By Dr. Peter Kadile

You’ve probably heard of probiotic supplements by now. Probiotics are now commonly seen or mentioned in television, radio and internet ads.

What are probiotics?

Micro-organisms that are intentionally taken to benefit health. We usually think of probiotics as the “good” or “healthy” bacteria.

Our gut has trillions of micro-organisms that provide a wide range of benefits to our bodies. These beneficial micro-organisms can become imbalanced (dyspbiosis), through stress, illness, dietary changes and antibiotic use. Probiotics can help create an environment that restores proper balance to the micro-organisms in the gut.

They can be beneficial in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, urinary tract infections, gynecological infections and diarrhea, upset stomach associated with taking antibiotics.

Where do probiotics come from?

Commercially available probiotics can come from plant, soil, or dairy sources. They can also come from the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Is there only one type of probiotic?

Probiotics usually have more than one type of micro-organism and are called multi-strain.

The most common strains contain Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Streptococci, spore-forming and yeast probiotics are also available. Multi-strain probiotics are recommended.

What dose should I get?

Probiotic doses are in “colony forming units” (CFU). Daily doses of 15-40 billion CFU in adults and 1-5 billion CFU in children are usually good.

How long do probiotics last?

Probiotics typically survive up to two weeks in the human GI tract. The shelf life of a probiotic supplement is longer when they are kept refrigerated.

Can I take probiotics if I am on an antibiotic?

Yes, there is no evidence showing that probiotics will change the effectiveness of any antibiotic.

Should they be taken with food or an empty stomach?

It doesn’t matter.

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