MESA, AZ - Probiotics are a hot topic right now, and many products are being fortified with these organisms. But before you run out to stock your cart, make sure you know the basics.
Probiotics are live microbial organisms that are naturally present in the digestive tract and vagina. There are over 400 species of microorganisms in the human digestive tract, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
A number of medical, diet, and lifestyle factors are believed to disturb the balance in the colon. This imbalance is called dysbiosis. Factors include:
o Inadequate dietary fiber
o Oral antibiotic therapy
o Infant formula feeding
o Ingestion of environmental toxins
When they are not kept in check, less healthy bacteria and yeast may flourish, which is thought to increase the likelihood of conditions such as infectious diarrhea and vaginal yeast infections.
Probiotics can be found in capsule, liquid, powder or tablet form. Acidophilus drinks can be found in health food stores, some grocery stores and Asian grocers.
Probiotics can also be found in cultured dairy products such as yogurt or kefir, however, the number of live organisms varies greatly from product to product due to differences in processing methods. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut also contain probiotics.
Once ingested, probiotics colonize the intestines and other parts of the body and can sustain themselves unless they are destroyed by antibiotics or other factors.
Although they are thought to be essential for health, because they can sustain themselves in the body under normal circumstances, there is no recommended daily intake of probiotics.
Unfortunately, many studies have shown that the use of probiotics doesn't necessarily live up to all of the hype.
Some uses of probiotics for which there is some encouraging evidence include:
o To treat diarrhea
o To prevent and treat infections of the urinary tract or female genital tract
o To treat irritable bowel syndrome
o To reduce recurrence of bladder cancer
o To shorten how long an intestinal infection lasts that is caused by a bacterium called Clostridium difficile
o To prevent and treat pouchitis (a condition that can follow surgery to remove the colon)
o To prevent and manage atopic dermatitis (eczema) in children
No studies have found any significant side effects for healthy children (without immune system problems) who are taking probiotics. However, probiotics have no real proven benefit so far, so you might wait until more research is done before offering probiotics to your kids on a regular basis.
In the mean time, you can incorporate some probiotic-containing foods such as yogurt into your child's regular diet, but be sure to read the labels and do your research before buying a product.
Check with your pediatrician about using a supplement; a doctor can help you determine which strain of bacteria and which dose to use.
To learn more about the digestive and GI services at Cardon Children’s Medical Center, visit www.bannerhealth.com/cardonchildrens . To make an appointment with a Banner Pediatric Specialist in gastroenterology, call (480) 412-5550.
Copyright 2010 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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