- Should you take a daily probiotic supplement?
- Should you take probiotics?
- What you can do
- Is There a Best Time to Take Probiotics?
- Meal compositionmay help
- Consider quality
- Choose the right one for your health condition
- What Are Probiotics And When Is It Worth Taking A Probiotics Supplement?
- What are probiotics?
- Do probiotics supplements differ in what they contain?
- What are the benefits of taking them?
- Will everyone experience the same benefits?
- How well established are the benefits in terms of scientific research?
- Can you achieve the same benefits through your diet?
- Should you take probiotics at all times? Are they especially valuable if you’re taking antibiotics?
- If antibiotics have a negative effect on your microbiome, should you avoid them?
Should you take a daily probiotic supplement?
There’s a lot of buzz around probiotics. They’re endorsed by celebrities and fill grocery stores aisles.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that promote a healthy gut. Scientists believe they could unlock a deeper understanding of our health. Probiotics are found in some foods and drinks, yogurt or fermented tea.
Just vitamins, probiotics are available as supplements. Manufacturers make steep claims about their benefits. They include digestive health, strengthened immune system, weight loss and reduced cancer risk. But can a supplement really do all that?
To learn more about probiotic supplements, we spoke with Carrie Daniel- MacDougall, Ph.D., M.P.H., a nutritional epidemiologist at MD Anderson who studies diet and the microbiome.
Here’s what you should know about probiotic supplements.
It’s always better to get nutrients from food. That includes probiotics.
“More research needs to be done on probiotics in general and probiotic supplements, but it’s always better to get your nutrients from food rather than supplements,” Daniel-MacDougall says. “They just don’t deliver the same benefits as food.”
One reason is because supplements aren’t regulated as closely as medications. So the quality and ingredients can vary greatly from product to product.
Unless your doctor is prescribing probiotics for a specific purpose, stick to getting them from foods yogurt that may have other nutrients, calcium.
Eat probiotic foods along with prebiotic foods. Prebiotics are the food that bacteria eats and what sustains good bacteria long-term. Oatmeal, bananas, berries, asparagus and beans are all prebiotics.
Chances are probiotic supplements won’t help you. There is also a chance they could hurt you.
Everyone’s microbiome – the collection of bacteria in their body – is different and exists in a delicate balance. So a probiotic supplement that helps one person might not help someone else.
“Maybe a probiotic supplement will have a positive effect on your digestive system if you’re lucky, but it’s ly it will have no effect,” Daniel-MacDougall says. “And it could even disrupt or displace some of the good bacteria you already have.”
This could result in an upset stomach or problems with digestion to feeling bloated as your microbiome is remodeling for better or forworse.
“I think the future of probiotics in medicine will be more personalized,” Daniel-MacDougall says.
There’s no quick fix.
“I think supplements are popular because we want a quick fix,” Daniel-MacDougall says. “We’re hoping that a pill can fix everything. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.”
Focus on eating healthy and getting exercise to feel your best. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week to help lower your cancer risk.
Talk to your doctor before taking any supplement or making any major dietary changes.
In some cases, probiotics from food or supplements may help individuals with irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease or other health problems. But there is also potential for harm if used improperly or in combination with other medications. Your doctor can help you find the one that's right for you.
Should you take probiotics?
The “good bacteria” may help healthy people but aren't formally recommended.
Probiotics are “good” bacteria touted to help maintain digestive health and boost the immune system. You can take them in a dietary supplement or get them from food sources, such as yogurt. But should you? They can be helpful in some cases, but we still need more studies to tell us if and when they are safe and effective for older adults.
Microbes in the lower intestinal tract help us digest food, fight harmful bacteria, and regulate the immune system. But sometimes an imbalance of microbes occurs, leading to diarrhea and other health problems.
When the gut becomes unbalanced with unhealthy levels of certain bacteria, probiotics can help restore the balance. They've been shown to secrete protective substances, which may turn on the immune system and prevent pathogens from taking hold and creating major disease. But we are still learning to understand how probiotics may promote health.
