You’ve probably heard of probiotics but don’t know much about them, and that’s understandable. Most people don’t know much about the benefits of probiotics, but they do know that they are good for your health and are used to help boost the immune system, keep your digestive system healthy, reduce gassiness, and improve the immune system.
Probiotics are the single best thing you can do for your body. They are the little bacteria and yeasts that live in your gut and are supposed to help you with everything from digestion to immunity to weight loss. But they can do so much more than just help with your digestive tract! Diet, antibiotics, stress, travel, even surgery can affect your gut flora, and can lead to issues ranging from mild to severe.
Probiotics are a class of bacteria that are known to help with digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome. Research has shown probiotics can also be used to treat some of the symptoms of autism and depression, but this hasn’t been proven in clinical trials. Probiotics also seem to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut, which may help keep you regular.
When to Take | How Long Do They Take to Work? | Signs Probiotics Are Working | Side Effects | How to Improve Gut Health | Prebiotics | Definition | How Probiotics Help | When to Take | How Long Do They Take to Work?
“Should I take a probiotic?” you may wonder.
Probiotic pills, according to some, are the solution to whatever ails you: digestion issues, brain fog, immune system issues, and even cancer.
Then there are some who compare probiotics to multivitamins, seeing them as a guaranteed way to produce very costly urine—or, in this instance, feces.
Taking a probiotic may, in fact, be beneficial.
However, any possible advantages are contingent on variables such as who is taking the probiotic. What are the circumstances? What is the purpose of this?
In fact, despite the fact that I am a coach with a PhD in this field, the majority of my clients refuse to take probiotics.
That isn’t due to the fact that they never work. It’s because we only know how things function in certain circumstances.
As a result, in this post, I’ll walk you through:
Ready? Let’s learn all there is to know about these little insects.
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What are probiotics, exactly?
Probiotics are “live microorganisms that provide a health benefit on the host when given in appropriate amounts,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 1
A more straightforward definition would be:
Probiotics are bacteria (and sometimes yeasts) that have been shown to provide health advantages.
Probiotics are available as supplements and in a variety of fermented dairy products.
Fun fact: According to current research, the only food that can be called probiotic is fermented dairy, such as yogurt and kefir.
Other fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, natto, and miso, may have health advantages, but they aren’t probiotic since they don’t contain the bacteria that meet the criteria above. Also, pickled foods don’t meet the criteria (sorry! ), despite the fact that they’re tasty.
Probiotics come in a variety of strains.
They often have lengthy names that are tough to remember and much more difficult to spell. I’ll go through a couple of them in this post, not to bore you, but because different strains have different health advantages.
Each strain’s complete name comprises the genus, species, and subspecies (if applicable), as well as an alphanumeric designation that acts as an identification.
You’ll mainly hear strains referred to by their genus and species unless you’re a scientist (i.e. Lactobacillus reuteri or Bifidobacterium longum).
Occasionally, the name and/or numeric identification for a particular strain will be provided. 2
These differences are significant because various strains of the same genus and species may have drastically different effects in certain instances. Escherichia Coli Nissle, for example, is probiotic, while Escherichia Coli Shiga (often known as E. Coli) is pathogenic, meaning it will make you sick.
To put it another way, we’re talking about the distinction between a dog and a wolf at the genus level. It’s like deciding between a dog and a dingo when we get down to the strain level. You may observe how the probiotic taxonomy relates to that of an animal in the graphic below.
Differences at the strain or subspecies level may be more significant than you would think for both probiotics and animals.
The following genera (not to confuse you any more, genera is the plural of genus) produce some of the most popular probiotic strains:
- Saccharomyces (not to be confused with yeast!)
Finally, some probiotic pills include a variety of strains. VSL#3, a multi-strain probiotic containing Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria, and one strain of Streptococcus that you’ll learn more about later in this article, is a good example of this.
What is the purpose of probiotics?
When people hear the word “bacteria,” they often assume, “Oh, that’s the thing that makes you ill.” However, our bodies—particularly our guts—are teeming with various bacteria and other organisms.
When we speak about the gut microbiome, we’re referring to the complex ecology of microorganisms (and their genetic material) that reside in our gastrointestinal tract.
