There is no question that probiotics are part of the nutritional business these days. Health food stores now stock a wide array of probiotics, and even major brands, specifically Activia yogurt, have jumped onto the probiotics bandwagon. According to BioMedTrends, which tracks the global healthcare market, a recent study released on the global market share of probiotics predicted that revenues will exceed $28.8 billion by next year.
Given this upswing in popularity, it should also be self-evident that doctors of chiropractic who include probiotics as part of their nutritional supplement offerings to patients will see a certain percentage of that almost $30 billion. Furthermore, as patients will be relying on DCs to supply them with useful information about the benefits of probiotics, as well as what type will best suit their needs, it behooves DCs to have at their fingertips the most current information on probiotics.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are a class of bacteria that are naturally found in foods such as yogurt and certain types of cheese. Probiotics are considered “friendly” bacteria in that they are normally found within the digestive system and help it function properly. As food supplements, they are intended to help the digestive system work properly. Although there are a wide variety of friendly bacteria, the two most common are lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. Each has somewhat different uses and may be recommended for different types of patients.
Lactobacillus is perhaps the best known of the probiotic, due to its presence in yogurt products such as Activia. It is most often used to treat infectious diarrhea (such as traveler’s diarrhea), as well as diarrhea as a result of taking antibiotics, which kill off both friendly and unfriendly bacteria in the body. According to Medline, lactobacillus is likely effective for these conditions. It is also considered possibly effective for treating colic in babies, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, bacterial vaginal infections, and excema. Although most side effects are mild, generally consisting of gas and bloating, lactobacillus is not recommended for patients with short bowel syndrome or a weakened immune system.
Some of the conditions for which bifidobacteria may be taken are similar to those for lactobacillus. However, it is more common to take bifidobacteria than lactobacillus to replace good bacteria that may have been killed off by antibiotics. It is also often taken by patients with lactose intolerance, for whom lactobacillus may cause upset stomach, gas, and diarrhea. It may be useful in treating constipation or the side effects of chemotherapy for cancer, as well.