Some studies that suggest if you take a probiotic while taking antibiotics, you're less ly to get diarrhea caused by the antibiotic. Probiotics taken as a supplement may also reduce the number of colds you'll have in a year.
Probiotics are commonly used to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms that are not due to acute illness, such as gas, bloating, and constipation. But we need more studies to determine who will get symptom improvement, particularly in older people.
Many types of probiotics are on the market. Some have been well studied, and some haven't. One theoretical risk of probiotics is if someone has an immune system weakened by illness or medication, that person could get sick from probiotics.
Another concern about probiotics is that they're considered dietary supplements, not drugs. As a result, the FDA doesn't monitor the manufacture of probiotics.
It's not clear if probiotics that can be bought at pharmacies and health food stores are high-quality products.
It's even possible that some lower-quality products may not even contain the probiotic bacteria that are listed on the label.
Supplements aren't the only way to get a daily dose of probiotics. There are many foods loaded with these cultures of good bacteria. The top sources include
Trying to get probiotics from food sources alone can be tricky. Food manufacturers are not required to show a specific dose of a specific probiotic, so they don't. You might have a more consistent dose in a supplement, but it's best to speak with your doctor before beginning any probiotics regimen.
What you can do
Don't start taking probiotics without talking to your doctor or pharmacist about whether probiotics might help you. People who have immune deficiency or are being treated for cancer should not use probiotics without a doctor's okay.
The most common species of bacteria used in probiotics (among a potential 3,000 or so) are species of Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium. The bacteria are usually freeze-dried (but remain alive); when you take the supplement, they warm up in your digestive system and become fully active. You can find probiotic supplements in most drugstores and supermarkets.
They come as capsules or tablets to swallow and as loose powder to sprinkle on food. You'll want a product that explicitly states a “sell-by” date. Dosages vary by product, so no general dosing recommendation can be made. However, common dosages for adults range from five billion to 10 billion colony-forming units per day.
Take just one dose of probiotics per day.
Some people may experience loose stools in the first few days of taking probiotics, but this goes away. Taking probiotics at the end of a meal may help to reduce the symptoms.
Image: Aliseenko/ iStock
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Is There a Best Time to Take Probiotics?
Written by Anne Danahy, MS, RDN on October 14, 2019
- Side effects
- Bottom line
Even if you’ve never taken probiotics, you’ve probably heard of them.
These supplements provide numerous benefits because they contain live microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, which support the healthy bacteria in your gut (1, 2, 3, 4).
Yet, you may wonder whether you should take them at a particular time.
This article tells you whether there’s a best time to take probiotics.
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Probiotics can keep your gut healthy by preventing the growth of harmful organisms, reinforcing the gut barrier, and restoring bacteria after disturbances from illness or medications antibiotics (1, 2, 3, 4).
While they may also support a healthy immune system and oral, skin, and mental health, research on these benefits is currently limited (1).
Some of the live microorganisms in probiotic supplements also occur in foods that are naturally cultured or fermented, including yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. These foods are linked to lower blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight (5).
If you don’t regularly eat fermented foods, you may want to consider taking a probiotic supplement (5).
Probiotics are live microorganisms that boost your gut health. Fermented foods contain some strains of these microorganisms, but if you don’t eat foods yogurt, kefir, or fermented vegetables, probiotic supplements may be beneficial.
Some probiotic manufacturers recommend taking the supplement on an empty stomach, while others advise taking it with food.
Though it’s difficult to measure bacteria viability in humans, some research suggests that Saccharomyces boulardii microorganisms survive in equal numbers with or without a meal (6).
On the other hand, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium survive best when taken up to 30 minutes before a meal (6).
However, consistency is probably more important than whether you take your probiotic with or without food.
A monthlong study found that probiotics caused positive changes in the gut microbiome regardless of whether they were taken with a meal (7).
Meal composition may help
The microorganisms used in probiotics are tested to ensure that they can survive various conditions in your stomach and intestines (1).
Nevertheless, taking probiotics with specific foods may optimize their effects.
