Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are probiotics good for you?"
I know people take antibiotics when something is wrong with you, but what about probiotics? What exactly are they and will they help me stay healthy?
Probiotics and antibiotics are actually not related. An antibiotic is a medication that is used to kill off an organism (usually a bacteria) that is infecting the body. Probiotics are bacteria that people take by mouth that are supposed to improve the bacterial balance of the colon. Let me explain. A critical component to the health of our large intestine (colon) are bacteria that naturally live there helping to digest unneeded food, synthesize vitamin K, and perform other vital functions. Some people feel that certain symptoms of GI upset, diarrhea, and other problems are caused by a disruption in these bacteria. The idea behind taking probiotics is to replace or add to the collection of bacterial that naturally live in the large intestine. Most physicians do not routinely prescribe them because there is very little hard science that supports their use. However, we do not usually discourage people from taking them because they really aren't harmful. The only time I tell someone to take them is if they are worried about killing off normal bacteria during a course of antibiotics for an infection. I think you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss this issue further, and find out if probiotics would be helpful for any symptoms you are having. Good luck.
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