Ask the Pharmacist
Q: Can you tell me about probiotics? I am wondering if they will help my digestive system. There are so many. How do I choose the best one?
A: Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that help keep the natural balance of organisms in the intestines. They reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. Many people use probiotics to prevent diarrhea, gas, and cramping caused by antibiotics. Antibiotics kill the “good” bacteria along with the bacteria causing illness. A decrease in beneficial bacteria may lead to digestive issues, so it is very helpful to take a probiotic whenever you take an antibiotic. Probiotics are also useful without antibiotics. Our “good” intestinal bacteria play three important roles:
- They are our digestive tract’s soldiers, preventing foreign substances (pathogens, toxins, allergens) from coming through, thereby lowering infection and illness risks;
- They help digest food by processing it and producing new molecules (vitamins, enzymes, fatty acids, etc.);
- They help develop the immune system and intestinal lining, ensuring better protection.
When intestinal flora is unbalanced, the so-called “bad” bacteria take over, which can lead to illness, infections, digestive issues, fatigue, depression, etc. The probiotics compete with bad bacteria to help boost the amount of good bacteria throughout the intestinal tract, thereby contributing to the maintenance of a balanced intestinal flora. Probiotics are considered a food, not a drug, therefore no one needs to prove they are safe and effective to the FDA. According to the ISAAP (International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics), “A probiotic must be alive when administered, survive the gastric environment to reach the intestines, have undergone controlled evaluation to document health benefits in the target host, be a taxonomically defined microbe or combination of microbes (genus, species, and strain level), and be safe for its intended use.” Your pharmacist can help you choose one that meets the above criteria.
Brenda Johnson, R.Ph.
Calabasas Pharmacy Owner
Inside Gelson’s Market
22277 Mulholland Hwy.
M – F: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.