How to Take Probiotic Supplements
Probiotics offer a range of health benefits. But before you begin taking your probiotic supplement, there are a couple of things you should know. Some people need to stay away from probiotics; find out if you are one of them. Learn about the best time to take a probiotic supplement, possible interactions with any medications you might be taking, and more.
The usual dose for healthy adults is between 1 and 10 billion probiotics per day. This is the dose that is recommended for maintaining healthy gut microflora and preventing disease.
When you are taking probiotics for some specific reason, such as for example replenishing the ‘good bacteria’ in your intestines after a course of antibiotics, you might want to increase this dose until your symptoms improve.
Usually, supplements that you can get over the counter don’t contain more than 100 billion bacteria per serving.
There are a few high potency probiotic brands (like VSL 3 brand) that contain up to 900 billion bacteria per serving. Such large amounts of probiotics are needed for relieving the symptoms of severe gastrointestinal conditions, and need to be taken only under medical supervision.
Doses Most Commonly Noted in Research Are:
1 to 5 billion probiotics per day
This is the dose for healthy adults, who are taking probiotics for their general health benefits. Some sources mention 15 billion probiotics per day as the upper limit for daily, long term supplementation.
The dose can be increased to up to 50 billion probiotics per day to help with the following:
- Gas, bloating, mild intestinal discomfort
- Infectious diarrhea (caused by viruses or bacterial infections)
- Prevention and relief from traveler’s diarrhea
- Disrupted gut flora due to antibiotic treatment
- When you need to boost the immune system
- Helicobacter Pylori infection
Higher doses (up to 3.600 billion probiotic bacteria) are used for management of medically diagnosed conditions, such as:
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn's disease
- Ileal pouch
- Irritable bowel syndrome
When and How to Take Probiotic Supplements
You can get probiotic supplements in different forms, including sachets, capsules, drinks, or tablets.
Take Them With Meals
The best time to take probiotics is during the meal (especially with meals that contain at least some amount of fat).
Food that you eat protects probiotic bacteria from digestive juices and enables them to reach the lower intestine relatively unharmed.
Stomach acidity seems to be lowest in the morning, so many probiotic manufacturers recommended that you take your supplement when you are eating your breakfast.
Some probiotic supplements contain specifically chosen strains that are resistant to gastric juices. These supplements may be taken anytime, regardless of meals. This fact is usually clearly marked on the label.
You need to be careful that you don’t take probiotics with hot drinks (or too hot food) as probiotic bacteria are vulnerable to heat.
Probiotics For Restoring Healthy Gut Flora After Antibiotic Use
If you are taking probiotics due to antibiotic treatment, you should start with probiotic supplementation as soon as possible.
Many doctors used to recommend that you wait with probiotics until you finish the whole course of antibiotics. The reason for this is that they believed that antibiotics kill off all the probiotics that you consume.
However, it is now clear that this is not true. It is best to start at the same time as going on antibiotics. You need to be careful of one thing, though – you need to take your probiotic supplement at least 2 hours before or after taking an antibiotic.
Probiotics For Oral Health
If you are taking probiotics to help with oral, throat, nasal passage, or sinus problems, you might want to take them just before bed.
After taking them, don’t eat or drink anything else for the rest of the evening. This will enable probiotics to stay on the lining of your mouth and related structures throughout the night.
Usually, you can get probiotics for oral conditions in lozenges, which you dissolve in your mouth. If you have a capsule form probiotic, break the capsule open, put its content in a little water, and gently swish it for a couple of minutes in your mouth.
There is no general rule for storing probiotics as they come in so many different forms and are a result of different manufacturing process.
Some need to be refrigerated, others not. Usually, though, all probiotic supplements need to be stored away from moisture, excessive heat and direct sunlight (live bacteria are sensitive to high temperatures).
What you need to do is check the label. Store your probiotic supplement according to the manufacturer’s intructions and use it before expiration (or ‘best before’) date.
Warnings, Side Effects, Interactions
Safety and Side effects
It is generally believed that probiotics are safe to use.
Side effects are mild and include gas, bloating, and minor abdominal discomfort. These are the result of increased activity in the intestines and usually resolve within a few days as the body gets used to new probiotic bacteria.
There isn’t much research regarding the use of probiotics if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. That is why it might be cautious to stay away from probiotics during this period.
Probiotics should not be used in:
- People with weakened immune system (HIV patients, people undergoing chemotherapy, etc)
- Patients with pancreatitis
- Pre-term infants
- Infants with short bowel syndrome
- Post cardiac surgery patients
- Critically ill patients
The reason for this is that probiotics are live bacteria and yeast. Most of them are not pathogenic, meaning that they don’t cause disease in humans. However, some of these microorganisms can under the right circumstances grow too rapidly and cause an infection in vulnerable people.
Interactions With Other Supplements and Medications
Antibiotics are taken to treat bacterial infections. This means that they work against pathogenic bacteria, but at the same time they also kill off probiotic bacteria.
If you are taking probiotics during antibiotic treatment, you need to ensure that there is at least a 2 hour gap between probiotic and antibiotic (you can take probiotic 2 hours before or after taking antibiotic).
This way you will ensure that at least some amount of probiotic bacteria survives and grows in your intestines.
Antifungal medications are used for treating fungal infections (for example vaginal or oral yeast infection).
Some probiotic supplements contain yeast, called Saccharomyces Boulardii. If you are taking antifungal medications, they will reduce the effectiveness of your probiotic.
Antifungal medications include:
- clotrimazole (Canesten)
- itraconazole (Sporanox)
- fluconazole (Diflucan)
- terbinafine (Lamisil), and others.
Immunosuppressants (medications that decrease the action of immune system)
If you are taking immunosuppressants, you might develop an infection from probiotic bacteria or yeast.
Medications that suppress the immune system include:
- prednisone (Orasone, Deltasone)
- basiliximab (Simulect)
- cyclosporine (Sandimmune)
- azathioprine (Imuran)
- daclizumab (zenapax)
- mycophenolate ( CellCept)
- sirolimus (Rapamune), and others.
Other Supplements and Herbs
There are no known interactions between probiotics and other supplements and herbs.