Probiotics are possibly one of the most fascinating things there is. A lot of people don’t know what they are and those who do continue to discover new exciting things about them. The most frequently asked question once you need them is: how long does it take for probiotics to work?
This seemingly straightforward question has a very complex answer, though.
To understand how a probiotic really works, you need to understand the basic concepts behind probiotics first. To help you do that, here’s a quick guide on what you need to know about probiotics including how long it takes them to get into action and help your digestion.
What is a Probiotic?
Unless you’re Asian, it’s highly likely that you’re totally clueless what probiotic is. A lot of Americans have only heard of this term whenever they need to go on antibiotics. They’re most often recommended to take with such medications to prevent yeast infection.
But what exactly is it? According to Dr. Sarah Yi, a scientist from the Centers for Disease Control, the term 'probiotics' is not formally defined in medicine. However, scientists consider it to be a microorganism that provides a series of health benefits to its host when in the right amount.
In the simplest of terms, they’re good strains of bacteria, especially for your digestive system. There are millions of microorganisms in the body, some good and some bad, and probiotics are some of the good guys.
They generally keep the area they have populated healthy so you basically need to have them in your body even if, technically, they’re still germs.
What most folks didn’t know, as the TV character Peter Kavinsky has proven, is that probiotics are available in different forms. In Asia, it’s widely enjoyed as a yogurt drink. They’re even available in different flavors so it’s very easy to have them on a daily basis.
In other parts of the world, you can get them as health supplements. They’re also included in some topical products.
Most doctors recommend taking probiotics if they have digestive problems. This is why some folks think that it’s a medication of sort. In reality, however, they should only be considered as supplements. They won’t necessarily treat your digestive system but they can make it stronger and more resistant to issues later on with regular consumption.
This is why answering the question of how long do probiotics take to work is complicated. It doesn’t work the same way as medications so you should manage your expectation with it.
What Do Probiotics Do?
Because it’s not a type of medication, you might be wondering what do probiotics do. According to experts, probiotics help keep the ‘good bacteria’ population inside your tummy. Probiotics repopulate your gut with good bacteria so your digestive tract will have enough ‘workers’ to keep it in good shape.
As mentioned above, there are tons of different microorganisms found inside your gut. They’re collectively called gut flora and should be properly balanced to keep your digestive system in great shape.
Good digestion comes with several health benefits since various types of bacteria work in different ways to help improve your health. So aside from maintaining a robust population of ‘good bacteria’ in your gut, you can also consider the work of these microorganisms as the benefits of taking a probiotic. And there’s quite a number of these positive effects that make probiotics great additions to your diet.
What happens when you start taking probiotics? Let’s look at its different types to help you better understand what it can do for you:
Types of Probiotics
With our bodies being home to millions of microorganisms, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are different types of them. Even the ones localized in your gut are about a thousand different types. Experts believe that each of them does something different but they haven’t really distinguished which does what.
There are two popular types, however. These are:
Best known for being the most common type of probiotic, Lactobacillus is the type of bacteria you usually consume with yogurt, select fermented foods, and dietary supplements. They’re great for your digestive tract as they can help treat and prevent diarrhea. It’s also recommended for those with lactose intolerance as it can help you effectively digest the sugar in milk.
Aside from helping you deal with a bout of diarrhea, this type of bacteria also helps in treating the following conditions:
Infectious types of diarrhea like rotaviral diarrhea, traveler’s diarrhea, or parasitic types of diarrhea
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Diarrhea resulting from a medication side effect
Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in infants
Colic in babies
Helicobacter pylori, an infection that causes ulcers
This type of bacteria isn’t just good for your gut, though. It can also help treat these conditions:
Vaginal yeast infections
Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
Airway infections including the common cold
Skin issues like acne, eczema, canker sores, and blisters
Some studies also suggest that Lactobacillus can also improve the response of the immune system against infections. While scientists haven’t figured out how this bacteria helps protect the body’s immune system, it has shown evidence that it can improve the body’s defense against viruses and other things that can harm your health.
