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All you need to know about probiotics

Published

By Eduardo Gonzales, MD

probiotics

What are probiotics? Do they really have health benefits? —inquisitive67@gmail.com

The term probiotic was coined by German bacteriologist Werner Kollath in 1953 to describe various supplements believed to restore the health of malnourished patients. Since then, people used the word to mean different things, which is why it took a long time for the scientific community to arrive at a consensus on its meaning. The current, widely accepted definition of the term, which was formulated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2001, states that probiotic refers to a live microorganism, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confers a beneficial health effect on the host. Simply stated, probiotics are “good bacteria” that are akin to the ones that naturally occur in our body.

Good bacteria are essential to our health

Countless “good bacteria” reside throughout our body. They are, in fact, vital to our survival, health, and well-being. Examples of “good bacteria” include bifidobacteria, eubacteria, clostridia, gram positive cocci, and lactobacilli, microorganisms that populate our intestines. These bacteria perform numerous useful functions, such as inhibiting the growth of pathogenic or disease-causing bacteria, training the cells of the immune system, and producing vitamins such as biotin and vitamin K.

Why people are gaga over probiotics?

Probiotics that belong to the genera Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium currently abound in the market as part of fermented food products such as yogurt, soy yogurt, and milk-like products like Yakult. There are also numerous probiotic-containing cereals, juices, candy bars, and cookies. We do not have local figures, but among American adults, probiotics are the third most commonly used dietary supplement behind fish oil, glucosamine, and chondroitin.

The popularity of probiotics is anchored on the notion that they benefit us by augmenting the “good bacteria” in our intestines beyond the amount already existing. Manufacturers of probiotic-containing products attribute a host of health benefits to their products. Their products supposedly improve digestion, protect the skin from harmful bacteria, build immunity, and promote general well-being.

The real score

The health benefits attributed to probiotics are not necessarily false but they are unfounded. The fact that probiotics are marketed as food supplements instead of drugs attest to this. To be able to market anything as drug, proof of safety and efficacy is required.

To date, numerous researches have been undertaken to find out whether probiotics might help prevent or treat a variety of health problems. Results of some of these scientific studies suggest that probiotics may indeed have health benefits. A few show probiotics might help alleviate the symptoms of certain chronic gastrointestinal tract conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome. A number indicate probiotics may help prevent diarrheas that are caused by infections or antibiotics, decrease the incidence of respiratory infection and dental caries in children, and help lactose-intolerant individuals. Some strains of lactobacilli have demonstrated anti-mutagenic effects, which imply they could prevent colon cancer. Animal studies have shown that some probiotics could lower serum cholesterol levels. A limited number hint that probiotics may help maintain immune system activity and decrease the risk of developing allergies.

All of these scientific studies, however, are preliminary in nature, none is conclusive. Also, not all probiotics have the same effects.The European Food Safety Authority summed it all up when it said that as of 2012, the scientific evidence remains insufficient to prove a cause and effect relationship between consumption of probiotic products and any health benefit.

In any case, people who wish to take probiotic supplements need not really worry about possible ill-effects because probiotics are evidently safe. Their adverse effects are few and generally benign—abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas pain. In people with weakened immune systems, however, infections have occasionally been reported.

Email inquiries on health matters to: medical_notes@yahoo.com

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  • Patrick Alan Raymundo Esmundo

    There are over 16,000 published Clinical studies on probiotics, over 90% of the conclusions show, that probiotics have positive or beneficial effects on the human body, starting with digestion and its myriad of effects on almost all aspects of health.

    This Eduardo Gonzales, MD, a retired MD? What is his specialization?

    In his decades of service in the Medical Industry, has he ever published a single study in his specialization?

    Has he even studied about probiotics, and to what extent, that he should write about probiotics from a dim perspective?

    His history on probiotics is weak and incomplete. Probiotic started as far back as Prophet Abraham’s time, when they had sour milk and it helped them get stronger through their travels, along with milk and honey. Then Dr. Ilya Mechnikov, the “Father of Natural Immunity” and Noble Prize Recipient in 1908 and whose original work is still being referred to by modern day immunologist today, found its relationship to longevity….albeit non-conclusive (but is there anything in science that is conclusive?) and so on and so on.

    All those over 16,000 published studies are in PUBMED.GOV, the largest depository or clinical studies in the world and is maintained by the US Government for the global medical community.

    Then Eric Gonzalesm, MD writes from a third person standpoint and from a negative note???

    Manila Bulletin??? For those in the know…you look really silly for allowing this article to come out. As for Eric Gonzales, MD ask World Health Association what they think about Probiotics?

    Ask IPA, you most likely don’t even know what that stands for? You will have to look it up right now…about past and CURRENT studies that show just how beneficial probiotics is to the complex human body.

    Want to know more about the true effects and benefits of Probiotics…ask those who are experts in Probiotics or who are Authorities on Probiotics like Cognoa International Incorporated and its Medical Advisory Board instead of someone who writes in second or even third person about “supposed” effects on its limitations and benefits.