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It Pays to Support GI Health in Vulnerable Populations

A daily probiotic can help support the gastrointestinal health of vulnerable individuals such as children and older adults. Probiotics promote favorable gut flora to support intestinal health and are often recommended during courses of antibiotics or with occasional diarrhea. The costs associated with unhealthy stools are both financial and emotional. Consider the financial cost of not only the antibiotics but also adult briefs, staff, linens, skincare regimens, and gloves. More importantly, the health impact and discomfort of the individual struggling to maintain healthy stools.

How do probiotics help maintain a healthy gut?

The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host.” Probiotics are dietary supplements containing beneficial bacteria or yeast which interact with the body differently to help balance your gut flora to support a healthy digestive system.  The human body hosts approximately 100 trillion microorganisms, also known as microbiota or microflora. Anyone’s intestinal flora can become upset and vulnerable—whether from the daily flow of an active lifestyle (travel, stress, diet), disruption from a prescribed antibiotic, or nonspecific digestive issues.  Probiotic supplements help individuals maintain digestive health by promoting immune system function, supporting healthy digestion, and aid in the absorption of water and nutrients.

Can probiotics really make a difference?

Each individual has a unique intestinal microflora composition and every probiotic strain impacts individuals differently.  Probiotic supplementation can help optimize levels of good bacteria which helps keep the overgrowth of opportunistic (bad) bacteria from occurring.  Researching probiotic strains that have published studies focused on your specific area of concern is beneficial.

What do studies tell us?

Published studies support the use of probiotics across the age spectrum and the focus expands beyond maintaining gastrointestinal health. Over 21,000 publications on the use of probiotics can be found on PubMed and approximately 2,300 of these focus on probiotic use in children.  Probiotic research to help maintain overall health continues to be a popular area of research.

Probiotics are not like drugs, they are not chemicals, but living organisms.  That means there are no true generic substitutions.  just like there are no substitutions for humans within the same family one child will not behave the same as a sibling.  For example, not all probiotics survive in the presence of antibiotics. So be wary of those probiotic strains claiming to be like another strain.  The strain identification is the letters and numbers following the organism’s name. Example:  Saccharomyces boulardii CNCM I-745  .  If you are on an antibiotic, you want a probiotic containing a strain that is proven to survive during the antibiotic course. Make sure the probiotic you select contains the right strains with strong evidence of benefit in your situation.