These microbes are there from the moment we are born, and they do more than simply take advantage of us. When everything is in order, they are able to:
- In certain instances, assist in the fermentation of undigested nutrients to generate useful chemicals (those are called postbiotics)
- By starving or fighting dangerous bacteria and yeast, you can keep them from dominating your gut (awesome, right?).
- play a role in the regulation of immunological responses to infections and allergens
- have an impact on energy balance and perhaps body composition
- may have an effect on mood, behavior, and cognition (possibly).
As you can see, our GI bacteria perform a variety of essential and diverse functions. It’s natural that individuals would want to put their gut health first. As a result, probiotics have gained popularity.
But, when we use the phrase “gut health,” what exactly do we mean?
It all depends on the situation. When we speak about having a healthy stomach, we generally mean:
Having a varied gut microbiome including a wide range of microorganisms and microbial genes.
Diversity is important because it prevents a small group of bacteria from overwhelming the rest of the population and making you ill.
It’s particularly significant since we know that our gut bacteria’ genetic material influences their metabolic and immunological activities. Except… we’re not quite sure which microorganisms are responsible for what.
As a result, having a larger diversity of bacteria implies having more genes that can perform a variety of tasks to help us stay healthy.
Dysbiosis occurs when a person’s gut microbiota isn’t diverse enough. People may tell you that gut dysbiosis is terrible and dangerous, and that you need probiotics to “cure” it. Dysbiosis, commonly known as intestinal permeability, is thought to be the cause of leaky gut.
(You can learn more about leaky gut later in this post, but to summarize: there is no universally accepted method for diagnosing leaky gut, and it isn’t anything you should be concerned about.)
Dysbiosis may create difficulties or indicate that there is a problem in your gut, and probiotics may assist. However, this is not always the case. This is because…
There is no such thing as a single “healthy” gut profile.
A healthy individual’s gut profile (the various kinds and quantities of bacteria present in their gut) may vary significantly from that of another healthy person.
Individuals with diverse illnesses have similar gut profiles: two people with the same GI condition, for example, may have radically distinct gut profiles.
So, although probiotics may assist in some circumstances (see them here), we still don’t know a lot about how our guts function and what probiotics can accomplish. I frequently argue that when it comes to gut health in general, we’re being sold a problem so we can purchase a solution.
That’s why it’s critical to keep your eyes and ears alert for gut health misinformation and sales techniques.
Keep an eye out for anybody or anything stating that:
- Any illness is caused by gut dysbiosis, gut imbalance, or leaky gut.
- Dysbiosis or leaky gut may be diagnosed, treated, cured, or prevented with their help.
- You need supplements, detoxification, or some other kind of “gut reset.”
- They can tailor a diet for you depending on the microorganisms in your intestine.
- A “healthy” gut or dysbiosis has a distinct character.
- They have the potential to alter the bacteria in your stomach in a particular manner.
- The human gut microbiota is directly represented in rodent or cell culture research.
The bottom line: There’s still so much we don’t know about the gut microbiota that defining “excellent” or “poor” gut health is difficult.
The advantages of probiotics aren’t always certain.
We have only limited evidence that some probiotic strains may assist with certain health problems.
It turns out that doing studies and drawing conclusions on the advantages of probiotics is very difficult. Because of the following reasons:
There are hundreds of strains of intestinal bacteria that have been identified.
And there may be hundreds or thousands more that we haven’t discovered yet. It’ll take some time to go through them all and comprehend their implications.
It’s difficult to design high-quality research.
There is no uniformity in:
- Strains of probiotic bacteria
- Dosage for research
- Time spent in treatment
As a result, the results of various studies may not be comparable owing to the way the study was conducted. It may be difficult to draw conclusions as a result of this.
Animals are used in a lot of this research.
These research can help us understand how things function in the stomach, but we can’t apply what we’ve learned to people.
It’s possible that the strains examined are skewed.
Certain strains appear in studies more often than others. When scientists see that a strain worked well in one research, they may choose it for another study (consciously or subconsciously).
Furthermore, some research may be sponsored by commercial organizations (for example, a particular brand of yogurt), which has an impact on the strains examined.
