Probiotics: Some Friendly Facts
By Joshua Ng (Pharmacist, Caring Pharmacy) | Wed Feb 21, 2018 11:27am
PROBIOTICS: SOME FRIENDLY FACTS
Probiotics are very popular nowadays. It is marketed in various health brands, it is even marketed in the form of milk formulas and even food. Probiotics has also gained popularity amongst parents wanting to provide nutrition to their kids. Probiotics has been marketed from treating diarrhea to even preventing eczema and asthma. This article serves to provide you a look into whether the information out there on probiotics is a hyped up myth, or is it really that good.
Probiotics: born with it
Billions of probiotics exists naturally in our gastrointestinal tract (an environment of bacteria is also called bacteria flora). Many types of bacteria in our gut function to keep our digestive system in good condition. Infants born through the birth canal and who are breastfed have a higher amount of good bacteria in the gut flora. Comparatively, infants born through C-section or if not breastfed would have lesser amounts of good bacteria. Some experts claim that infants with a poorer colonization of good bacteria might result in the developing asthma and eczema later on in life.
A study in 2005 using strains of Lactobacillus GG where shown to be effective in reducing antibiotic associated diarrhea in children. Another strain that has been studied is S. boulardii that when used was able to reduce the duration of acute diarrhea.
A scientific review of journal compilation showed probiotics to be effective in various gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn disease, Ulcerative colitis and Irritable bowel disease. Probiotics was also shown to be able to improve symptoms of Irritable bowel syndrome. The probiotics used in the study was able to reduce bloating, abdominal pain and improve the colonic transit time.
Some studies using strains Lactobacillus GG, L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri were shown to be effective in improving the symptoms of atopic dermatitis in children. L. paracasei was also shown to improve symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis (a combination of nasal congestion, itching of nose or eyes, runny nose, sneezing, red eyes)
Overview of scientific evidence:
The studies quoted above are varied in quality, some are short term studies, and some are randomized double blinded controlled studies. There are still some overall weaknesses in the scientific evidence as there are multiple strains of probiotics in the market. Other strains such as Bifidobacterium lactis, Bifidobacterium logum, Lactobacillus acidophilus are not expounded in this article. Also, many studies tend to be brand specific rather than strain specific. The weakness of the evidence could stem from the fact that it is a classified as food by the US FDA, therefore it does not need to comply with strict standards associated with drug research.
Probiotics have various health benefits. It is generally considered safe. While more research is needed before it is considered an essential health supplement for babies, it is worth discussing the idea of supplementing your children with probiotics with a doctor or pharmacist.
- Clinical efficacy of probiotics: review of evidence with focus on children. (2006) Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition.
- Probiotics: The Friendly Bacteria. Nancy Gottesman (2018). Parents Magazine. Web article: https://goo.gl/GDgRNF
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