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2016-10-01 / OnCall

The Positives of Probiotics

Tammy McCormick, RD, LDN

Q: I generally don’t have a lot of stomach issues, but I have been hearing about the benefits of probiotics. Are probiotics just for people with gastrointestinal issues? How can I choose the right one to take?

A: Probiotics are “good” bacteria and yeasts similar to those that are naturally found in our gut. These live active cultures help the body fight infections from the “bad” bacteria. They may increase immunity and help keep your gut healthy. While additional research is needed, probiotics may be helpful for people with gastrointestinal issues, the prevention and treatment of allergies, vaginal infections, periodontitis and other ailments. They may help relieve diarrhea caused by infection, the use of antibiotics, travelers’ diarrhea and the symptoms of IBS. Probiotics are safe and show minimal side effects in healthy adults, but those with weakened immune systems are at risk for severe side effects.

Probiotics contain a variety of microorganisms that have different health results. The types and amount of probiotics used depend on the health problem for which they are intended. Quality of a particular product is not guaranteed, as they do not require FDA approval. Most brands sold over the counter are fine to use; check the label for ingredients. Remember that the beneficial bacteria are live organisms, so keep them in a cool, dry place.

You would most likely be fine adding a probiotic supplement; however, eating foods natural in probiotics may be as beneficial. These include fermented dairy products like yogurt, kefir, buttermilk and aged cheese, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and soy beverages. It is always best to discuss with your healthcare provider which probiotic supplement to use and how to properly use it.

Tammy McCormick, RD, LDN
Endocrinology
Mount Nittany Physician Group

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