In one study, survival rates of the microorganisms in probiotics improved when the supplement was taken alongside oatmeal or low-fat milk, compared with when it was taken with only water or apple juice (6).
This research suggests that a small amount of fat may improve bacterial survival in your digestive tract (6).
Lactobacillus probiotics might also survive better alongside sugar or carbs, as they rely upon glucose when in an acidic environment (8).
Though research indicates that more bacteria survive if you take probiotics before a meal, consistency is probably more important than specific timing when it comes to reaping the greatest benefits for your gut.
You can take probiotics in various forms, including capsules, lozenges, beads, powders, and drops. You can also find probiotics in several foods and drinks, including some yogurts, fermented milks, chocolates, and flavored beverages (1).
Most probiotic microbes must endure digestive acids and enzymes before colonizing your large intestine (1, 3, 4, 9).
Probiotics in capsules, tablets, beads, and yogurt tend to survive your stomach acids better than powders, liquids, or other foods or beverages, regardless of when they’re taken (10).
Furthermore, Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Enterococci are more resistant to stomach acid than other types of bacteria (10).
In fact, most strains of Lactobacillus come from the human intestinal tract, so they’re inherently resistant to stomach acid (8).
Research shows that 100 million to 1 billion probiotic microorganisms must reach your intestine for you to experience health benefits (10).
Given that probiotic cells can die throughout their shelf life, make sure you purchase a reputable product that guarantees at least 1 billion live cultures — often listed as colony-forming units (CFUs) — on its label (9).
To maintain quality, you should use your probiotic before the expiration date and store it according to the instructions on the label. Some can be kept at room temperature while others must be refrigerated.
Choose the right one for your health condition
If you have a particular health condition, you may want to consider a specific strain of probiotic or consult a medical professional to find one that’s best for you.
Experts agree that Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains benefit most people (3).
In particular, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii may reduce your risk of antibiotic-related diarrhea, while E. coli Nissle 1917 may help treat ulcerative colitis (4, 9, 11).
Meanwhile, probiotics that contain Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces boulardii seem to improve symptoms in some people with constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and several types of diarrhea (2, 3, 4).
For a probiotic to work, its live microorganisms must reach your large intestine and colonize it. Look for a supplement that guarantees at least 1 billion live cultures on the label and ask your healthcare provider whether a particular strain is best for you.
Probiotics usually don’t cause major side effects in healthy individuals.
However, you may experience minor symptoms, such as gas and bloating. These often improve with time, but taking your probiotic at night may reduce daytime symptoms.
If you take a probiotic to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea, you may wonder whether the antibiotic will kill the bacteria in your probiotic. However, strains designed to help prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea won’t be affected (4, 6).
Keep in mind that it’s safe to take probiotics and antibiotics at the same time (1).
If you take other medications or supplements, it’s best to discuss potential interactions with your healthcare provider. That’s because probiotics may increase their effectiveness (12).
Probiotics may cause minor side effects, such as gas and bloating. Talk to a medical professional if you take other medications, as probiotics may amplify their effects.
Probiotics contain live microorganisms that can enhance your gut health.
While research indicates that some strains may survive better if taken before a meal, the timing of your probiotic is less important than consistency.
Thus, you should take probiotics at the same time each day.
What Are Probiotics And When Is It Worth Taking A Probiotics Supplement?
What have you done lately to look after the health of your gut microbiome? To start with, we hope you’re eating enough fibre, and a broad range of fruits and vegetables. The next step might be to dip your toe into the world of fermented food, or you could even consider taking a probiotic supplement in order to ensure the happiness of the good bacteria in your gut.
To find out more about the potential benefits of probiotics, we spoke to Dr Richard Day, medical advisor at probiotics supplement company Bio-Kult.
What are probiotics?
The World Health Organisation defines probiotics as live micro-organisms that, when consumed in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. Put more simply, these are the bacteria, and a few viruses and fungi, that live in (or on) our bodies and have a positive effect on our overall health.
Each of us has trillions of micro-organisms living in our gastrointestinal tract, and this ecosystem is referred to as the gut microbiome.
