A: Probiotics are bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of organisms in the intestinal tract. The human digestive tract naturally contains approximately 400 types of probiotic bacteria that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. One of the best known probiotic bacteria is lactobacillus acidophilus, which is found in many yogurts. Probiotics are also available in a tablet or capsule form. Some common brand names are Florajen, Align and Phillip’s Colon Health.
Probiotics can be helpful when a person is on an antibiotic. Antibiotics can decrease the amount of “good” bacteria in the intestinal tract while treating the “bad” bacteria that is causing an infection. This decrease in good bacteria can lead to diarrhea. Taking a probiotic supplement may help replace the lost beneficial bacteria and therefore help prevent diarrhea.
Since probiotics are already part of the normal digestive system, they are considered safe for most people. Probiotics may cause gas and bloating as a side effect in some people. Make sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting a supplement to make sure it will not affect any current medications you may be taking.
Information provided by Lena Mullins, Pharm D., Hy-Vee Drugstore, 1541 S.E. Third St., Suite 100, 986-4527.