Finally, we know less information about certain strains and more information about others as a result of all of this.
Probiotics have a highly individual response.
Due to variations in gut composition and other variables, a supplement may work wonderfully for one individual but not for another.
Furthermore, some individuals seem to be supplement-resistant.
A Lactobacilli supplement was given to a group of individuals in one research. 3 The volunteers were then anesthetized, and a long, flexible tube was put into their intestines to check whether the probiotic strains had effectively nourished their gut.
(If this sounds eerily similar to your previous colonoscopy, you’re right.)
Volunteers were also requested to give up their excrement for examination.
What were the outcomes? The investigators discovered probiotic leftovers in everyone’s feces. During the colonoscopies, however, they found that some of the individuals’ intestines were deficient in probiotic bacteria. The probiotics basically went straight through these individuals. So…
The first discovery was that various probiotic strains elicited varied reactions in different individuals.
Finding #2: In this research, feces counts were not a reliable indicator of how well a probiotic “worked.” And the majority of research rely on fecal counts to determine how well a probiotic “worked.”
This leads us to…
It’s difficult to tell whether probiotics are effective.
As shown by the research stated above, just because you pooped out microorganisms doesn’t imply they took up residence and began growing in your gut. Taking samples from a person’s gut, on the other hand, necessitates the insertion of a tube into the intestines. And finding enough individuals ready to put up with it in the sake of research isn’t always simple.
When is it a good idea to use a probiotic supplement?
See the table below for a list of health issues that probiotics have been proven to assist with. After that, I’ll go through each problem in more detail.
Probiotics have only been proven to be helpful for a few particular health issues so far.
There’s one thing I’d want to get out of the way first:
There is no probiotic pill that can solve five distinct issues at once, like a multi-cooker.
Probiotics, on the other hand, operate more like a breadmaker with a finicky on-off switch. They only do one thing, and they only do it… sometimes.
Strain-specific and population-specific probiotic supplements are available. As a result, there’s no need to take them like a multivitamin.
You must use the correct strain for the job, and there must be proof that the strain can really do that task. Even then, there’s no assurance that a probiotic would aid in the resolution of the issue.
As a result, one of the most important questions to ask yourself while choosing a probiotic is:
Why should I take a probiotic?
Because, based on what we now know, probiotics may be beneficial in just a few circumstances.
Taking a probiotic supplement may be beneficial if:
Antibiotics are being taken by you.
Antibiotics destroy some of the microorganisms in your stomach, resulting in dysbiosis. (Remember, dysbiosis occurs when your gut microbiota lacks variety.)
Pathogenic bacteria (the nasties that make you ill) may proliferate and take control when there is an imbalance like this. This is why some individuals have diarrhea after taking antibiotics.
Clostridium difficile (also known as C. Diff) is a bacteria that usually lives in your stomach. However, the rest of the bacteria in your gut keep it in control, so it doesn’t create any issues. Except that when you take antibiotics, C. Diff may have a chance to flourish, making you very ill.
If you must take antibiotics, eating probiotics with them may help to decrease the risk of antibiotic-related diarrhea. 4 Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii seem to be the most effective bacteria.
However, you should wait to see whether you develop diarrhea before taking a probiotic. Why? When it comes to bringing your stomach back to normal, starting a probiotic too soon may backfire.
One research looked at a healthy group of individuals who were taking antibiotics to find out more. 5
After completing their antibiotics, some individuals received a transplant of their own pre-antibiotic feces, while others received Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (also known as an autologous fecal transplant).
Who returned to their baseline the quickest? Those who had a fecal transplant were followed by those who just took antibiotics.
The group that took a probiotic came in last.
The probiotic, according to the researchers, overwhelmed the individuals’ natural bacteria, making recovery take longer.
What’s the takeaway? Since autologous fecal transplants aren’t a possibility (they’re not FDA-approved for this reason and, well, they’re inconvenient), the best options are:
- If you develop antibiotic-associated diarrhea, do nothing and just take a probiotic.
- Take Saccharomyces boulardii with your antibiotic; it’s been proven to assist, but it doesn’t seem to have the same overwhelming impact as Lactobacilli strains.
