When to use probiotics

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Probiotics can be used in the treatment of certain acute conditions that develop as a result of stress or infection (e.g. diarrhoea). In these instances, probiotic supplements that contain Saccharomyces boulardii can be used along with foods and beverages that contain probiotics (e.g. yoghurt).

Also ask your doctor to prescribe a course of probiotics when you have to take antibiotics. And make a point of eating yoghurt and other probiotic-rich foods during treatment, and for one to two weeks afterwards.

Probiotics may furthermore help to enhance your digestive health and give your immune system a boost. Yoghurt is probably the best-known source, but probiotics can also be found in other delicious foods and beverages, including amasi, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kombucha, pickles, tempeh and soy beverages. 

It’s a good idea to eat at least half a cup of yoghurt (containing live cultures) every day to obtain the benefits of these live bacterial cultures. This will also boost your calcium levels. 

Even if you have lactose intolerance, you should be able to eat yoghurt without experiencing problems, because the lactose (or milk sugar) in milk is changed to lactic acid by the action of the bacteria. This means that most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate up to 12-13g of lactose per day. Yoghurt contains roughly 8g of lactose per cup (250ml). 

If you’re allergic to milk protein, you won’t be able to eat yoghurt. If this applies to you, you may have to obtain your lactic acid bacteria from other sources or from a supplement that doesn’t contain any cow’s milk protein (read food labels carefully). 

Which probiotic is right for me?

The following strains of bacteria have been shown to be beneficial for the conditions listed below:

Condition

Probiotic

Antibiotic-associated diarrhoea in adults

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
  • Saccharomyces boulardii

Antibiotic-associated diarrhoea in children

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
  • Lactobacillus sporogens
  • Saccharomyces boulardii

Acute diarrhoea

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
  • Saccharomyces boulardii

Lactose intolerance

  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus
  • Streptococcus thermophilus

Ulcerative colitis

  • VSL#3 mixture, which may include Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus

Irritable bowel syndrome

  • VSL#3 mixure, which may include Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus

Reviewed by Kim Hofmann, registered dietitian, BSc Medical (Honours) Nutrition and Dietetics, BSc (Honours) Psychology. April 2018.

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