Study Supports Probiotic Use
As reported in ScienceDaily (12/08)... Up to one in five people on antibiotics
stop taking their full course of antibiotic therapy due to diarrhea. Physicians
could help patients avoid this problem by prescribing probiotics, according to a study by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of
Yeshiva University published in American Family Physician.
Antibiotics target "bad" bacteria but may also kill the "good" bacteria in the
large intestine, leading to diarrhea. Diarrhea can also result from bacterial
and viral infections. Probiotics and cultures of "good" microorganisms similar
to those normally found in the gut have been promoted as restoring the
microbial balance disrupted by antibiotics and infections. Probiotic bacterial
strains are added to certain yogurts and brands of miso and other fermented
foods, and are also available as powders and pills sold in health food stores.
The Einstein scientists reviewed the medical literature and found seven,
high-quality studies in which probiotics were administered to people. The
researchers concluded that the studies support the use of probiotics for
avoiding diarrhea resulting from antibiotic use or from gastrointestinal viral
or bacterial infections. In addition, the probiotics used in these studies were
found to rarely cause adverse effects, even in children.
"With the level of evidence that probiotics work and the large safety margins
for them, we see no good reason not to prescribe probiotics when prescribing
antibiotics," says Dr. Benjamin Kligler, a co-author of the study and associate
professor of clinical family and social medicine at Einstein. "The only
drawback is that probiotics are not covered by health insurance."
Dr. Kligler notes that the effects of probiotics doses are short-lived, so they
should be taken throughout a course of antibiotic therapy. Probiotics will not
diminish the effectiveness of antibiotics, he adds.
Because probiotics are considered dietary supplements, they are not regulated as
stringently as conventional foods and drugs. Products vary widely in bacterial
dose and in quality. In general, researchers found that probiotic doses of more
than 5 billion colony-forming units per day for children and more than 10
billion colony-forming units per day for adults were associated with the best