Probiotics are edible products (often yoghurts and drinks) that help increase the amount of ‘friendly’ bacteria in our stomachs and bowels, to aid digestion.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are organisms that help promote ‘friendly’ bacteria in our guts while seeming to reduce the risk of pathogenic (or ‘bad’) bacteria from taking over and causing disease.
Probiotics occur naturally in cultured milk products such as yogurt (look for ones that say: ‘live cultures’). You can also buy probiotics in capsules, as tablets, powder, wafers and as food supplements.
The most commonly used probiotic is Lactobacillus acidophilus (L.acidophilus)
Why do I need Probiotics?
The evidence is mounting - probiotics are good for us. They seem to aid digestion helping us to avoid stomach upsets and nasty bouts of diarrhoea.
Studies suggest they are effective for many conditions including: diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance and yeast infections such as vaginal or oral thrush. There is even some evidence* that babies who receive probiotics in the first six months of life and during the last trimester in the womb are less prone to eczema.
Probiotics may help boost the immune system and are particularly useful if you are taking antibiotics. Antibiotics disturb the balance of organisms in the gut sometimes leading to stomach upsets and diarrhoea. Probiotics restore this balance by helping friendly bacteria such as lactobacillus or bifidobacterium to regain control. You can almost picture it as a mini battle taking place inside you - with probiotics helping you to bring in reinforcements to vanquish the enemy.
Try taking probiotics in capsules or liquid form twice a day with meals throughout your course of antibiotics and for a few days afterwards.
In a recent review of 31 trials* on probiotics and antibiotics, probiotics were found to reduce the risk of stomach cramps, nausea, flatulence and diarrhoea. In a second review*, probiotics were found to be helpful in reducing diarrhoea in both children and adults - cutting the duration of the problem by an entire day.
Can Probiotics be harmful?
Avoid probiotics if you are allergic to the bacteria: lactobacillus, acidophilus, bifidobacterium or streptococcus thermophilus.