You have diarrhea that is contagious.
Do you have a stomach illness that’s making you feel nauseous or have traveler’s diarrhea? Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG or Saccharomyces boulardii supplements may be beneficial.
Also, depending on the reason of diarrhea, there are variations in what works best. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, for example, seems to be more effective for diarrhea caused by C. It works differently for certain diseases than it does for general infectious diarrhea. 6 If you’re not sure which to try, ask your doctor or pharmacist for recommendations.
Irritable bowel syndrome is something you have (IBS).
Probiotics including Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus seem to be helpful in decreasing the intensity of IBS symptoms. 7,8,9
There may be a placebo effect at work since part of the study utilizes quality of life ratings and most of the strains seem to have the same impact.
If you have IBS, however, it may be worthwhile to try probiotics. According to several studies, consuming a single strain for a short period of time (8 weeks) is the most beneficial. 10 According to other studies, a combination of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus works best, especially if constipation is an issue. 11 (Remember how I said probiotics research is difficult to take conclusions from? This is an excellent illustration of this.)
If you’re considering taking a probiotic for IBS, go to your gastroenterologist or a qualified dietitian who specializes in GI issues to find out which strains to try.
You’re suffering from ulcerative colitis.
Certain probiotic strains may help in ulcerative colitis, a type of irritable bowel illness.
VSL#3, a mixture of many distinct strains, in particular, has the potential to promote remission and avoid flare-ups. Unfortunately, when it comes to treating individuals with Crohn’s disease, experts haven’t found the same consistency.
You’re being treated for an infection caused by H. pylori.
Heliobacter pylori is a kind of bacterium that may cause ulcers in the digestive system. Certain strains (Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Saccharomyces boulardii) may work in tandem with traditional therapy. It may also help to decrease any related diarrhea if you’re taking antibiotics. 12
You want to lower your cholesterol and enhance your cardiovascular health.
Probiotics may be beneficial, but they shouldn’t be your first line of defense when it comes to improving your cardiometabolic health.
Some data suggests that specific strains may enhance lipid profiles, implying that total and LDL cholesterol levels, as well as insulin sensitivity, can be improved. 13,14 The results in the case of cholesterol were unique to fermented dairy (think: yogurt) rather than a supplement.
Before you continue reading…
I’m about to tell you about a few instances in which taking a probiotic won’t help.
You may think something like this in response to some of these:
“However, I read in a study/article/documentary that probiotics aid with [fill in the blank]!”
That’s fantastic! This is a fascinating and developing field of study, and we’re always discovering new things about probiotics.
Scientists, on the other hand, do not regard one or even a few studies that indicate a beneficial impact to be high-quality proof. A given effect must be replicated in many studies and preferably evaluated and analyzed in a systematic review or meta-analysis before a conclusion can be drawn.
As a result, for the health conditions listed below, this may mean:
- There hasn’t been any study done on probiotics and this particular health concern.
- There has been some study, but it is insufficient to make any conclusions.
- Although study has been done, the results have been inconsistent, unfavorable, or non-existent.
Probiotics may ultimately be discovered to assist with some of these health issues. However, there is currently insufficient data for health professionals to offer recommendations that they can stand behind.
Phew. [Deep sigh.]
If you have any of the following conditions, probiotics are unlikely to help:
You’re suffering from depression, anxiety, or another kind of mental illness.
Yes, there is such a thing as the gut-brain axis. But there’s still a lot we don’t know about it.
Much of the popular debate over probiotics for mental health centers on the notion that if your gut generates more serotonin (often known as the “happy hormone”), your mental health would improve.
While it’s true that your body produces 95 percent of its serotonin outside of the brain (including in the stomach), this isn’t the same serotonin that makes you joyful. 15
Because serotonin generated in the stomach does not get across the blood-brain barrier, it has no effect on your mood.
Why am I bringing it up now? The notion that having more serotonin in your stomach implies you’ll have greater mental health is just not supported by research. Overall, there is little evidence that probiotics may assist with the following mental health issues: 16
- Depression: Probiotics seem to have an antidepressant impact, but there isn’t enough data to tell for sure. 17
- Anxiety: Although preclinical research in rats have shown a benefit, similar advantages have yet to be shown in people.
