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We hear a lot about probiotics as an interesting option to maintain good health. In what context should you consider taking them?
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria or yeast. They help to preserve the delicate balance of the intestinal flora. For general information about probiotics, read the following text: Probiotics: the "friendly" bacteria.
Probiotics can be classified in the natural health products category, since they come from nature and are living organisms. The approval process by Health Canada to market these products is stringent, although it differs from the drug approval process. As part of this process, the manufacturers of probiotics provided in supplement format at the pharmacy must show the "health claims" of their products.
A health claim is a representation appearing on a product label, which, on the basis of scientific data, states, suggests or implies that a relationship exists between the use of the product and an effect on health. Here are some examples.
Most health claims regarding probiotics relate to the digestive tract. In addition to maintaining the digestive tract in general, probiotics may help to prevent or ease symptoms such as diarrhea associated to health problems like:
Clostridium difficile infections
Certain chronic intestinal diseases (e.g., irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis)
Studies are ongoing to better understand the effects of probiotics on digestive health. Note that lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are strains that have shown promising results.
The balance of the intestinal flora has a significant effect in regulating the immune system. Any disruption of this balance could contribute to the onset of medical conditions such as allergic rhinitis or eczema.
Some health claims regarding probiotics suggest an effect on the intestinal flora and the immune system. However, scientific data on this subject is not sufficient to make any firm conclusions for the time being.
It has been suggested that probiotics may contribute to maintaining urinary tract and genital health in women and could prevent urinary and vaginal infections. Again, this remains to be shown more clearly.
There is currently no known health risk associated to probiotics when they are taken as recommended. However, it could be risky to use these products to prevent or treat a condition or to ease symptoms without first having consulted a healthcare professional. It is important to ensure that the appropriate therapeutic choice is made. Probiotics are often used in addition to essential treatments.
As you can see, probiotics are the object of many health claims. Before using them, it's better to speak to your pharmacist, who can provide information about the scientific data that supports the optimal and safe use of these products depending on the circumstances in which you plan to use them and the advantages and disadvantages of each one. Once you are well-informed, you can choose the best product for your needs among the wide range provided at the pharmacy.
Don't hesitate to speak to your pharmacist. Maintaining your health is as much a priority for him/her as it is for you!
Being concerned about your health is normal and advisable. Could probiotic supplements help to preserve your health?
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