Certain types of bacteria may help treat some digestive problems, but they offer little to no benefit to healthy people.
Beneficial Bacteria for Bowel Health
Bowel health supplements like probiotics are beneficial bacteria believed to aid digestion and strengthen the immune system. Experts say that they can be helpful in the treatment and prevention of general and certain digestive problems, but medical research remains inconclusive on which type of bacteria work best for a certain condition, and the recommended dosage that should be prescribed for it.
Researchers also have to factor in the age, lifestyle and overall state of health of the patient. These supplements may provide no benefit to healthy people, but they may have an effect on sufferers and vulnerable individuals (e.g. children, pregnant women and elderly people).
Probiotic supplements containing various Lactobacillus strains and yeast Saccharomyces boulardii may also provide some added protection to the gut flora of an outpatient during and after a period of taking antibiotics.
What these beneficial bacteria do is help your gut-dwelling bacteria repopulate after harmful microorganisms and antibiotics wipe them out. This will eventually restore the microbial balance in your gut and boost recovery.
Meanwhile, in the prevention or treatment of certain digestive diseases, some specialists recommend taking bowel health supplements and probiotic foods for conditions that may be difficult to treat using traditional medicine like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), a collective term for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
What the Research Shows
In the treatment of general digestive problems like acute diarrhoea, a 2016 study showed that probiotics rich in lactic acid bacteria can shorten a kid or an elderly’s two-week bout of diarrhoea by one day.
Various studies show that certain probiotics may help prevent a relapse of Crohn’s disease and maintain a remission of colitis. One researcher suggests taking two capsules of VSL#3 probiotics as a complementary medicine in treating mild to moderate IBD and maintain remission.
However, these studies present insufficient evidence for researchers to use as basis in identifying specific bacterial strains that would work for certain diseases, and their proper dosage. Therefore, more research is still needed to discover which bacterial strains are effective for specific bowel conditions.
On a positive note, these studies seem to suggest that taking bowel health supplements for treating and preventing general and certain gut problems will have to be personalised in the near future. For now, it is best to consult your dietitian to talk about your options.
Safe for Daily Consumption
There is no clinical evidence yet that shows taking quality probiotic supplements once a day is harmful to both healthy and individuals diagnosed with certain digestive disorders. There may be some adverse side effects like loose bowel movement but this usually goes away after a few days. However, experts do not recommend probiotics as complementary medicine for treating patients with a severe condition or weakened immune system as they could possibly get sick from taking it.
If you are planning to take probiotics as a supplement, do your research and discuss your options with your dietitian. This will help you avoid running the risk of health complications and wasting your money on a supplement that is not right for you.
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Book an appointment with an accredited dietitian or nutritionist by phone on (07) 3071-7405 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday or send us an enquiry. Alternatively, learn more about our Bowel Health services.
- Should you take probiotics? – Harvard Medical School
- Probiotics for the Prevention of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea in Outpatients – NCBI
- The Role of Probiotics in Inflammatory Bowel Disease- UCLA Healthcare
- Probiotics as a Promising Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Hospital Pharmacology
- Infectious diarrhea: Can probiotics help against diarrhea? – NBCI