Ask Dr. John: Stomach issues, daily probiotics

9:23 AM, Jan 29, 2014   |    comments
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KUSA - Dr. John Torres from Premier Urgent Care answers your questions every week. If you have a medical question for Dr. John, send it to and make sure to have Ask Dr. John in the subject line.

Question #1
Hello Dr John, I had stomach issues that were classic symptoms of gallbladder problems. All the tests came back normal. I am experiencing those same symptoms again. I have had many people tell me, including another doctor, that even though all of the gallbladder tests were "normal" I should look for someone that will remove it anyway. Is this common? Thank you, Melissa

By classic gallbladder symptoms I assume you mean pain just under your right side ribcage, especially after eating something fatty or greasy. The best way to find out if it's your gallbladder is by undergoing an ultrasound that can tell your doctor if there are any issues that need addressing. The problem is that sometimes the ultrasound or lab tests can be normal but the pain can continue. In that case other tests can be done, especially one called a HIDA scan. Instead of looking at the structure of the gallbladder like an ultrasound does, the HIDA scan looks at how well it functions. If the test finds a blockage or other problems then a surgery might be recommended. Also, even if one test is normal getting a second opinion, especially in light of continuing pain, is worthwhile. But getting surgery just on the off chance that it "could" help isn't necessarily the best thing to do. Like all surgeries a gallbladder one can have side effects so you want to make sure it's being taken out for very specific reasons.

Question #2
Dr. John, Is it safe to take a probiotic daily just like a multivitamin? I've heard that they can do more harm than good in the long run. Thank you, Amy

Most of us have heard about probiotics by now and most advice is to take them daily. But can even something seemingly so healthy be bad for some of us? The answer is that it depends. Probiotics are bacteria, mostly lactobacillus, which is a friendly type of bacteria our intestines need to stay healthy. We normally have a good amount of this bacteria but if we're sick, take antibiotics or have recently had surgery this bacteria might be in lower numbers than usual. This means our intestinal health could take a hit so replacing the missing bacteria with probiotics can help. For most of us taking them on a daily basis should not be a problem. But since probiotics are live bacteria anyone with immune system issues needs to be cautious since in rare cases probiotics have caused intestinal infections. The same goes for anyone just coming off of surgery or anyone having what's known as a "short bowel syndrome". For these folks it's best to talk with your doctor about you need for probiotics and how to safely take them if they are recommended.

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