Probiotics - Yeah or No?
One of the questions I get all the time when people find out I am a naturopath that works on gut health is: should I be taking a probiotic? Or should everyone be having probiotics?
To get a few things out of the way before we delve in further:
- Not all of us need to have probiotics daily
- Probiotics are not "safe" for everyone
- Probiotics are not only bacteria, there are probiotics that contain yeasts also
- they are not a one size fits all approach - each strain of bacteria has a specific action in the body
- more is not necessarily better but also low numbers do not have a therapeutic effect either
- probiotic food comes under the category of probiotics - think kombucha or kefir
- specific strains are important - a broad spectrum probiotic is not necessarily going to help
- follow the suggested storage recommendations
When are probiotics suitable?
1. When you have had a course of antibiotics.
Antibiotics are not specific to particular bacteria so they go in and kill any bacteria around. This includes our bacteria in the gut. Eventually majority of these will come back however this takes time (studies have shown up to 4 years) and some strains have been shown to never come back. Taking probiotics whilst on antibiotics can assist in reducing antibiotic-related symptoms such as nausea or changed bowel motions. If you are going to take probiotics and antibiotics concurrently, seperate doses by 2 hours to allow the probiotic to be able to do it's work in the gut. You can also take your probiotics when the course of antibiotics is complete.
2. You are having digestive concerns.
Specific strains of probiotics can assist with diarrhoea and constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), irritable bowel disease (IBD) however there is emphasis placed on specific strains.
3. You have a disruption in your microbiome.
Thrush? A white coating on your tongue? Vaginal dysbiosis? Urinary tract infection? These are all signs that your microbiome, not only in your digestive system, is not balanced. Probiotics can assist (yet again specific ones) to rebalance the microbiome and rectify the bacterial imbalance.
4. You have seen a practitioner.
I use probiotics for some of my clients in regards to weight loss, skin conditions, reoccurring immune conditions but it is very dependent on the condition, the severity and using particular strains. Seeing a practitioner can pinpoint which probiotic will be most relevant and if your condition warrants the use of probiotics or whether there is something more suitable to use.
When are probiotics not suitable?
1. A weakened immune system.
People with a weakened immune system such as those on immune suppressant drugs (e.g. chemotherapy) do not have the immune system strength to be handle to handle an influx of bacteria into the digestive system so we recommend not taking probiotics if this is you.
2. Recently had surgery.
Within one month of surgery I would recommend avoiding probiotics to support healing and prevent any further complications.
3. For infants.
Probiotics can be suitable in infants however you need to be very cautious with which strains you are using and the dosage. Infants have a very limited microbiome upon being born so we need to ensure the correct strains are used in a developing system. If you are unsure, seek a health professional for recommendations.
4. If you have been using probiotics with no changes to symptoms.
This shouldn't come as a surprise but if a probiotic is causing you symptoms or if you have been taking them for a couple of weeks with no change in symptoms, the probiotic strain or dosage may be incorrect for you. I would recommend seeking health advice before proceeding!
Still unsure about probiotics and if they could be suitable for you?
You can book a 15 minute phone chat with myself to discuss. Bookings can be made here.