Patients want answers about probiotics. Often they ask their doctors who may turn out to have few positions on probiotics or other “alternative” therapies. Medical schools, with such vast material to cover, teach science and treatment with very little time spent on prevention.
Researchers at the St. Louis University School of Medicine surveyed gastroenterologists and physicians with a specific interest in GI disorders.
All physicians responded that they believed probiotics to be safe for most patients, the report said, and 98% responded that probiotics have a role in treating gastrointestinal illnesses or symptoms.
What was the #1 condition for which they recommended probiotics? Irritable bowel syndrome. Antibiotic-associated and Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea were also cause for a recommendation.
There is little consistency however. The study in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology added that physician practice patterns did not consistently correlate with published,expert panel generated recommendations for evidence-based probiotic use.
Another exploration on this topic was completed in Europe, but with general practitioners who are often the frontline of medicine.
The physicians were interviewed about their involvement and knowledge of functional foods including probiotics and plant sterols.
The authors concluded:
“It was found that general practitioners believed they did not have a direct role with functional foods and should not be involved with discussing them with their patients. They felt that if they where to be involved with functional foods then they would need more training and information about them. They also felt that functional foods could be empowering for their patients.”
What to do?
- Guidelines or protocols should be written and supported by the medical community of physicians and dietitians.
- Seminars should be offered.
- Continuing education with credits for other allied health professionals—pharmacists, dietitians, nurses —is available. Physicians should have the same opportunity.
Education is key.