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A. Probiotics are live microorganisms known to provide health benefits when taken orally or applied to the body. These good bacteria are found in yogurt and fermented foods. These microorganisms are same or similar to those that naturally exist in our body.

A. The most common bacteria belong to two groups called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

A. A healthy community of microorganisms—the “microbiome”—is critical to maintaining good health. Consuming probiotics help maintain a healthy community of microorganisms in the body, or help the body regain the good bacteria destroyed by illness or medicine, such as antibiotics.

Probiotics help produce desirable effects against an illness, and influence the body’s response.

A. Different probiotics offer different benefits, and the health benefit is specific to a strain, which is often denoted by an identification code. A specific strain of Lactobacillus, for instance, may prevent an illness, but another strain of the same probiotic may not.

A. Prebiotics are food components that selectively stimulate the growth or activity of probiotic. Synbiotics are products that combine probiotics and prebiotics.

*National Institutes of Health

A. *Probiotics have an extensive history of apparently safe use, particularly in healthy people. However, few studies have looked at the safety of probiotics in detail, so there’s a lack of solid information on the frequency and severity of side effects.

  • The risk of harmful effects from probiotics is greater in people with severe illnesses or compromised immune systems. When probiotics are being considered for high-risk individuals, such as premature infants or seriously ill hospital patients, the potential risks of probiotics should be carefully weighed against their benefits.
  • Possible harmful effects of probiotics include infections, production of harmful substances by the probiotic microorganisms, and transfer of antibiotic resistance genes from probiotic microorganisms to other microorganisms in the digestive tract.
  • Some probiotic products have been reported to contain microorganisms other than those listed on the label. In some instances, these contaminants may pose serious health risks.

A. It is always advisable to consult your physician before you take any supplement. This is particularly so If you are considering a probiotic and you have serious underlying health conditions. Your physician would be able to make a well-informed recommendation for the right probiotic for your condition.

A. * Probiotics have been the subject of a lot of research, and although small clinical studies show their usefulness there still is a need for large-scale studies to prove various health benefits of these microorganisms ingested as supplements.

Current research is focused on following conditions:

  • Gastrointestinal Conditions
  • Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea
  • Acne
  • Clostridium difficile Infection
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea Caused by Cancer Treatment
  • Diverticular Disease
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Traveler’s Diarrhea
  • Conditions in Infants
  • Infant Colic
  • Necrotizing Enterocolitis
  • Sepsis in Infants
  • Dental Disorders
  • Dental Caries (Tooth Decay)
  • Periodontal Diseases (Gum Disease)
  • Conditions Related to Allergy
  • Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)
  • Asthma
  • Atopic Dermatitis
  • Prevention of Allergies
  • Other Conditions

Researchers are also studying which probiotic strain is more effective than another, and how much probiotic one must take for it to be effective. Researchers are also divided on whether taking just one probiotic is more effective than multiple strains in one capsule or tablet.

Probiotics have shown a good deal of promise for a variety of conditions:

  • Prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea (including diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile;
  • Prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis and sepsis in premature infants, treatment of infant colic;
  • Treatment of periodontal disease
  • Induction or maintenance of remission in ulcerative colitis;
  • The following sections summarize the research on probiotics for some of the conditions for which they’ve been studied.

A. Probiotics are generally sold as dietary supplements, and although in many countries in Asia they require to be approved by the FDA it is not required in the US and most European countries. Dietary supplements are not allowed to make any health claims, such as their ability to treat or lower the risk of a disease; but they may claim on the label how the product affects the structure or function of the body without FDA approval.

*National Institutes of Health