If you google “Probiotics”, you will get a lot of results for various options for probiotics products.
Yakult and Vitagen are most well-known.
The general idea of Probiotics is this: you have bacteria in your gut that is essential for digestion. With the excesses of modern life, the natural balance of “gut flora” may be thrown off. This may result in health problems like diarrhea, constipation, irregularity.
And their wonder claims (helps prevent vaginal infection, skin infection, periodontal disease, tooth decay, etc)!
(Note: Any time a product promises to change your life, your health, make you rich, famous, happy, popular, sexy, regain your full head of hair, make you taller, skinnier, have bigger boobs and/or penis(es), you should take their claims with a grain of salt – unless they are selling you low-sodium, cholesterol-busting, fat-burning salt.)
Here are the facts as I can determine:
1) Most probiotic products (if not all) do NOT state how much probiotics there are in their product or how to measure the “dose” of the probiotics. (Note: This is also a dead giveaway that their product is NOT precise or do NOT need to be precise. If the product I am selling is efficacious, I should tell you it’s active ingredients and how much there is of it. Another way of saying this is, if Yakult is suppose to restore the balance of good bacteria in my gut, would taking too much of it unbalance my gut flora again? How much is too much? The link suggests that a measure of probiotic dose is “colony forming unit” and adding 1 to 2 billion CFU to your gut could result in diarrhea or bloating. It’s kind of worrying when the cure for diarrhea may cause diarrhea.)
2) The best estimate (again from the link above) is that Probiotics products may have 1 to 15 billion CFU per serving (may cause diarrhea). But how much is enough? This link suggests that 10 billion live “friendly” bacteria is the magic number. Danone was prohibited from advertising their Active brand unless they specifically state that consumers had to consume THREE servings of Activia daily for any effect on the digestive system. Which suggests that one serving of Activia has less than 5 billion bacteria (or CFU), if 10 billion bacteria is the effective dose. So how many bacteria are there in the gut?
3) There are about 100 trillion bacteria in our intestine. Ten billion suddenly seems woefully inadequate. That’s like 1/10000 of the total number of gut bacteria. Unless you know for sure that perhaps the reason for your tummy ache is because instead of 100,000,000,000,000 bacteria, after taking those antibiotics for your infection, your gut bacteria has been reduced to 100,000,000,000 (100 billion), then yeah, I can see how 10 billion probiotic friendly bacteria could help. A little. The point is if those 100 trillion bacteria had ALL gone bad then 10 billion friendlies is hardly going to make a lot of difference. If half of them had gone bad and half are still good… 10 billion friendlies are still not going to make a difference. Even if those 10 billion friendlies are Special Forces bacteria. The point is the gut usually should be able to take of itself. Which is why Probiotics SEEM to work. Eventually.
4) Most of the time, the gut will sort itself out. Yes, sometimes diarrhea is serious, and if so, you should seek medical attention and intervention. Otherwise, drink fluids to prevent dehydration, and let things “run” its course (pun badly intended). But for small children (and this is why this post is here), diarrhea can sometimes be life threatening, and intervention is required. But no, a crash dose of probiotics is PROBABLY not the prescribed course of treatment. See a doctor. If you do not trust doctors, well, who do you want to trust? Yakult?
5) Claims about the efficacy of probiotics are mostly anecdotal and not proven. But the health Nazis we don’t trust (a.k.a. the Doctors and the Medico-pharmaceutical industry) is probably just covering up the efficacy of probiotics in order to sell us some crazy new therapy! Like what?
6) Fecal Transplant. Apparently, if your gut flora is out of whack, the doctors may prescribe stool transplant. “Can’t I just eat lots of yoghurt with probiotics?” “Nope. we’ll have to do a stool transplant. You wife is a good donor candidate. She also said that, (refers to notes), ‘he has always been giving me shit, so it’s only fair that I return the favour’.”
So it is quite possible that those money-crazy doctors are just trying to shut out a perfectly good health fad (eating yoghurt) in order to sell their crazy-ass fecal transplant therapy in order to give you shit and make money from you.
Bottom line, take yoghurt if you like it (I like the Meiji fruit yoghurt). If it helps, good. But if you have severe diarrhea, or if your baby/child has severe or persistent/extended diarrhea, then please go see a doctor. Even the most die-hard proponent of probiotics will tell you to see a doctor for serious or extended diarrhea. Probiotics can supplement the treatment, but it cannot cure the problem when it has erupted.