- Mood: It seems that probiotics have an impact on mood in general. However, researchers are quick to point out that we don’t know enough to make suggestions at this time. 18
Probiotics should never be used as a substitute for conventional mental health care. (Seriously.)
Even if you’re thinking about using probiotics in conjunction with treatment or medicine, it’s generally not worth it.
Can probiotics help with autism?
Abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and constipation are common GI symptoms reported by people with autism.
This has prompted some specialists to ponder the following:
Is a flora imbalance in the stomach to blame?
We still have more questions than answers, unfortunately. GI and behavioral symptoms in individuals with autism often increased when taking probiotics, according to numerous research. 19
The potential of fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) in individuals with autism has also gotten a lot of attention. (Learn more about FMTs in the section below!)
One research found that when individuals with autism got FMTs, their behavioral symptoms improved over time, however there was no control group or group of persons who did not get FMT therapy. 20
So, although the results seem encouraging, without a control group, it’s difficult to tell whether the improvement can be attributable to FMTs.
You want to slim down.
It would be fantastic if probiotics could aid with fat loss. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough data to suggest that probiotics may aid fat reduction. Although some studies have indicated a decrease in waist circumference or BMI, the results are too mixed to make any conclusions. 21
You have a rash or acne on your skin.
Probiotics are currently not indicated for the treatment of eczema, atopic dermatitis, acne, or any other skin condition. 22,23
You have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Probiotics may seem to be a good alternative to traditional medicines for individuals suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease. Unfortunately, although some first research findings seemed encouraging, they were inconsistent. As a result, there is insufficient data to suggest that probiotics can assist in this scenario. 24
You experience flatulence or other digestive problems on occasion.
Whether you’re wondering if probiotics can assist with stomach discomfort or sporadic gas, the answer is no. Probiotics haven’t been shown to assist with dyspepsia that hasn’t been linked to a particular reason. 25
You’re worried about a leaky stomach.
Though intestinal permeability, often known as “leaky gut,” has been linked to a variety of illnesses and medicines, it cannot be identified as a health issue (despite what Instagram “experts” may claim).
When a person has intestinal permeability, they may or may not have any visible signs of the condition, but they may have other digestive issues.
And, whether or not you think leaky gut is a reality, there’s no proof that probiotic supplements assist individuals with intestinal permeability heal their gut lining.
You have a yeast infection or recurrent urinary tract infections.
People often seek natural solutions to these problems, however probiotics have not been shown to assist with yeast infections or prevent recurrent urinary tract infections. 26,27
You’d like to be the healthiest person on the street.
Taking a probiotic isn’t as effective as adopting lifestyle adjustments to improve your overall health.
You want to give your immune system a boost.
We already know that probiotics may help boost immunity in some circumstances.
It’s a function of immunity, for example, when you take a probiotic to assist with infectious diarrhea. Probiotics have also been shown to decrease the severity of upper respiratory tract infections in athletes in one research. 28
However, there are a number of other adjustments you can do to improve your general immune health—something that many people are concerned about today in light of the pandemic—that will have a larger effect. (For more information, see this infographic on how to boost your immunity.)
Is feces transplantation proof that probiotics work?
The success of fecal transplants is sometimes cited as proof that probiotics work.
But what precisely is a fecal transplant? Fecal microbiota transplantation is the technical phrase (FMT). Essentially, a healthy person’s feces is mixed with saline and injected into the colon of the sick.
So, yeah, we’re discussing feces transplants.
We don’t know why or how FMTs work, but they’ve been proven to be 80-90 percent successful in treating C. Diff infections that haven’t responded to conventional treatments. 29
FMTs may benefit these individuals by repopulating their gut with microorganisms that compete with C. Diff.
These findings prompted researchers to consider additional possible uses, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, autism, obesity, and more.
Despite high expectations for FMTs, outcomes from clinical studies in individuals with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis have been variable. 30 In addition, there were no impacts on body weight or composition in studies with obese individuals. 31,32
Currently, the FDA has only authorized fecal transplants for treating C. Diff after other therapies have failed.
