrhea caused by C.difficile bacteria.
Probiotics may also be useful in unexpected ways. A study published in 2010 suggested that probiotics may lower the risk of common childhood illness such as ear infection, strep throat and colds. Certain types of probiotics have been linked to helping with irritable bowel syndrome to traveler’s diarrhea to boosting the immune system. They’re sometimes used in antibiotics to combat the diarrhea that may result from taking antibiotics.
Research in Probiotics
Reviewing the current medical literature, the authors report that:
· Infants and children who ate probiotic foods — mainly yogurt experienced a shorter duration of diarrhea.
· Probiotics were modestly effective in preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea in healthy children.
· There is no conclusive evidence to suggest probiotics treat intestinal conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or constipation, as well as colic, and allergies in children.
· Infant formulas enhanced with probiotics or prebiotics do not appear to cause harm in healthy infants, but there is insufficient evidence to suggest any benefits.
· Prebiotics may help reduce atopic eczema in healthy children.
· It’s unclear if probiotics or prebiotics offer any long-term protection against allergies.
What is better: Probiotic foods or supplements?
Probiotics are considered dietary supplements, which are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Probiotics come in many forms, including powders, tablets, capsules and foods such as, yogurts and dairy drinks. The forms you take them in don’t matter, experts say, as long as it contains enough organisms to grow in the intestines. Experts say the effective dose varies, from as little as 50 million to as many as 1 trillion live cells per dose.
What is also important is the type of organisms they contain. Specific probiotic organisms appear to be useful for particular illnesses. The bacteria Lactobacillus G, Lactobacillus reuteri and the yeast Saccharomyces boulcardii have been shown to be helpful for infectious diarrhea in children, for example.
Your best bet, choose a low-fat, low-sugar Yogurt with live, active cultures. Personally, we use a lot of probiotics in our kid’s diet. We make our own yogurt at home. If you want to know how you can make your own, ask me on your next visit.