How Do You Know Probiotic Supplements are Working?

Jessica Lewis
November 17, 2016

Probiotics are a supplemental form of beneficial bacteria that we can use to recolonize our gut. The gut shelters an enormous amount of microorganisms and its balance and composition affect every process in our bodies starting with nutrient assimilation and finishing with our immune health.

If your gut flora has been compromised, you may need to supplement it with probiotics. Some signs indicate the fact that you should take probiotic supplements, and also some effects showing that they are indeed helping.

Signs You Should Be Taking Probiotics

Venturing through health and nutrition education subjects might often seem like blindly falling the rabbit hole because it’s often difficult to know exactly where we’re heading. On our way, we find many signs which claim to be the right ones and to offer the best cure for any ailment, and they guarantee success if we just follow along. Among all these signs and all the signals, there are also messages that we should be taking probiotics. But are they the solution and is taking them the way to go? That’s what we’re here to find out.

probiotic_foods_pickels_350x438First of all, we already know that probiotics are good for us, for our health; they’re part of our body’s natural environment. They’re the microflora from our intestines, the beneficial bacteria that keep pathogens away, assure an optimal digestion and the highest rate of nutrient absorption and promote a healthy immunity. Probiotics have shown positive results for a vast range of health conditions ranging from urinary and vaginal infections to allergies, asthma and skin disorders. They eliminate harmful bacteria, preventing their ability to host disease, inflammation and infections in the body.

Probiotics also impact the body by improving digestive processes and studies have shown that optimal levels of probiotics in the gut are useful in fighting irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, and inflammatory bowel disease. They also help the body to absorb valuable nutrients, assuring that our organism receives the minerals, vitamins, amino acids and fats from the food intake.

Last, but not least, probiotics are the very foundation of a concept called the “gut-brain” axis which describes the significant impact of the microflora to the brain’s functions. According to various studies, correcting the microflora (the beneficial bacteria from our guts) will lead to an optimized neurotransmitter function. This means a regression in depression, anxiety, and stress and also an improved focus, memory and ability to learn.

Here are the most important signs which warn us that we should be taking probiotics:

  1. Use of Antibiotics

The term antibiotic means anti-life and it’s the precise opposite of probiotic which stands for pro-life. The goal of antibiotics is to kill bacteria in our bodies during disease, but unfortunately, they can’t discriminate between beneficial and bad bacteria and they kill all of them. If you have been prescribed antibiotics, you should consider also taking a probiotic supplement to replace the healthy flora from your body.

It’s best if you also start a round of probiotic supplements only after finishing the antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics will prevent the probiotics from living inside the body; therefore it’s no use wasting money by taking both at the same time.

  1. Food Poisoning

If you’ve eaten something wrong which led to food poisoning, it’s entirely possible that harmful bacteria flooded your body. A probiotic supplement will have the ability to combat them and to get the digestive processes and bowel movements back on track.

Specialists advise us to take a probiotic supplement as prevention before and during a trip to a foreign country where things are different than the ones we’re used to. The more healthy bacteria we have in our bodies, the safer we are from potential pathogens.

  1. Digestion Issues

If you have a gut malfunction or if you’re suffering from a condition that affects the digestive tract, you should consider taking a probiotic supplement. Usually, by adding healthy bacteria to your body, you can combat the symptoms and no other treatment will be needed. According to research, probiotics are helpful for gas, diarrhea, Crohn’s Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, E.coli and H.pylori infection.

It’s important always to improve our diets by avoiding foods which are hard to digest such as fried ones, over processed foods, soy, gluten and dairy. If your health condition is still present even after doing so, the only thing left to do is to take probiotic supplements.

  1. Skin Disorders

If you have eczema, acne, hives, rashes or psoriasis, it’s probably because of an imbalanced gut flora and poor digestion. The solution is a diet cleansing along with the use of probiotic supplements. If your skin doesn’t become clear even after doing so, you might want to also use some digestive aids such as enzymes and HCL (hydrochloride), and aloe or glutamine to heal the intestinal lining. Another important thing to do is to check your hormones, especially when you have acne on your upper back area, chin and chest.