The particular micro-organisms found in our gut microbiome can affect health outcomes in a huge variety of diagnoses.
Every year more and more research is completed implicating the gut microbiome in diagnoses including epilepsy, depression, eczema, diabetes, weight loss and many more.
Do probiotics supplements differ in what they contain?
There is currently a lot of research being conducted into “strain specificity” of probiotics. Bacteria can be categorised their species, but then each species can have many different subtypes, known as bacterial strains.
One particular strain of a probiotic organism might be found to have a very specific health benefit, while other strains in the same species may lack any health benefit or have a completely different one.
Historically, probiotics were thought of as generally good, but now we are starting to realise that strain-specific effects exist, so probiotics are being tailored to specific diagnoses or symptoms.
What are the benefits of taking them?
The benefits of probiotics depend very much on the strains or combinations of strains chosen. Historically, probiotics were used to improve gastrointestinal health.
This remains the most researched area of microbiome-related health, and there are hundreds of clinical trials looking into the effects of probiotics on gastroenteritis, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, to name just a few diagnoses.
But increasingly, research teams around the world are looking at the role of the gut microbiome in other parts of the body.
Will everyone experience the same benefits?
The microbiome is staggeringly complex and we are only just beginning to really understand how these micro-organisms interact with other body systems.
Perhaps because of this complexity, there is some variability in whether one person will experience the same health benefits as the next person from a certain probiotic; in much the same way as not every pharmacological treatment works for every person, there is no guarantee that one person will respond to a probiotic in the same way as the next.
How well established are the benefits in terms of scientific research?
There are over 20,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications looking at probiotics. Of course, not all of the studies show positive effects, but this figure helps to illustrate the amount of scientific research that is currently being directed at the human microbiome and probiotics.
There are sometimes criticisms of microbiome research: compared with traditional pharmaceutical research, the studies tend to be smaller and less well funded, but this is changing.
As the scientific basis for the positive effects of probiotics becomes better understood, so the interest in microbiome research grows, funding becomes more readily available and the quality of the scientific research improves, driving a virtuous cycle.
Can you achieve the same benefits through your diet?
This is a difficult question to answer. Diet greatly affects our gut microbiome and by modifying our diet we can cause quite significant changes in the proportions of different bacteria present. The majority of the scientific evidence to date has focused on taking specific probiotics as a supplement, but this is not to say that diet can’t have a positive effect on our gut microbiome.
Should you take probiotics at all times? Are they especially valuable if you’re taking antibiotics?
Again, this is not an easy question to answer. The short answer is, it depends. First you have to ask: why are you taking a particular probiotic? Is it because of a chronic condition? If it is, then it is ly that you would benefit from taking the probiotic long-term.
This is because most microbiome experts agree that taking a probiotic supplement only temporarily alters your gut microbiome. In order to have long-lasting changes to the composition of the gut microbiome, it’s necessary to keep taking the probiotic supplement for a long period.
On the other hand, if you are taking probiotics in the short term, says,with antibiotics, then this would just need to be a short course of probiotics, usually for the duration of the antibiotic course followed by another week or two after stopping.
The reason for taking probiotics during a course of antibiotics is because antibiotics can significantly alter the balance of micro-organisms in the gut. This can lead to unwanted side effects – most commonly diarrhoea.
There is an established body of evidence that by taking a probiotic during and immediately after a course of antibiotics you can significantly reduce the risk of developing antibiotic-associated diarrhoea.
If antibiotics have a negative effect on your microbiome, should you avoid them?
Prescribing medication is all about weighing up risk versus benefit. The risk of taking antibiotics may be that it could unfavourably alter your gut microbiome, therefore increasing the lihood of developing gastrointestinal side effects diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting.
But this needs to be weighed up against the benefit of the antibiotics – fighting the bacterial infection and limiting the adverse consequences of a prolonged infection.
Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment before starting and if you do need an antibiotic, then the evidence shows that a probiotic can significantly reduce the lihood of developing unwanted gastrointestinal side effects.