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Do you know that there are bacteria aka “good bacteria” living in our intestines to help us digest food, destroy disease-causing microorganisms and produce certain vitamins? Probiotics are live microorganisms that are intended to have many health benefits. My gynecologist and friend, Dr. Lisa McLeod, recommends many of her patients to take Lactobacillus supplements daily to maintain normal vaginal flora. I take probiotics daily from www.natureal.com. But as an Emergency Physician, I often wonder how much do we really know about probiotics? Although a great deal of research has been done on probiotics, we still have a lot to learn. it still remains a mystery and it is not new! This is why I love science. For thousands of years, probiotics in fermented milk have been ingested by humans in the belief that they have health benefits. It has been advocated for the prevention and treatment of a wide range of diseases, but strong scientific evidence for the use of probiotics for most health conditions is lacking. However, there are few clinical studies that revealed evidence of their efficacy in the management of diarrheal diseases. Probiotics have a very good safety record, but they should be used with caution in certain groups such as preterm neonates or persons with immune deficiency. Before taking certain types of probiotics, people should take the time to understand the risks and benefits. Also, patients should be advised by their Physicians (MD/DO) before taking probiotic supplements in clinical practice. 

Are probiotics safe to use? It depends on your state of health. If you are generally healthy, the probiotics tend to have a good safety record. The only complaint I’ve heard so far from my patients, family, and friends that they experienced mild bloating and gas. However, there are many uncertainties with the use of probiotics and not enough research to prove the safety net of these probiotic supplements. There are some reports that demonstrated the severe side effects of probiotics in persons suffering from underlying serious medical problems such as the critically ill patients, post-surgery patients, people with weakened immune systems and sick infants. All we know is that the practice of taking probiotics is advocated to help increase the amount of good bacteria…pretty much help to bring a balance within in our bodies. As a matter of fact, here are some ways that probiotics might help prevent or treat certain conditions according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health such as:

  • Digestive disorders such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and infectious diarrhea.

  • Periodontal disease and other oral health issues

  • Common cold

  • Eczema and hay fever

  • Liver disease

  • Prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis in low birth weight infants.

Remember each probiotic can have different effects on our bodies. So please talk with your primary care physician before taking them! We want to make sure that you are receiving great care and avoiding harm to your temple. Ladies, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, I strongly advised that you talk with your OB/GYN specialist. But here are a few examples of how it may work for you: 

  • Maintain normal vaginal flora

  • Promote a healthy immune response to infections

  • Keep the undesirable microorganisms at bay

  • Helping the digestive tract to return to its original state after prolonged use of antibiotics 

So ladies and gentlemen, do your absolute best to talk with your physician and research on which probiotics are good for you. Understand the risks and benefits of taking probiotics. Do your absolute best treat your body right because you have the right to live.