  1. Fluctuating Mood Disorders

If you experience lots of stress, anxiety, irritability and depression in your daily life, these symptoms could be signs of an imbalanced gut flora. It’s time to start using probiotic supplements to bring it back to optimal levels to improve the functioning of your brain and mood. If your mood doesn’t get any better after using probiotics, you can also take live-source B vitamins and herbs to strengthen the kidneys. These organs are usually related to the moods described above.

  1. Poor Immune System

If you get sick easily and you always catch all disease that goes around, you should try probiotic supplements. Research has already proven that they boost immunity and they also have the ability to strengthen the body’s defense systems against disease. Beneficial bacteria can train immunity to differentiate foreign bacteria from the ones originating in your body and probiotics are the best weapon against infections.

To keep your immunity as active as possible, take probiotic supplements for about a month in small doses as prevention. Besides supplements, it’s also useful to eat probiotic foods.

  1. Allergies and Asthma

Research has shown promising effects of probiotic supplements in reducing the severity of asthma symptoms. They’re also helpful in case of all kinds of allergies, especially food-related ones. Usually, the leading cause of food allergies is a leaky gut and this condition can be improved by optimizing the gut microflora. Studies have shown that children with a healthy gut microflora are less likely to develop allergies and asthma.

  1. Yeast Infections

If you suffer from Candida or recurring yeast infections, this indicates the fact that there is an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the organism. The best way to optimize the levels of bacteria is to recover the balance using probiotics. Probiotic supplements will help the body to fight the symptoms that are linked to the pathogenic overgrowth.

A useful advice is to eliminate white sugar entirely and to drastically reduce all natural sugars and sugar carbohydrates from the daily diet. Harmful bacteria feed on these, so you have to cut them off to get rid of pathogens.

  1. Autism

Studies have shown that probiotics have a therapeutic potential in treating autism because gut bacteria can contribute to the presence or absence of the disorder’s symptoms. Using probiotic supplements will lead to balanced gut flora and as a result, Autism’s symptoms will decrease.

How to Pick the Best Probiotic Supplements?

The best way to establish and replenish bacterial flora in the gut is to use fermented foods, and every one of us should include a small amount of naturally fermented foods in our daily diet. Unfortunately, this is not always possible or convenient for a variety of reasons, and that’s when probiotic supplements can provide some additional support.

There are different types of probiotic strains and the benefits that can be experienced with one probiotic strain may be entirely distinct from the ones related to another. There are certain strains of probiotics which support immunity; others help digestive processes and some balance the hormonal levels or even help us burn fat.

If you want to use probiotic supplements to treat an individual health issue, it’s crucial to select the right one for that particular health condition. We are what we digest, and there are no other compounds in the whole world that support digestion and nutritional assimilation better than living probiotics.

There are many ineffective probiotic supplements, and most of them are destroyed by your stomach acids before they can get to the digestive tract. That’s one of the reasons for which we should carefully read the labels. A probiotic supplement label should always reveal the species, genus and strain of that particular probiotic, along with the CFUs (colony forming unit) at the time of manufacture. Heat can destroy most probiotics, so knowing that the producer had proper cooling and storing is also an essential thing.[1]

Have a look at the eight key points to consider when purchasing a probiotic supplement:

  1. Look for brands that are well-known, safe and high-quality. You can find out lots of things about them by doing enough research on their website and forums.
  2. Purchase a probiotic brand which has a high number of probiotics in the supplement’s composition. The CFU count should be between 15 billion and 100 billion.
  3. Strain diversity is also important, so search for probiotic supplements which have 10-30 different strains of probiotics.
  4. Another essential factor is survivability, so look for strains that ensure probiotics make it to your gut and that they’ll be able to colonize. Such strains are bacillus coagulans, saccharomyces boulardii, bacillus subtilis, and lactobacillus rhamnosus.
  5. Research is vital, so do your homework and search for brands which have strains that can support your specific health needs.
  6. Product delivery system and the packaging are critical because of the form in which the product is created and how it enables the bacteria to remain alive and healthy.
  7. Expiration dates must also be considered when it comes to products’ quality. If you don’t see and expiration date on a product label, this should definitely raise questions.
  8. A money-back guarantee is something that companies that truly believe in their product will use, so it’s also an important factor when purchasing a probiotic supplement.

