Mainstream Medicine Catches on to Nutritionists Tools

probioticsProbiotics and health - Nutritionists have been using probiotics for many years to great effect (to relieve IBS, and other digestive problems and support the immune system) . Now mainstream medicine are finally catching on to the use of therapeutic strain probiotics as tool to treat patients digestive problems and counter the detrimental effects of anti-biotics.

Now a new scientific review by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF), Probiotics and health – summing up the evidence, draws together complex probiotic research and shows accumulating evidence to support the health benefits of probiotics in some areas. The results of this review are a valuable tool for health professionals which will underpin consistent health advice.

The BNF has examined around 100 original research studies and reviews on probiotics and health. Sian Porter, spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association says: “We welcome BNF’s efforts to bring together the evidence on probiotics and clear the confusion. This review is a useful, up-to-date resource for dietitians to support their evidence based advice on the use of probiotics for different health conditions, to both individuals and the public”.

A complex science
‘Probiotics’ is an extremely complex topic, and this often leads to consumers being exposed to conflicting advice. Dr Elisabeth Weichselbaum, Nutrition Scientist and author of the BNF review says: “Probiotics seem to work in a very strain specific manner - speaking about ‘probiotics’ in general may be as misleading as speaking about ‘pills’ and their effects on health. If a certain strain has been found to affect a certain health outcome, such as IBS, it would be misleading to state that ‘all probiotics’ are effective in relieving IBS symptoms.”

The BNF review shows that each single probiotic strain has to be tested for each single health outcome. To be effective, probiotics need to influence the balance of the human gut microflora. Probiotics must be able to survive their passage through the gastro-intestinal tract, be taken regularly, and in the right dose. Dr Weichselbaum adds: “Scientists are also now becoming increasingly aware that it is important to test whether the food or drink in which probiotics are given is an effective vehicle for delivering health benefits.”

Promise for irritable bowel syndrome
Between 3-25% of the population complains of the uncomfortable symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), so it is no wonder that sufferers are interested in whether probiotics can help. Professor Glenn Gibson, Professor of Food Microbiology at the University of Reading, is optimistic: “The science shows promising results for the use of probiotics in IBS. The studies have looked at many different strains of bacteria but we need more studies to find out which strains are most effective, and to make sure any benefits found are not the result of a placebo effect.”

Established benefits for diarrhoea
The potential for probiotics to help in the prevention and treatment of diarrhoea has been widely studied.

Antibiotic-associated diarrhoea
Dr Weichselbaum says: “The prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea has a good science-base for some probiotic strains. Two strains called S. boulardii and L. rhamnosus GG have been shown to cut the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea by more than a half.”

Dr Mary Hickson, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust adds: “Certain strains of bacteria have good evidence to show they prevent antibiotic associated diarrhoea and Clostridium difficile diarrhoea. Providing products containing these strains to hospital patients may help to reduce these detrimental side effects and so reduce healthcare costs”.

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