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Dr Russ Blog - Are probiotics safe in all instances?
Are probiotics safe in all instances?
Created on 5/1/2008

People have enjoyed eating fermented foods for millennia. In fact, many experts believe that one of the ways our ancestors stayed well was by eating these foods, thereby gaining access to health-promoting bacteria that entered their digestive tracts.

Studies have shown that the use of probiotics, commonly defined as live microbes which when ingested provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition, can help prevent or treat disorders ranging from diarrhea to cancer, from irritable bowel syndrome to eczema. Considering that we’re talking about living microbes, there have been concerns that probiotic therapy might lead to infection in susceptible individuals. Thankfully, complications from probiotic therapy have largely been limited to people whose immune systems are not working as well as usual, either due to illness or the use of specific medicines. However, it can be difficult to decide exactly what kind of product to use, when, and in what dosage. Here are some brief guidelines on the use of probiotics to optimize health:

1) Unless you have been declared healthy by your primary care doctor, always speak with your doctor first before using a probiotic (you may have a condition where using a probiotic would not be indicated, or might even be harmful).

2) Try to use products that contain the organisms on which the majority of research has been performed (your doctor should be able to help you in this regard). Focus on using products that contain either Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria, or both.

3) Use a dosage of at least 1 billion CFU daily (CFU stands for Colony Forming Units). Higher dosages appear to be safe, but lower dosages may not be effective. While single species probiotics are often effective, some experts recommend using multiple species products.

4) Many, but not all, products require refrigeration. Be sure to read product labels carefully.

Probiotic therapy is becoming a field unto itself, so new information comes out seemingly every day. There is reason for great optimism regarding the potential health benefits of probiotics (which are frequently available in food markets and pharmacies), but caution is advisable if you have a chronic illness. While probiotics appear to be largely safe, there have been reported instances of problems, especially for people whose immune systems are compromised. It makes sense to speak with your doctor first before using any supplement or vitamin.

Share your thoughts on probiotic therapy with us, and click on yourwellness to learn more about how to stay and feel well, and to view delicious recipes.

** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **

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