Is the success of FMTs a testament to the efficacy of probiotics? Not at all.
Probiotics have a lower overall microbial concentration and a lesser number of strains than FMT formulations.
In other words, just though FMTs seem to help individuals with C. diff does not imply that everyone should take probiotics.
Taking Probiotics 101: Answers to the Most Common Questions
First and foremost, how do I choose a probiotic?
You’ll need to think about a few things.
Factor #1: Probiotic species, strain, or multi-strain
The species or strain(s) that are best for you are determined by why you’re taking a probiotic. To find out which probiotics are right for you, look at the chart above.
Price is the second factor to consider.
In most instances, taking a probiotic is a temporary solution, thus cost may not be a major consideration. However, if it’s something you’ll need or want to do in the long run, consider the following: Is the financial commitment you’re making reasonable?
Could you get the same results by consuming more whole foods and less highly processed meals at a lower cost (or even for free)? (For additional information, see The 5 Principles of Good Nutrition.)
Dosage is the third factor to consider.
We know that for all probiotics, the effective dosage is between 106 and 109 colony-forming units (CFUs). (By the way, those tiny numbers stand for ’10 to the sixth power’ and ’10 to the ninth power,’ respectively.) Or, to put it another way, 1 million to 1 billion CFUs).
Look for probiotics that provide this dosage in only one or two daily doses.
Also, make sure you use probiotics before they expire. You may not receive the amount of CFUs shown on the label if you take them later.
That’s all there is to it. Don’t be concerned about whether or not your stuff has been chilled. (It turns out that it doesn’t make a difference.)
Third-party quality certifications aren’t as essential for protein powders and other supplements as they are for protein powders and other supplements. If you’re an athlete, though, it’s a good idea to seek for a probiotic that’s been verified by NSF or USP.
The most essential thing is to match the appropriate strains to the appropriate health issue.
Second question: How often should I take my probiotic?
It’s ideal to take probiotics immediately before a meal, since this seems to boost the chances of the good bacteria completing their work in your intestines. 33
It’s normal to worry if you’re taking antibiotics that the probiotic will be wiped away. Antibiotics, after all, kill germs, right?
The simple answer is that you don’t need to be concerned; your probiotic will be fine. (If you’re worried, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about when to take antibiotics and probiotics.)
Antibiotics do destroy germs, to give you the lengthy answer. They do, however, operate in distinct ways.
Some antibiotics destroy the bacterium’s cell wall or membrane, while others inhibit protein synthesis, causing the bacteria to die, and yet others harm the organism’s genetic material.
As a result, antibiotics don’t always kill all of the bacteria they come into touch with, thus your probiotics may or may not be affected. They may or may not have an impact on your natural microbiota.
Antibiotics have no effect on certain probiotics, such as Saccharomyces boulardii, since they are yeasts.
(And, to be honest, as a specialist in this area, I’m more worried about bacteria in our intestines acquiring antibiotic-resistant genes than I am about antibiotics putting our native microbiomes off kilter.) Antibiotic misuse or abuse causes this, and it can cause antibiotics to stop working when we really need them. But that’s a different story…)
There’s also the fact that no matter when you take your probiotic or antibiotic, they’ll stay in your GI system for approximately a day.
That implies that everything will be mingled together to some extent, which is why this isn’t anything to be worried about.
I’ve got a quick question: Can probiotics withstand stomach acid?
Yes, they are capable.
The majority of probiotic capsules are coated to prevent stomach acid from reaching them. The coating dissolves once they reach the small intestine.
Lactobacilli may even be found in the gastrointestinal tract. As a result, the notion that stomach acid destroys all probiotic strains is incorrect.
Question #3: How long does a probiotic take to work?
There are no guidelines for how long you should take probiotics.
You should continue taking probiotics until you feel better if you’re suffering from antibiotic-associated diarrhea. For example, it might take anything from one to eight weeks. However, if your symptoms do not improve after a month, it may not be worth it to continue.
If you’re taking probiotics for IBS, some evidence indicates that taking them for a shorter length of time, such as fewer than eight weeks, is preferable.
I’d suggest taking a probiotic for a month as a general guideline. Then, to see whether it’s working for you, follow the instructions listed below.
