Prebiotics & Probiotics Faqs

Patient Education

What are the normal bacteria seen in the gut?

More than 400 bacterial species are present in the gut with the stomach containing the least number of bacteria and the colon containing the maximum number of bacteria.

Before birth, the intestines are sterile and bacteria start colonizing the gut soon after birth and continue throughout life. These bacteria normally do not cause problems and in fact, help in maintaining well being as they prevent infection with disease-causing bacteria.

How do probiotics & prebiotics help to maintain a healthy digestive system?

It is assumed that supplementation of prebiotic and/or probiotic would increase the relative number of "good bacteria" in the gut and that would contribute to the well being of the host.


The term probiotics mean "for life" and is currently used to name bacteria associated with beneficial effects for humans and animals. They are supplement which beneficially affects the host by improving properties of indigenous flora.

What are the specific indications of using probiotics in children?

A number of health effects have been reported with the usage of probiotics. The beneficial effect of probiotics has been seen in the prevention and treatment of acute diarrhea especially rotaviral diarrhea in children. Probiotics have also shown beneficial effects in traveler's diarrhea and antibiotic-associated diarrhea to reduce signs and symptoms of diarrhea.

In which conditions are probiotics useful?

Probiotics are increasingly being used for the treatment of diarrhea and for the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. It also helps in keeping remission in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, reduction of incidence of atopic dermatitis in infants, control symptoms of lactose intolerance, and irritable bowel syndrome. There have been reports of improved growth in undernourished children, decreased incidence of dental caries, and respiratory infections.

Which are the commonly used probiotics in humans?

Commonly used probiotics in humans are

  • Commonly used probiotics Lactobacillus species
  • Commonly used probiotics Bifidobacterium
  • Commonly used probiotics Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Commonly used probiotics Some E coli & Bacillus species

How are probiotics commonly available?

Probiotics are commonly available as probiotics fortified food, probiotic fortified dairy products, and probiotic sachets, tablets, and capsules.

What is the normal dose of probiotic prescribed?

The dose needed for probiotics varies with the type of probiotic. Most would be delivered in the range of 1-10 billion colonies forming units per dose.

What are the side effects of probiotics?

Lactobacillus has been used in humans for a long time without any established risk.

How safe are probiotics?

With the exception of one strain belonging to the Lactobacillus rhamnosus species, lactobacilli and bifidobacteria used for food production are "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration of the USA. However, probiotics should not be given to children who are seriously or chronically ill until the safety of administration has been established.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are dietary substances that nurture a selected group of microorganisms living in the gut. They favor the growth of beneficial bacteria over that of harmful ones.

What are the specific indication of using prebiotic in children?

The concept of prebiotic is essentially the same as of probiotic although by a different mechanism.

How are prebiotics commonly available?

Unlike probiotics, most prebiotics is used as food ingredients in biscuits, cereals, chocolate, spreads, and dairy products.

Which are the common prebiotics?

Prebiotics are usually in the form of oligosaccharides, which may occur naturally but can also be added as dietary supplements to foods. Oligosaccharides are smaller forms of carbohydrates. Unlike probiotics, most prebiotics is used as food ingredients in biscuits, cereals, chocolate, spreads, and dairy products. Human milk (breast milk) is a natural prebiotic and the oligosaccharide content of human milk is substantial and is part of the prebiotic components of human milk.

How do prebiotics work?

Prebiotics cannot be digested. Prebiotics selectively enhances the growth of certain probiotic bacteria in the colon, especially Bifidobacteria species. The fermentation of oligosaccharides in the colon results in an increasing number of bifidobacteria (probiotics) in the colon. An increase in bifidobacteria results in inhibition of the growth of potentially bad bacteria. Also, several probiotic strains are useful in boosting the immune response. There has been evidence in the last decade of the ability of prebiotic agents to reduce allergy in atopic children. However, more evidence is still needed.

Which are the commonly used prebiotics?

Commonly used prebiotics are:

  • Oligofructose
  • Commonly used prebiotics Inulin
  • Commonly used prebiotics Galacto-oligosaccharides
  • Commonly used prebiotics Lactulose
  • Commonly used prebiotics Breast milk oligosaccharides

How do prebiotics act?

Fermentation of oligofructose in the colon results in increasing the number of bifidobacteria (probiotics) in the colon that results in preventing the growth of disease-causing bacteria.

How safe are prebiotics?

Prebiotics appears to be generally safe. However, they can cause bloating, flatulence, and intestinal discomfort, especially when taken at doses of 15 g or higher daily. People with lactose intolerance may particularly suffer from these side effects.

Prebiotics & Probiotics FAQs Prebiotics & Probiotics FAQs 2014-09-15
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