Probiotics becoming digestive health staple
Probiotics are continuously gaining in popularity, but advice on the right type and the correct way to take them is as important as ever, says pharmacist Seema Rambisheswar.
Probiotics are a major part of the digestive health category and doctors often recommend them to customers with a note on prescriptions for antibiotics, said Rambisheswar, owner of the Life Pharmacy Glenfield in Auckland, New Zealand.
It is a rule in the pharmacy for staff to recommend a probiotic every time they dispense antibiotics. Antibiotics can upset the balance of good bacteria in the system, which can cause digestive problems, and probiotics work to replenish the bacteria, she said.
The fact that many customers have heard of probiotics makes pharmacists’ job easier, but it is not enough just to sell probiotics; it is really important customers have the right advice, Rambisheswar said.
Each product has specific storage instructions, so check whether they need to be refrigerated. Also, keep all probiotics out of direct sunlight. Advise customers to take probiotics 2 hours before or 2 hours after taking antibiotics, because taking them at the same time can make the probiotics ineffective, she said.
Some customers return to the pharmacy and say the probiotics are not working, but this is often because they are not taking them properly, or they need to try a different type, she said. For example, people who already have general digestion problems or have conditions such as Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome, could benefit from a Saccharomyces boulardii probiotic – a yeast-based probiotic.
Rambisheswar advises patients to trial a probiotic for 7 days, but to return to the pharmacy if they are still experiencing digestion problems after this period. Probiotics are generally safe for everyone, but people with compromised immune systems should check with their GP if a probiotic is suitable, she said.
Probiotics safe, effective for preventing diarrhoea
According to a systematic review and meta-analysis of 23 randomized controlled trials involving 4,213 patients, probiotics are both safe and effective for preventing diarrhoea associated with antibiotic use. [Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013;5:CD006095. doi: 10.1002/14651858. CD006095.pub3]
Clostridium difficile is one particularly dangerous organism that may colonise the gut if the normal healthy balance has been disturbed. When probiotics are taken with antibiotics they reduce the risk of developing Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhoea by 64 percent, the review showed. PTNZ