DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 69-year-old woman, writing to you for information on probiotics. After taking antibiotics for a sinus infection, I developed diarrhea and bloating. I had many tests and scans. Everything was OK. My symptoms continued. On my third visit, they took a stool specimen, which showed yeasts. The doctor suggested I go to a health-food store and buy probiotics. I did, and a miracle happened: My diarrhea stopped. Is yogurt considered probiotics? — N.A.
ANSWER: Probiotics contain live microorganisms that promote health when eaten. Microorganisms are bacteria and fungi. The thought of swigging down bacteria or fungi might be a turnoff. However, these microorganisms are the good kind, not the kind that causes infections. They work for us. Probiotics can restore to the digestive tract the normal balance between good and bad germs. They also appear to have a stimulatory effect on the immune system.
Probiotics come as tablets, cheeses, milk, yogurts, juices and other drinks. The labels on these products must say “live and active cultures.” The names of the organisms most often used are lactobacillus, bifidobacterium and sacchromyces. Some brand names of probiotics are Culturelle, Align, and the yogurt Activia.
Curbing diarrhea is only one use for these products. They’re also used for irritable bowel syndrome and other conditions.
Yogurt is a probiotic if it contains live cultures. How long can you take them? That’s a question that can’t be answered. The studies haven’t been done. The side effects from probiotics are few. It seems to me that you can use the yogurt probiotics forever. The others are probably equally safe for long-term use, but definite statements aren’t possible. The labels on the products ought to tell you how long they can be used and in what doses to use them.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I would like to comment on your article on bed-wetting. I am 68 and was a bedwetter when I was little. I eventually outgrew it.
My first-born daughter also was a bed-wetter. She outgrew it. Two of her five children were bed-wetters, too. She never dwelt on it.
Perhaps bed-wetting has a genetic basis.
ANSWER: Genes strongly influence bed-wetting. If one parent was a bed-wetter, the child has a 45 percent chance of also being one. If both parents were, their child has a 75 percent chance of wetting the bed. Genes are a big factor.
©2014 North America Synd.