Probiotics are special preparations containing viable microorganisms that may be administered in oral form. Their usage is based on the fact that our large intestine is inhabited by a huge number of bacteria. The number of bacterial cells in the large intestine of an individual is higher tan number of all people in the world and this number of bacteria weighs about 6 pounds!


The intestinal bacteria are very important. The majority of them are beneficial bacteria such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. They are involved in proper digestion, help to produce vitamin K and prevent the proliferation of dangerous strains of bacteria. Modern studies also indicate that normal gut flora is important for proper function of the immune system.


Probiotics are typically served in form of dietary supplements. Some are administered as tablets, others in form of water-soluble sachets. Very special subtype of probiotic therapy is the so-called fecal transplant.


From the medical point of view, the greatest use of probiotics is in situations where the natural gut flora has been destroyed by antibiotics. In addition, probiotics may be administered as a supportive therapy in pseudomembranous colitis, which is caused by overgrowth of bacteria from the group of clostridia. Probiotics, however, are also recommended in other acute infectious intestinal diseases.


Due to the fact that probiotics help to normalize the gut flora, it was in many cases successfully deployed in patients with irritable bowel syndrome as the imbalance in intestinal microorganisms is considered to be one of its causes.


We are also considering significant effect of probiotics on the immune system, when the administered probiotics improve its function. Therefore, probiotics are prescribed in some autoimmune inflammatory diseases such as in ulcerative colitis. Probiotics seem to generally strengthen immunity and reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections. There are theories that probiotics may have certain effect in prevention of colon cancer, but it has not yet been confirmed by any studies.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources