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February 24, 2016

Are probiotics really necessary?

You’ll find on the market today various probiotic supplements and probiotic-enriched products, such as yogurt and milk. But are they actually necessary?

Bacteria can be your friend!

The digestive system contains 100,000 billion bacteria – that’s 10 times the number of cells in the entire human body! Formerly known as intestinal flora, the community of microorganisms that live in the intestines is now referred to as the intestinal microbiota.

These bacteria, both good and bad, form a complex ecosystem. Among them are probiotics, which are essential for good health. For example, they facilitate digestion, halt the proliferation of infectious bacteria and help regulate bowel function.

The balance of the intestinal microbiota can, at times, become disrupted due to age, diet, illness or antibiotic use. Diarrhea is the main symptom of this imbalance. When this occurs, probiotic supplements or products enriched with probiotics are helpful.

Probiotic-enriched products

Probiotics are naturally present in the digestive tract. If you eat well, are in good health and do not have any digestive problems, you do not really need to consume products enriched with probiotics.

If, however, your intestinal microbiota is out of balance, it might be a good idea to take probiotic supplements or eat foods enriched with them. Certain strains, such as L. casei GG, S. Boulardii and Enterococcus LAB SF68, may be beneficial, among other things, to reduce the length and severity of diarrhea caused by:

  • Antibiotic use
  • Certain medications
  • Traveller’s diarrhea
  • C. difficile infection

These products are special because the bacteria they contain are able to reach the intestines alive, where they lend a helping hand to existing bacteria. Probiotics do not, however, permanently colonize the host, which is why they need to be consumed every day.

What you need to know:

  • There are many probiotic strains and each comes with its own benefits.
  • Manufacturers must meet certain criteria if they are to promote the benefits of probiotics in their products. They are required to:
    • Indicate on the label the probiotic content per serving.
    • Make sure a sufficient number of probiotics are present in the product during its entire shelf life.
    • Use probiotic strains approved by Health Canada and indicate the name of the strain on the label.
  • Supplements contain a much higher count of probiotics than enriched products. But before taking a supplement, you should:
    • Ask your family pharmacist to help you choose the best product based on your health needs.
    • Check the strain used and related clinical research findings.
    • Make sure the product has an NPN to confirm it has been issued a product licence by Health Canada.
    • Follow the product’s storage instructions to preserve its quality and efficiency.
    • Respect the expiry date indicated on the package.

Pharmacy services

Are you experiencing diarrhea? Do you have more questions about probiotics? Just ask your family pharmacist for advice!!

Services in pharmacy are the sole responsibility of pharmacist-owners. Only pharmacists are responsible for pharmacy practice. They only provide related services acting under a pharmacist-owner's name.

The uniprix.com Website deals with health-related topics. The information presented has been validated by experts and is accurate at the time of posting. In no way does it replace the opinion of a health care professional. Uniprix Inc. and its affiliated pharmacists accept no liability whatsoever in connection with the information provided on this Website.