Monday, November 26, 2007

Pro-Probiotics or Anti-Probiotics

We all know that there are some pretty essential bacteria that make up our intestinal flora. So the idea behind probiotics is that you can replace or enrich or modify the beneficial bacteria in your body by eating them. It does seem amazing that bacteria can survive the harsh environment of your stomach but apparently they can be recovered from your feces.
The data to data do indeed suggest that if you have rotavirus induced diarrea probiotics may definitely be helpful. And collegenous colitis, which is difficult to treat, may be slightly relieved with probiotics. And a big one, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be treatable using B. infantis (that is the bacteria that are largely found in the intestines of human infants)
Unfortunately since bacteria are pretty easy to make, and they are already in your food like yogurt and other fermented milk, anyone can make something and call it probiotic. And of course it is suggested that we all need it and that it is a general 'cure all'. For instance this manufacturer states that:

Factors that lead to overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria:
• Poor eating habits – especially sugar and refined foods
• Chlorinated drinking water
• Stress, aging and disease
• Born by caesarean section
• Alcohol consumption
• Bacterial infections
• Traveler's bugs
• Antibiotics in food production or prescription medications

While I don't know for sure that any of these are wrong, (born by cesarean does seem strange whereas bacterial infections is redundant), I don't think that anyone can say that probiotics can help with all pathogenic bacteria.
So maybe probiotics are great for some conditions and maybe we should all be eating more yogurt but I don't know if eating a bunch of lyophilized bacteria is going to make me 'feel better.'


5 comments:

Rhea said...

Did you hear about how they are using feces transplants to treat c. difficile infections? http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2007/11/13/fecal-transplant.html
The good bacteria in the donor poop keeps the c. difficile in check. I guess there wouldn't be much of a waiting list for this kind of transplant.

kamel said...

Ew. Poo enema?

Apparantly frogs may benefit from probiotic treatment to stave off fungal infections.

Anonymous said...

"Two girls and a cup"?

Mr. Gunn said...

The main use for this I've heard of is after a course of antibiotics, to restart the colony.

Bayman said...

gut flora replacement therapy. i like it. kind of like a bone marrow transplant.