NORMAN — Q: Are probiotics worth the hype?
A: The term, “probiotics” (meaning “for life”), arose in the early 20th century when Elie Metchnikoff, a Noble laureate, suggested that ingesting micro-organisms may be beneficial to health.
Some studies have proven that there are limited benefits to ingesting products that contain probiotics, which can range from oral supplements to dairy products such as yogurt with live active cultures.
Lately, there has been a rise in interest in probiotics that research cannot keep up with. The interest in probiotic consumption has far outpaced that which research can study.
Some important facts to consider prior to ingesting probiotics:
· The FDA has not approved any health claims for probiotics. (i.e.: claims that suggest probiotics may help fight the common cold/flu or alleviate constipation).
· Promising research has shown that probiotics may be helpful in treating diarrhea associated with antibiotic use, which can prove deadly in the elderly.
· Research also seems to support the use of probiotics in those experiencing diarrhea to prevent the infection caused by C. diff.
· There is hard evidence to support the use of probiotics in some situations, but long-term use has not been studied; therefore, the safety of ingesting probiotics over a long period of time is unknown. Long-term consequences of probiotic consumption have not been researched in children especially.
· Overall, there does not seem to be a high risk associated with ingesting probiotics, but it is recommended to avoid probiotics in anyone who is immune compromised or critically ill.
· The effects or benefits of probiotics may vary from person to person.
· Some other promising benefits of ingesting probiotics (needs further research) may include treating tooth decay, IBS, childhood respiratory infections, reducing cholesterol levels and treating obesity.
Of course, always ask your doctor or health care provider prior to ingesting probiotics to determine if this is a safe treatment option for your situation.
For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.
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