Probiotics in Prevention and Treatment of Diseases

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Treatment of different types of diarrhoeas

Probiotics have therapeutic effect on almost all types of diarrhea. 
The basic principle remains the same: The overgrowth of the disease inducing bacteria is overcome by the beneficial gut flora.

  • Prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea
    Antibiotics destroy the friendly bacteria like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in the gut. Consequently, the pathogens like E. Coli and Clostridium difficile flourish and diarrhea occurs. 

    The good bacteria reverse the overgrowth of disease causing bacteria. And if they are started along with the antibiotics, the incidence and the severity of antibiotic associated diarrhea is minimized.

  • Acute infectious diarrhea
    The duration of the episode is reduced. It may also help in reducing the severity of the episode to some extent.

  • Prevention community-acquired infectious diarrhea
    It is also known as nosocomial acquired diarrhea .
    Substituting 2-3 feeds with yogurt or buttered milk (fermented milk) reduces the incidence of community acquired diarrhea.

  • Prevention of traveler's diarrhea

  • Prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in premature infants.
    Studies show a promising effect of friendly bacteria in reducing the incidence and the severity of necrotising enterocolitis.

Use of probiotics for relief of infantile colic

The good bacteria, L reuteri, offer a natural solution to vexing problem of infantile colic. With in a week of therapy positive results are noted. The relief is most pronounced in breast fed infants.

When compared with the response achieved with use of simethicone and gripe water; probiotic therapy is documented to be most effective in the studies conducted.

The effect of good bacteria is curative rather than short lived symptomatic relief.

Their influence on the gut flora fights indigestion, gaseous distension and intestinal cramps associated with sub-clinical invasion of pathogens.

Atopic diseases: Prevention and treatment

Probiotics when given early in life regulate the optimal maturation of the immune system. Studies also confirm the effectiveness of probiotic therapy in the prevention of allergic diseases.

In spite of the genetic predisposition, the tendency to develop atopic eczema is significantly subdued in an infant, whose mother receives probiotic supplements during last 4 weeks of pregnancy. After the delivery both the baby and the mother continue the supplementation over 6 months. The preventive effect of Lactobacillus supplementation extends well beyond 2 years of age.

Treatment of moderate to severe atopic eczema with Lactobacillus fermentum over 8 weeks has shown remarkably encouraging results. However, we await more supporting data before it can be recommended.

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Irritable bowel syndrome and constipation

Clinically it is a common practice to use good bacteria to alter the intestinal flora of the patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and/or constipation. The treatment does give some relief from discomfort, but it is not yet fully supported by controlled studies.

Other clinical indications

  • Prevention and management of pouchitis.

  • Prevention of postoperative infections.

  • Acne

  • Irritability in infants

  • Severe gingivitis

  • Crohn’s disease.
    Change in rate of relapses has not been reported.

  • Irritable bowel disease

The supportive research data is yet not adequate to recommend probiotic therapy in children suffering from conditions mentioned above.

Though generally safe, safety concern is natural

Regardless of how good and friendly they are for human physiology, probiotics are live bacteria. 

Rarely, but they can cause septicaemia in infants and children who are immuno compromised, chronically debilitated, or seriously ill with indwelling medical devices. 

However, probiotics are extremely safe in healthy children and only side effects noticed are –

  • Mild abdominal discomfort

  • Flatulence

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