Beneficial Strains to Look for in a Probiotic Supplement

Bifidobacterium Bifidum

Syndromes the most dominant strain from the large intestine and in infants and it supports the production of vitamins from the gut and the immune system response. It also inhibits harmful bacteria and prevents diarrhea.

Bifidobacterium Longum

It supports optimal liver functioning and removes heavy and lead metals while reducing inflammation.

Bifidobacterium Breve

It promotes the colonizing of healthy gut flora and it eliminates bad bacteria.

Bifidobacterium Infantis

It alleviates irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, constipation and diarrhea.

Lactobacillus Casei

This strain supports immunity, fights infections and it inhibits H.pylori.

Lactobacillus Acidophilus

It improves lactose intolerance, relieves gas and bloating, reduces E.coli, and it lowers the cholesterol levels. The strain also promotes the creation of vitamin K.

Lactobacillus Bulgaricus

This is a powerful strain which fights harmful bacteria from the digestive system, and it’s also stable enough to withstand the acidic digestive juices inside the stomach. It produces its own antibiotics and it also can neutralize toxins.

Lactobacillus Brevis

This strain of probiotics has a great surviving rate inside the gastrointestinal tract and it’s good for boosting immunity. It also enhances antibodies, and it kills H.pylori bacteria.

Lactobacillus Rhamnosus

It supports bacterial balance and healthy, beautiful skin. This strain fights respiratory and urinary tract infections and it also reduces anxiety. It can survive great inside the gastrointestinal tract.

Bacillus Subtilis

This probiotic is a heat-resistant one and it boosts immunity. It also suppresses the growth of bad bacteria such as salmonella.

Bacillus Coagulans

This strain is also heat-resistant and it improves the absorption of nutrients. It can successfully reduce symptoms of arthritis and inflammation.

Saccharomyces Boulardii

This probiotic strain restores the natural microflora from the small and large intestines and it also improves intestinal cell growth. It’s efficient in the treatment of Crohn’s disease and the Inflammatory Bowel Disease. It reduces inflammation and it has antimicrobial and antitoxin effects.

Signs that the Probiotic Supplement is Truly Working

  1. The Symptoms Worsen

There are some facts which tell you that your probiotic’s mission is complete.

First of all, you’ll notice that your symptoms worsen for a short amount of time. Even if this might sound completely wrong, there are some certain health conditions which worsen when you start taking a probiotic supplement. For instance, if you’re taking a supplement for skin outbreaks, chronic diarrhea or other acute conditions, the symptoms will first become worse.

So, if you start noticing that shortly after you begin the treatment with probiotic supplements you’ll feel bloating, gas, and acne or rashes will start appearing, you should know that these are all signs that the probiotics have taken their tasks seriously and they’re recolonizing your gut.

On the other hand, if such symptoms like the ones mentioned before last for more than two weeks you should consider seeing your doctor. The reason for all this might be the fact that you’re using the wrong strain of probiotic for your health condition.[2]

Fortunately, there are also some ways in which you can reduce these side effects or the worsening of the symptoms.

You should decrease the dosage of the supplement. For instance, if you were taking two pills per day, try taking only one. As your organism becomes accustomed to the lower dosage, then you can try increasing the dosage again to higher levels. But taking too many probiotic CFUs from the very beginning might result in something which is called probiotic overdose.

The second thing you can do is to stay hydrated because the side effects are signs that your body is having troubles detoxifying. Remember that water is the ultimate detox agent.

The third thing you can do to diminish the side effects or the worsening symptoms is to give your body time to adjust. Taking probiotic supplements can kill loads of bad bacteria, replacing them with good ones. This can come as a shock to your body, so it’s best to give it at least two weeks of feeling the side effects.

