Probiotics are live microbial supplements that benefit the host, and are widely available in many food products. Some probiotics are currently approved for Health Claims in Canada. There has been growing interest in the use of probiotics for pharmacological applications, including antibiotic associated diarrhea, allergic disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. In this review, the evidence supporting clinical use of probiotics for the treatment or prevention of these diseases is reviewed. Although encouraging data exists supporting the potential utility of probiotics for these purposes, larger studies are needed before routine clinical use can be recommended. While probiotics are advantageous because of their excellent safety profile and relatively low cost, there are significant challenges associated with specifying the efficacious microbial species and strains. In the future, probiotics may become a valuable clinical tool for managing many prevalent diseases.
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