Dietary probiotics are friendly bacteria that are similar to bacteria in your intestinal tract. The most common types of dietary probiotics are of the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species. They provide several health benefits, especially when they’re taken properly. Although probiotics are generally considered easy to take, they can cause a few side effects and may not be suitable for people with certain medical conditions, such as pancreatitis.
Foods such as yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut are good sources of probiotics. They are also available as supplements. The primary health reason for taking probiotics is to restore the balance of bacteria in the intestinal tract. A variety of factors can deplete healthy bacteria in your intestines such as stress, antibiotics or a poor diet. A healthy intestinal tract is essential for functions such as preventing the growth of disease-causing bacteria in your intestines and a healthy immune system. Probiotics can also treat specific health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome and allergies.
Although you can still reap some of the health benefits of probiotics by taking them on an empty stomach, it’s best to take them with foods. The stomach is a very acidic environment, but after eating, your stomach becomes less acidic. This enables more of the live bacteria to survive the acidity in your stomach and make their way to your intestinal tract. Ideally, you should take probiotics in three or four divided doses over the course of a day.
The dose of probiotics you need depends on your reason for taking them. For instance, for maintaining intestinal health, you can take between 1 and 15 billion colony forming units, or CFUs, daily, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. But you may need to take just 1 to 2 billion CFUs to prevent or treat diarrhea. Your doctor or a nutritionist can recommend the amount of probiotics to take to treat specific conditions.
Suddenly introducing probiotics into your diet may lead to gas, bloating or flatulence. Starting with a lower daily dose may help to prevent these symptoms. If you are taking antibiotics as well, wait two hours before taking probiotics and take them for up to five days after your antibiotic treatment ends. Seek advice from your doctor on taking probiotics if you have a medical condition such as an immunosuppressive disease or pancreatitis.
- “The Complete A-Z Nutrition Encyclopedia”; Leslie Beck, R.D.; 2010
- NYU Langone Medical Center: Acidophilus and Other Probiotics
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Lactobacillus Acidophilus
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.