  1. The Immune System Grows Stronger and Infections Disappear

If you’re taking probiotics because you suffer from athlete’s foot, yeast infections or chronic urinary tract infections, you should start noticing some improvements after beginning to take the supplements.

Fewer infections will make your body more capable of fighting harmful pathogens, and this means that the probiotic supplement is efficient and it’s doing its work, also improving your immune system. The greatest part of our immune system is located in the gut, so in the case of an imbalanced gut flora, the immunity will also be affected. When the no.1 shield against harmful pathogens, diseases and viruses weakens, you’ll notice that all kinds of health issues begin to develop.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published research that shows how probiotic supplementation can control the immunity through the mediation of inflammation. More studies and reviews that were published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology have also demonstrated that probiotic supplements can reduce symptoms of allergies and asthma.

Other signs that the probiotic is working are given by a decreased frequency of colds and flu and also a reduced number of seasonal allergies. Another good sign is the improvement of asthma or other atopic disorders.

All in all, it’s 100% sure that your probiotic supplement is working if you can check the following statements:

  • Your levels of energy are higher due to better assimilation of vitamins and minerals
  • You have regular bowel movements
  • You feel a reduction in bloating and gas
  • You are relieved from diarrhea and constipation
  • Your digestion is improving
  • You have reduced lactose intolerance
  • Your cholesterol levels become lower
  • You have a reduced frequency of vaginal infections
  • You have a reduced number of skin rashes and allergies
  • You have less body odor
  • Your overall mood becomes better

How Long Does It Take for Probiotic Supplements to Work?

The generation time of bacteria is defined as the time needed for the number of bacteria to double. When a species of bacteria works fast, this is due to its generation time. One of the modes of action of probiotics to ensure the beneficial effects is to have a proliferation rate which is greater than one of its colonials “adversaries”. Once this is done, the beneficial bacteria can easily achieve their goal to flourish and outnumber the pathogens rapidly.[3]

There are some things to consider regarding the subject of efficiency speed in probiotic supplements and they include: medium of growth, form of probiotic supplements, long term benefits and the type of probiotic supplement according to one’s needs.

The medium of growth is important because studies on different strains of probiotics have shown a high degree of variability. For instance, the growth rate of beneficial bacteria is accelerated if amino acids or ascorbic acid are added to the medium. This suggests that a mixture of different strains will grow at a different rate depending on the medium in which they live.

The form of probiotic supplements is also important because they’re marketed in a variety of forms: live cells, dead cells/heat inactivated cells, and so on. Live probiotics are the most effective, and they offer the best long-term beneficial effects. On the other hand, the heat inactivated forms (dead cells) may provide quicker relief because their action does not depend on the availability of a proper environment.

The long-term benefits of probiotics are important because a supplement with such long-term advantages for health will take longer to withstand the harsh conditions from our organism and to colonize the gut, or the small/large intestine. The process might take from 2-3 weeks to a couple of months.

The choice of probiotics is important because some of them might work as early as 2-3 hours and others may take weeks.

What to Do When Probiotics Aren’t Working?

In case you see no improvement in your health condition or if your problems start getting worse after two weeks of taking the probiotic supplements, we firmly advise you to see your doctor. This might be happening because you aren’t taking the right dose or the right strain of probiotic. You should also see your health provider as soon as possible if you experience allergic reactions, itching hives or breathing problems.[4]

It’s critical that you see your doctor before starting any self-medication because negative symptoms and side effects can get much worse if you take certain drugs.

The effects of some drugs might change if you take other medicine or herbal products at the same time, so, it’s not recommended to mix them. The result might be worse side effects or a diminished effectiveness of the drugs. Even if medicines don’t always interact with one another, there are some rare times when they do and such problems must be avoided.

Bottom line, probiotic supplements are friendly products and, when taken in the right amounts and according to the particular health issue you might be suffering of, they have high curative and preventative effects.