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Probiotics for Digestive Problems: Questions for Your Doctor

Before you take a probiotic product for a digestive problem, talk to your doctor about their benefits and risks. Here’s what to ask.

1. Would probiotics help my digestive problem?

Probiotics may be helpful for some conditions but not others. Some studies show that probiotics can help infectious diarrhea, C. difficile colitis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. They may also help Crohn's disease, but the evidence is not strong.

Each person is unique, however. So it’s best to talk to your doctor about whether probiotics will help you. Your doctor will be most familiar with your digestion problems and be able to make recommendations.

2. What are the benefits of probiotics?

Probiotics aren’t a cure-all. And in some cases, they may be more useful as a preventive measure, while in others, they may aid in treatment. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of probiotics.  

3. Are there risks to taking probiotics?

Probiotics are generally safe. But in young children, elderly people, patients with serious illnesses, and people with compromised immune systems, they may pose dangers. Your doctor will be able to explain any risks to you.

4. Which probiotics are best for my condition?

There are many different probiotics. Some contain just one helpful organism. Others contain a mixture. But only a small number of them have been studied and found effective.

Experts say it’s important to use a probiotic that has been tested and found effective. Talk to your doctor about which have shown promise for your condition.

5. What’s the best way to take a probiotic?

Probiotics come in many forms: capsules, powders, liquids, and foods such as yogurt and dairy drinks. Your doctor may recommend a specific product that has been tested in scientific studies and shown to be effective for your condition.

6. How much should I take?

To be effective, probiotics must contain enough beneficial organisms to allow them to grow in the intestines. An effective dose varies widely among different probiotic products, however. And some probiotic products may not contain as many beneficial organisms as their labels say. If your doctor has experience recommending probiotics, he or she may recommend a particular product that has proven to be helpful.

7. How long should I use probiotics?

That depends on the reason why you are taking them. Your doctor will recommend an appropriate period of time.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on January 03, 2013

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