Because most probiotics are packaged in one-month supplies, this works out well. You’ll be able to decide whether or not to continue before purchasing more.
Question #4: How do you know if your probiotic is effective?
To answer this question, you need be very clear about what you want to accomplish by taking a probiotic.
Let’s suppose you want to see whether your IBS symptoms improve.
You should do a little self-experiment to see if probiotics are beneficial.
Begin by imagining what “improvement” would entail.
Maybe it’s the fact that you can go a whole day at work without feeling bloated.
Or a week without missing out on anything you wanted to do because to your IBS.
It may also be more specific: fewer diarrhea, constipation, or stomach pains, for example.
The second stage is to connect with your inner scientist, regardless of the criteria you choose. (There’s one in every one of us!)
Gather your information. Make a note of any changes you notice in a journal or on your phone.
You may keep note of data points like your daily symptoms (or absence thereof) and/or the quality of your bowel motions (using the examples in this handy visual guide to poop health).
Reevaluate every two weeks. How are things doing in terms of the metrics you chose?
You’ll see a pattern emerge over time. Either the probiotics are effective or they are not. After that, you may select what to do next.
Question #5: Are there any unfavorable consequences?
Probiotics may sometimes aggravate gastrointestinal problems. It’s a rare occurrence, but they may induce bloating or diarrhea.
It’s also crucial to be mindful of the possibility of medication interactions. People who are taking oral chemotherapy drugs, for example, should consult their doctor before taking probiotics.
(It’s also a good idea to see your doctor before beginning any new supplement if you’re on any prescription medications.)
Finally, bacterial or fungal translocation may occur in individuals who are severely immunocompromised.
That is to say, if you have a large ulcer, bacteria or yeast from probiotics may be able to pass through and into your circulation. And that would result in a full-body infection, which would be very hazardous.
This is an uncommon consequence, but it is worth mentioning for individuals who have a weakened immune system.
How to maintain a healthy gut without the use of supplements
This section is for you if you came to this page to make sure you’re taking care of your gut health.
When individuals ask me whether they should take a probiotic or if there is anything specific they can do to improve their gut health, I try to address two major questions:
- Is there enough fiber in their diet from a variety of sources?
- Is there adequate physical exercise in their lives on a daily basis?
These are the two most important factors that appear to determine microbial diversity, so I ask these questions.
So, whether you’re considering taking probiotics for general health or for one of the conditions mentioned in the “probiotics are unlikely to assist” section, make sure you first make these two lifestyle adjustments.
They’re not only cheaper than probiotics, but they’re also more likely to improve your overall health. Also, if you’re taking probiotics for a reason for which there’s evidence, these habits will help.
Eat a nutrient-dense diet with adequate fiber from a variety of sources as your first lifestyle adjustment.
This is arguably the most essential thing you can do to promote a varied microbiome.
Your best option is to eat a broad range of fiber-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. You’ve also checked the nutrient-dense box by using lean proteins and healthy fats.
The importance of fiber cannot be overstated.
The gut profiles of healthy bodybuilders were examined in one probiotic research. 34
Despite the fact that it wasn’t the study’s primary goal, the researchers discovered that bodybuilders who didn’t consume enough fiber had microbiomes that were comparable to those of sedentary individuals.
In other words, individuals were missing out on the microbiome advantages of exercise (more on that in a minute), perhaps due to a lack of fiber in their diet.
Isn’t it fascinating?
What are prebiotics, exactly?
You may have heard that prebiotics, a kind of fiber that “feeds” the bacteria in your gut, should be consumed. You’re receiving enough prebiotics in your diet if you consume fiber-rich foods like the ones listed above on a regular basis. Because we don’t yet know which bacteria favor particular kinds of fiber, the best strategy is to consume a diverse range of fiber sources.
What about meals that include probiotics?
Probiotic foods may also be beneficial to your health. They’re linked to a slew of positive health outcomes, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. 13
Just a reminder: At the moment, fermented dairy is the only food that is categorized as probiotic. Fermented yogurts and kefir are examples of this.
What happens if a high-fiber diet causes gastrointestinal problems?