Natives of the human intestines, the Bifidobacteria belong to the lactic acid bacteria group. They can be grown outside the body and then taken in as a supplement. Like the Lactobacillus, they’re also commonly found in fermented foods like yogurt and cheese.
You might not know it but if you’ve taken probiotic alongside your antibiotics before, this will most likely be what you took. They’re the ones that are usually used for such purposes as it is believed that they can minimize or completely prevent the death of good bacteria inside your gut.
As antibiotics are designed to kill off normal bacteria, good bacteria often become collateral damage of sorts. By taking this probiotic, you can protect the good side of your gut flora. This can ensure that your health won’t get compromised in other ways because you need to kill off a particular strain of harmful bacteria.
This type of probiotics also offers somewhat similar benefits to the Lactobacillus strain. It can also help with constipation, diarrhea (including the infectious types and the ones caused by antibiotics), IBS, Helicobacter pylori, airway infections, necrotizing enterocolitis, and high cholesterol.
However, it’s said to be more effective on these conditions:
Pouchitis, a post-surgery complication for ulcerative colitis
Post-chemotherapy repopulation of gut bacteria
Other Health Benefits of Probiotics
Aside from the benefits listed above, other probiotic strains also have impressive health benefits. Some studies found that probiotic supplements can also help address some mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and stress.
As both kinds of probiotics are also helpful in lowering your cholesterol levels, it makes sense that they can be beneficial for your heart health as well. They’re capable of breaking down bile in the gut which then prevents cholesterol from entering your bloodstream.
But what a lot of people might be thrilled to learn about is the fact that probiotics can also help you lose some weight and belly fat. As they can help regulate and improve the performance of your digestive system, it shouldn’t be too surprising that probiotics can also affect your fat storage.
Experts are also looking at probiotics in treating the various kinds of cancer that are located in the digestive system. Further research is still needed for this area, but experts are hopeful that these microorganisms can somehow contribute to the treatment of this deadly disease.
Studies show that probiotics can aid in weight loss in various ways. It can prevent fat absorption in the intestines and then directly expel it instead of storing it in the body. It’s also said that probiotics can make you feel satiated which can then suppress your appetite. There’s also evidence that they can help burn more calories.
There are so many things probiotics promise to do for you and most of them are backed by science. This can make them an even more attractive health supplement than other superfood or ingredient out there.
When to Take Probiotics
While probiotics offer tons of health benefits, a lot of people still worry about having too much of a good thing. There’s a delicate balance in every ecosystem and it also applies to microorganisms. What if you took too many probiotics and it affects the population of your gut flora?
This is why a lot of people want to know the ideal times and occasions when to take probiotics. With this important detail in mind, you can rest assured that you’re not putting your health at risk by trying to improve it. This is where expert opinions start to contradict each other. Nutritionists believe that you should get a good dose of probiotics regularly.
This way, you’re always giving your gut the chance to replenish its good bacteria population. As your diet and lifestyle can affect the presence of these microorganisms quite easily, it could be a good thing that you also take measures to maintain their balanced and stable population.
Scientists, on the other hand, recommend only having probiotics when necessary. By ‘necessary’ they mean that you should only take probiotics after you’ve damaged their population. This is the very reason why a lot of people have only had these supplements when they’re also prescribed with antibiotics.
The supplements are meant to help repopulate your gut flora with good bacteria and they often do so more effectively than other sources of probiotics. You might also be able to count on their labels more than probiotic drinks since the latter is not strictly regulated by the FDA.
To be clear, however, probiotic supplements are also not regulated like prescription drugs. They’re treated as food products so their labels can also not contain detailed information about the product.
This is why it’s still crucial to be very discerning when it comes to choosing which product to use as your primary source of probiotics. Some supplements just happened to be trusted by physicians and specialists, so they can be better options in general.
So what should you do? In our opinion, you should make sure to get a good dose of probiotics if an ailment has damaged your gut flora. However, adding probiotic-rich food items into your diet also won’t hurt. Just make sure that they don’t contain too much sugar and other ingredients that can harm your health.
