How long should you take probiotics for?
This is a very good question, and one I receive often on my own personal website. Most probiotic supplements today are insanely expensive (Bio X4 goes for $100 a bottle), so it’s a reasonable queston to ask!
While fermented foods and probiotic drinks like yogurts are fine to onsume regularly – daily even – probiotic supplements are a different matter altogether. Most porbiotic supplements contain enormous doses of exogenous bacteria species. Often probiotics conain bacteria species not normally found in fermented foods and probiotic drinks. Some, like specialist probiotics for men, may contain extra ingredients designed to do other things like increase testosterone or promote weight loss.
Even a run of the mill probioic is not designed to be used every day. They are supposed to be used as a fix for imbalances in the gut microbiome.
So how long should you take probiotics for?
What happens when you take probiotics every day?
Ho can you promote gut health long-term?
Let’s take a closer look at how probiotics work and answer these questions.
How probiotics work
Probiotics are just bacteria strains which we know help digestion. Probiotic bacteria are those that form part of or help create a healthy gut microbiome.
A lot of the time, digestive issues arise when your gut microbiome is imbalanced; there may be a deartgh of healthy bacteria, or your healthy microflora might have becoe overrun by harmful, unhealthy bacteria. So the idea is that probiotics will help fight off harmful bacteria and foster the growth of healthy bactria species, such as Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium strains.
The gut microbiome directly affects almost every aspect of health and performance, not just your digestion. Studies have shown that the makeup of your gut microbiome influences everything from immune system function to cognitive performance.
The benefits of using probiotic supplements include:
- Improved digestion
- Less bloating and gas
- Improved stamina and strength
- Improved mood
- Enhanced cognitive performance
- Better immune system function
- Enhanced sleep quality
All of these benefits of course only really become apparent in the long-term. In the short-term, probiotics don’t really do a great deal as it takes soe tie for your gut microbiome to become rebalanced.
However, that doesn’t mean it is recommended, or even safe, to take probiotics on a daily basis for long periods of time.
Probiotics are supposed to be consumed infrequently. Probiotic supplements in particular are not suitable for daily use, as they typically deliver and enormous payload of strange, exogenous bacteria species to the gut. The bacterial composition of your average probiotic is nothing like the composition of a healthy gut microbiome, so constantly consuming that cocktail of bacteria every day can cause problems of its own!
Dangers of frequent probiotic use
It is not advisable to consume probiotics every single day. While it is often recommended that people eat fermented foods on a regular basis, probiotic foods are a different story altogether.
As mentioned above, probiotic supplements usually contain enormous payloads of foreign bacteria species designed to radically change the composition of your gut microbiome. They are not designed for everyday use, unlike prebiotics or fermented foods which both mimmick a gut-friendly diet.
The main risk associated with the consumption of probioic supplements is an unhealthy change in your gut microbiome, or a change so radical that it causes side effects.
The side effects associatd with probiotic supplementsinclude:
- Stomach cramps
Obviously, these are things which probiotics are supposed to stop or prevent. However, probiotics can sometimes cause these side effects by distressing the gut with extreme changes in gut microbiome composition.
These side effects may also cause these side effects when the probioics cause an overrun of bacteria which should not be dominating the microbiome. Typically, this happens when you use probiotics for long periods of time without a break.
How long should you take probioics for?
So how long should you take probiotics for?
Ideally, probiotics should be used for as short a time as possible; however long it takes for you to rectify whatever gut microbiome imbalances are present in your digestive system.
For most people, two to three weeks of probiotic use is more than enough to see significant improvements in digestive health.
If you are taking probiotics for any longer than 2-3 weeks and you do not see significant improvements in digestive health, then probiotics are not the answer.
For optimal digestive health, it is better to focus on consuming lots of prebioic fiber on regular basis to feed your existing healthy gut bacteria. This can be supplemented with fermened foods, which provide a nice influx of gut-friendly bacteria without overwhelming the gut with enormous quantities of unusual bacterial species.
In summary: How long to take probiotics
Generally speaking, you should not take probiotics for longer than 3 weeks if you do not see significant improvements in digestive health. Probiotics are not meant to be taken on a daily basis for long periods of time. For long-term gut health, use prebiotics and fermented foods.