Probiotics: Do They Work, Or Are They a Fad?

The probiotic craze continues to sweep the nation as more and more people seek the health fad du jour to improve digestion and immunity, as well as with gut-busting and weight loss assistance. However, probiotics and their use are often too complex or obscure for consumers to comprehend. Probiotics refer to live microorganisms – “good” bacteria – that are similar or identical to the bacteria already inhabiting our bodies, such as within the digestive tract, where microorganisms help digest food, produce vitamins, and eliminate disease-causing bacteria. Unhealthy diets in part can breed hosts of harmful, “bad” bacteria that offset overall bacterial balance and may result in skin complications, weight gain, digestive difficulties (diarrhea or constipation), and a variety of chronic health conditions. Dietary sources of probiotics exist in dietary supplements, some yogurts, cheeses, dairy products that contain probiotics (i.e. kefir or Lactobacillus milk), sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and other fermented foods containing live microbes.

Scientists have conducted research on the consumption of probiotics to reveal their potential to treat or prevent health issues, such as digestive and allergic disorders, diabetes, tooth decay, the common cold, and liver disease. No conclusive proof of the health benefit of probiotics has arisen from these studies, except preliminary evidence in the reduction of diarrhea and amelioration of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. The most effective dosage of probiotics remains unknown, in addition to the groups of people who will experience a benefit from taking probiotics. Gastroenterologist and author of Probiotics For Dummies, Dr. Shekhar Challa, says, “There are just too many questions and not enough hard data. The potential is there. The understanding is not.”

As the knowledge gap in contemporary science prevails, advertising has promoted the popularity of probiotic products, seen commonly with Kombucha Tea beverage companies. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved probiotics for the solution to a health problem as the dietary supplement has not undergone clinical trials, unlike most prescription drugs. Instead, the FDA regulates probiotics as foods or dietary supplements, impeding product labels from making direct, verified claims about ensuing health benefits.

The safety and effectiveness of probiotics remain largely unknown, but some public assumptions about the supplement are close to certain. “For those with bowel disorders or urinary tract infections, there’s little doubt probiotics can be helpful,” Challa says. Nevertheless, doctors and experts suggest that probiotics are not sole solutions for weight loss and are not intended for consumers without health concerns. Dr. Matthew Ciorba, a gastroenterologist, said, “If you don’t have a disorder, why are you taking them?”

Read more here – “Probiotics: In Depth,” (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)

Image Copyright: PhotographerStock Photo, License Summary.

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