How Do You Know If Probiotics are Working
As probiotics offer a wide range of benefits, you might also want to know when you can expect it to start showing you positive results. A lot of people are very curious as to how fast do probiotics work as it can also be a good gauge of its usefulness for some folks.
But before we go to the very core of this article, you might first want to know how you can tell if the probiotics are working already. This piece of vital information would help you determine the answer to the question of how long before probiotics work on your own and even help you get to know your body better.
What are the signs of probiotics working? We’ve listed them down below:
The symptoms will get worse first for some conditions.
If you’re supplementing with probiotics to achieve a balance in your gut flora, there’s a very good chance that you’ll experience worsening of your symptoms before they get better. So if you added probiotics to your diet for skin outbreaks, chronic diarrhea, and other conditions mentioned above, expect the worse for the first couple of days.
According to experts, the process of balancing out the good and bad bacteria in your gut will create some turbulent times for your body. The good bacteria will need to fight some of the bad ones to recolonize your gut and that process might do a number on you.
These shouldn’t last longer than two weeks, however. If your condition did not improve in that time frame, you should see your doctor and ask whether you’re taking the right bacterial strain to address your ailment.
Other conditions will improve right away.
If you’re supplementing probiotics for conditions like acne, yeast, urinary tract, and fungal infections, there’s a good chance that you’ll see improvement right away. For these infections, it usually doesn’t take long for probiotics to work, especially if you’re in good shape.
This doesn’t mean that the ailment will go completely right away, but you’ll notice that the symptoms will ease a bit as soon as you start taking probiotics. This makes probiotics a good remedy for some mild conditions.
You’ll generally feel better.
Experts say that there will be significant changes in your mood, cravings, and overall feelings when your gut flora is already in better shape. You’ll also feel like you’re in better shape once the probiotics kick in. You’ll feel more energized and your mood will be more stable. It can also reduce your cravings for complex carbohydrates which is always a great plus for everyone.
Most of these might be too subtle for some folks to recognize right away, though. So if you started taking probiotics, it’s best to keep an eye out for these signs.
How Long Does It Take for Probiotics to Work?
Before you start taking probiotics, you might also want to know how long you should wait before probiotics take effect. Learning about this important detail can help you better monitor your condition so it’s just fair that you want to know how long does it take for probiotics to start working.
The answer, however, to these questions is more complex than giving you a set amount of time. Here’s where things start to get a bit confusing. Probiotics aren’t necessarily treatments to ailments like actual medications. They’re more for maintaining a healthy gut flora and preventing the overpopulation of ‘bad’ bacteria.
This is why you shouldn’t exactly expect lightning results from them. If you choose to use probiotics to deal with tummy issues, the results won’t be as quick
Its effectiveness depends on different factors and these can also affect how quickly probiotics work. What are these factors and how do they affect how long you’ll notice improvements in your condition? Here are a few:
1. Your general health
If you’re generally healthy, your body will only need a slight nudge to get the probiotics to start showing positive results. Being in good shape can indicate that you have a pretty robust gut flora so they might not take too long to repopulate.
On the flip side, if you’re not in great shape and you often suffer from stomach issues, there’s a good chance that you need to wait a bit longer for the probiotic to start working. Being in poor health can mean that your gut flora isn’t well-balanced. This can result in a longer waiting time for the probiotic to repopulate your digestive system with good bacteria.
In short, if you’re in good shape, the probiotics might work faster. If you’re in poor health, the probiotic might need to work harder so it might take a longer time for your condition to improve.
2. The type of probiotics you’re using
While Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium can both help with various issues, there are some conditions that they’re better suited for. So if you choose a proven effective strain to help treat your condition, there’s a better chance that you’ll see improvements rather quickly.
If you happened to take the wrong type of probiotic, you might end up waiting for days or weeks before you see any results. Experts recommend seeing a doctor if two weeks already passed since you started taking probiotics and you still haven’t seen results. There’s a chance that you’re not using the right strain for the ailment so it’s best to find out right away.