Bloating, diarrhea, and other digestive problems are common in individuals who follow a whole-food, fiber-rich diet. This may be perplexing, particularly if you’re putting out a lot of effort to eat healthily.
People frequently question whether there’s anything wrong with their gut health or if they need to take a probiotic in this scenario.
The answer is most likely no.
Some of the fiber you eat is fermented by bacteria in your gut. They produce gas as a result of this. That isn’t a symptom of a clogged intestine. It’s a normal reaction to consuming more fiber.
It’s a good idea to see your doctor if consuming extra fiber-rich meals produces significant and long-lasting GI problems.
If you get a clean bill of health or your doctor has ruled out all possibilities but IBS, the next step is to begin a customized FODMAP exclusion and reintroduction diet with the assistance of a professionally qualified nutritionist or dietitian.
(Check out’s FREE downloadable e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Elimination Diets, to discover more about FODMAPs and everything you’d ever want to know about completing an elimination diet.)
Movement on a regular basis is the second lifestyle modification to make.
Exercise is generally beneficial to your microbiota. According to studies, individuals who are physically active have greater microbial diversity. 35 As a result, committing to a regular exercise program is an excellent way to improve gut health.
With exercise, though, there is a kind of “Goldilocks” effect.
For example, endurance exercise has been linked to a condition known as exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome, and individuals with IBS may experience pain when exercising.
As with everything else, you must strike the appropriate balance for yourself.
Concentrate on physical exercise that satisfies the following criteria:
- you take pleasure in
- you can perform it on a regular basis (i.e. several days a week)
- helps you feel happy and energetic rather than exhausted or ill
Extra credit: Pay special attention to your inner wellness.
It’s excellent news if you’ve already established good fiber and exercise routines. Are you stumped as to what more you can do?
There has been a lot of discussion about the effects of sleep, stress, and other variables on gut health, but there isn’t much human evidence on how these things affect microbial diversity.
What effect does alcohol have on intestinal health?
We all know that drinking too much alcohol is bad for your stomach.
Moderate red wine intake, on the other hand, seems to be linked to increased microbial diversity, perhaps owing to the polyphenols in wine. 36
And, since all polyphenols seem to interact with our microbiota, these benefits are more plausible than the resveratrol hype we usually hear about red wine.
As a result, I would advise just consuming red wine occasionally or in moderation.
(Are you wondering whether quitting drinking will make you healthier? Learn more about the true costs of alcohol use in this article.)
So, for individuals who have mastered the first two lifestyle adjustments, I suggest concentrating on activities that promote your deep health, or total health.
These may also assist you in making deliberate choices about what you eat and how you exercise, bringing the whole thing full circle.
What do the procedures entail? Here are a few places to start:
- Stress management
- Getting enough rest
- Taking care of your mental and emotional well-being
- Connection is sought via meaningful connections.
- Changing your surroundings to benefit your health and happiness
If you’re truly excited about improving your gut health, this may come as a bit of a letdown.
I understand. The microbiome is an enthralling field of study. However, in the grand scheme of things, we have very little data that is useful.
While we wait for further data, we do know that the habits linked to a variety of good health outcomes may also benefit our microbiota.
That’s excellent news, since it implies we don’t always need sophisticated, costly supplements to improve our microbiota.
So, what are the things that are beneficial for your general health? It’s probably also beneficial to your digestive system.
To see the information sources mentioned in this article, go here.
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Probiotics are microorganisms that normally live in the intestines of humans and other animals. They can be found in foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Probiotics are thought to help with helping with digestion, immune system health, and help with preventing diarrhea. Although research is still ongoing, many consumers are interested in how they can take probiotics themselves for supplements.. Read more about what happens when you stop taking probiotics and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are probiotics good for in woman?
Probiotics are good for your health in general, but they are especially beneficial to women. They can help prevent and treat vaginal infections, yeast infections, and urinary tract infections.
What happens when you take probiotics everyday?
Probiotics are the good bacteria in your gut that help you digest food and fight off bad bacteria. Taking probiotics everyday is a way to maintain healthy gut flora.
What happens when you start taking probiotics?
Probiotics are supplements that contain live bacteria and yeast. This is taken to help your body maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut.
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