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Dig Dis. 2011;29(6):574-87. doi: 10.1159/000332980. Epub 2011 Dec 12.

Indications for the use of probiotics in gastrointestinal diseases.

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McGill Center for IBD, Research Institute of McGill University Health Center, MGH Campus, Montréal, Que., Canada.


Probiotics are live microbial organisms that are present in foods or dietary supplements and that confer health benefits to the host when ingested in sufficient quantities. Probiotics can be bacterial (e.g. Bifidobacteria spp. and Lactobacillus spp.) or yeasts (e.g. Saccharomyces boulardii). The administration of probiotics is often believed to be by and large beneficial for individuals with inflammatory or infectious diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. These positive effects are generally attributed to the ability of probiotics to regulate intestinal permeability, normalize host intestinal flora, improve gut immune barrier function, and equilibrate the balance between proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Of note, however, these claims are not always substantiated by findings from properly conducted clinical trials. Of particular importance, even when results from randomized controlled trials support the beneficial effects of a particular probiotic for a specific indication, the benefits achieved by the probiotic are generally not translatable to other probiotic formulations. This review discusses the gastrointestinal indications for probiotic use and describes the level of evidence that supports the use of specific probiotics for these indications. Several indications are addressed, including enteric infections, gastritis caused by Helicobacter pylori infection, necrotizing enterocolitis, inflammatory bowel diseases, and irritable bowel syndrome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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