08 July, 2011
Probiotics such as Kyo-Dophilus are natural supplements that contain live micro-organisms used to increase good bacteria, lactobacilli, in your intestines. Probiotics are also added to foods such as yogurt to regulate your digestive system. Scientific studies have been performed to determine if probiotics are beneficial. The studies target benefits on specific health issues, and the results related to their effectiveness have been mixed. There are side effects that primarily affect people with existing problems. Supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and should be used under the care of your physician.
Infections are one area of concern if you use probiotics and have an already compromised immune system from chemotherapy treatments for cancer or after recently receiving a new organ. There is increased risk of infection associated with probiotic use if you have an artificial heart valve. Reports of this happening are rare although it is still recommended that if you have an artificial heart valve, you should not use probiotics unless you are directed by your health provider to do so.
You may experience an interaction if you take probiotics with certain prescription drugs. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine says that lab studies have shown taking probiotics can prolong the effects of birth control pills or other prescription medications, and may reduce the way bowel inflammation drugs work. Also, antibiotics that kill the bad bacteria in your body can also kill probiotics, the good bacteria, so it is suggested to use them two to three hours apart. If you have a medical condition or you are taking prescription medications, check with your doctor before using probiotics.
Probiotics are used to improve your digestive system but can also cause problems such as gas or bloating, diarrhea and abdominal pain. One way to help is to use a smaller serving of probiotics each day. You can also take your probiotics on an empty stomach since the probiotics will be absorbed better if exposed to less stomach acid. If you have any digestion issues, discuss using probiotics with your doctor.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there has not been sufficient scientific research to determine if it is safe to use probiotics when you are pregnant or nursing your baby. There was a small study in which pregnant women used probiotic tablets without incident, though further study has been recommended. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should only use probiotics under a doctor's care.
According to a probiotic patient handout from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, a study of people who have severe acute pancreatitis shows that probiotic use may increase the chance of dying. A later review of several scientific studies did not find differences in death risks. If you have pancreatic disease, use probiotics only under the supervision of your physician.
- pills image by CraterValley Photo from Fotolia.com