Probiotics: Are They Safe for Everyone?
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In the last couple of years, there has been a movement to encourage healthier gut flora through the use of various dietary supplements and natural products.

The gut and Parkinson’s

There appears to be a greater connection between gut and brain in the disease process of PD not formerly recognized. No wonder ancient Japanese civilizations believed that ‘the center of wisdom’ was the gut. We allude to this when we use the term “gut feelings.” According to recent studies, people with Parkinson’s not only have different flora in their gut compared to those without PD, but also have a specific bacteria known as Enterobacteriaceae, which has a direct correlation in symptom presentation. Those who have a greater number of this pathogen in their system appear to have an increased difficulty with gait and balance.

Probiotics vs. prebiotics

Thus, one way many clinicians are attempting to deal with this abnormality is recommending the use of agents that contain “good” bacteria – like yogurt and blue cheese – to maintain healthy flora and combat harmful bacteria (probiotics) and or foods/carbohydrates which are not easily digestible by humans, such as fiber, which then serve as food for the wanted bacteria (prebiotics). Natural probiotics are excellent in maintaining a healthy digestive system. However, when given in pill (synthetic) form, problems can arise – especially in a population like PD where many of us are already immune compromised.

What I learned the hard way

Like many of you, I along with my doctor, thought that taking a probiotic to help keep my digestive system in check and help with the symptoms that usually accompany chronic constipation would be a no brainer. With so many products to choose from, she recommended a probiotic for women which she thought would also help decrease my recurrent urinary tract infections. I had already taken a couple of brands OTC but had not seen any real benefit, so I decided to try the brand she recommended. Shortly after, I began having fever and chills every day which lasted only about an hour or two varying throughout day. Aside from fever and chills, I did not feel ill. This went on for a couple of weeks until I realized that symptoms were occurring about an hour after I took the probiotic. Fortunately, I was able to recognize what was happening quickly. However, recent studies have indicated that many who take probiotics can develop a septicemia (infection of the blood) which can be dangerous if already frail, elderly, or in some way immune compromised.

Recommendations

It is best that you try to improve gut flora through the use of natural products like yogurt, dairy, and increasing prebiotic consumption like fiber, flax seed, and so on. But, if you are going to take a probiotic (at least 15 billion cells) in pill form be alert of possible lowering of immune system and increasing risk for infection. Talk to your doctor and do not take the probiotic pills if you have a fever, have an infection, had Botox, and/or are a poorly controlled diabetic. I take floragen3 which needs refrigeration, but I prefer it to Align and Culturelle which were not consistent in their function. Some experts have also suggested alternating various types of probiotics since they have different bacteria counts until we know objectively via research if one is better than another.

view references
  1. Boyle RJ, Robins-Brown RM, and Tang MLK.  Probiotic use in clinical practice: what are the risks? Am J Clin Nutr June 2006 vol. 83 no. 6 1256-1264.
  2. Wilkins T, Sequoia J. Probiotics for Gastrointestinal Conditions: A Summary of the Evidence. Am Fam Physician. 2017 Aug 1;96(3):170-178.
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