3. Your condition
As mentioned above, some conditions will show progress right away after starting on probiotics while others might really take a while to show improvements. Again, as probiotics are not medications, they can only do so much for certain ailments. It might be helpful to pair these products with prescribed meds, though, as it can help boost the performance of your digestive system.
4. The quality of the probiotic product you’re taking
Not all probiotic products are the same. Some might not contain as many probiotics as they claim to have and that will affect the product’s performance. If the manufacturer skimped on the amount of probiotics in their product, there’s a good chance that it won’t be potent enough to stimulate the repopulation of your gut flora.
If the product you’re using has low probiotic content, it might take longer for you to see positive results. However, if you happened to find a good probiotic product, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to get your desired results soon enough. Combined with the other two factors mentioned above, you should be able to start to notice some improvements in just a couple of days.
Simply put, the answer to the pressing question of ‘how long does it take for probiotics to work?’ is ‘it depends on various factors’. However, it also shouldn’t take you months to start seeing results. It’s best to see a doctor if you haven’t seen improvements within two weeks of starting on probiotics.
Safety and Side Effects of Probiotics
Aside from the speed of its effectiveness, you should also be concerned with how safe it is to use probiotics. Again, it would be a pity to end up harming yourself by trying to improve your health, so it’s best to be thorough and make sure that probiotics are safe for you to use.
If you’re in good health, taking probiotics is generally safe. However, there are also reports of side effects. Healthy individuals shouldn’t worry too much, though, as it might only cause gas.
Others, especially those with already compromised health, might not be as lucky. Serious side effects like infections can happen. Allergies are also possible.
Then there’s also the fact that most of the research done on probiotics are focused on their effects and benefits so there’s very little information about their safety. And it’s also just Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium that were generally tested to be safe. There’s even less information available on other probiotic strains.
The age of the person who will take the probiotic supplement is also important to consider to ensure safety. There are studies on which probiotic strains are safe for seniors aged 65 and above and there are also the best probiotics for kids.
If you don’t want to take chances, however, it’s best to seek your doctor’s advice about these products. This is the only way you can really be sure that it’s safe for you and your loved ones to take such supplements.
The Best Sources of Probiotics
Now that you know the basics about probiotics, the next thing you might want to know about is the best sources of these microorganisms. Here are a few of the items you can add to your diet to help you take better care of your gut:
Yogurt is possibly the most popular food sources of probiotics out there today. It’s actually made by the very type of microorganism that makes it good for your gut: the bifidobacterium. However, not all kinds of yogurt still contain the bacteria when sold in the market. So if you want to enjoy the ones that are gut-friendly, look for those with live or active cultures.
But aside from being capable of helping you improve your gut flora, yogurt is also loaded with other health benefits. It can help improve bone health and help manage blood pressure.
There are tons of fermented food items that also come with live probiotic cultures. Some of these include:
Kefir, a probiotic milk drink
Tempeh, a fermented meat alternative product
Miso, a Japanese seasoning product
Kombucha, a fermented tea drink
Most of these items are also incredibly healthy, so adding them into your diet shouldn’t be an issue.
As mentioned before, probiotics are also available in drink form. They’re widely popular in Asia and will make it easier for you to supplement probiotics into your diet since they can be quite enjoyable to have.
Back in the day, you’ll only find them in Asian grocery stores or the international aisle of big supermarkets. Today, though, they’re easier to find. Just remember that some are way better than others, though, so make sure to do your own research in finding the best probiotic drink for you.
If you want the most straightforward way to supplement your diet with probiotics, you can do so with actual probiotic supplements. You can get bottles of these from health stores and some drug stores but be careful in choosing. Some might not contain a good amount of live probiotics in its formulation, so they might not give you the results you need. Make sure to look for high-quality products to ensure that you’ll enjoy the many amazing health benefits of such items.
Give probiotics a try and you might just find yourself in better shape in no time. This is especially true if you’re in good shape already as it might even give your health a boost right away.