Probiotics and Microflora

Max Sherman, RPh

Disclosures

US Pharmacist. 2009;34(12):42-44. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Introduction

Probiotic foods have recently become popular in the United States, although such products have been marketed for decades in Europe and Asia.[1] Probiotics are defined as living organisms that, when administered in sufficient numbers, are beneficial to the host. One probiotic food is Activia. It is a line of yogurt containing Lactobacillus, Streptococcus thermophilus, and Bifidobacterium animalis bacteria, and it is advertised to aid regularity. While new to the U.S., Activia has been sold in Europe since 1987.[1] Most probiotic products can be found in the dairy case of supermarkets or as dietary supplements. There are probiotic frozen yogurts and dairy-based drinks such as DanActive, a probiotic yogurt drink that contains Lactobacillus casei immunitas cultures. Its manufacturer (Dannon) indicates that the product is clinically proven to "help strengthen your body's defenses."[2] Products sold in the pharmacy include, among others, Culturelle (Lactobacillus GG), Florastor (Saccharomyces boulardii) and Lactinex (Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus), which are indicated to reduce the chance of developing diarrhea due to antibiotics.[3] The FDA takes a neutral position on probiotics, policing food packages to ensure that companies do not try to equate probiotic products with disease-curing drugs.

The growth of probiotics comes as many scientists are now focused on the role of beneficial bacteria to aid digestion, boost natural defenses, and fight off bacteria that could cause health problems. Intestinal bacteria can benefit health by breaking down toxins, synthesizing vitamins, and defending against infection. They may also play a role in preventing such diseases as peptic ulcers, colorectal cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease.[4] This article will describe the genesis and evolution of our indigenous microbial community, the size and makeup of its inhabitants, its effects, its benefits, and new research.

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