Your gut contains billions of good bacteria that support many critical functions in your body, including digestion, nutrient absorption and the immune system. This world of good bacteria is referred to as your gut microbiome.
Environmental factors such as a diet of overly processed foods, certain medications and stress can disrupt this ecosystem of good bacteria living in your gut. When the ecosystem of gut bacteria gets disrupted, ailments such as digestive discomfort, irregular bowel movements, more frequent illness and allergies can develop.
Over the past few years, probiotics have become one of the most popular supplements. Probiotics are dietary supplements that consist of some of these many good bacteria that live in a healthy gut and that can help rebalance and strengthen your gut microbiome.
Probiotics can help with improving digestion, gut health and overall wellbeing. So, let’s say you were to start taking a probiotic supplement – which in our opinion, almost everyone should – how do you know that your probiotic is working?
Signs Your Probiotics Are Working
When you take a high-quality probiotic supplement, you may notice several positive changes in your body, ranging from improved digestion and more energy, to improved mood and clearer skin.
Oftentimes, the first and most immediate change individuals notice is improved digestion.
The probiotic bacteria work to rebalance your gut flora, which can quickly improve things like frequency and regularity of your bowel movements and alleviate bloating or gas. Over time, the positive effects of the probiotic bacteria extend beyond improved digestion.
A well-balanced gut microbiome will strengthen your gut barrier function, which prevents toxins and pathogens, which in today’s world you most likely ingest on a daily basis, from entering your body via the gut.
This, in turn, decreases the burden on your immune system and your liver, thus making you less prone to illness and reducing inflammation in your body. Inflammation can manifest in many ways, including skin issues, brain fog, fatigue and lack of concentration. Therefore, reducing inflammation and re-balancing your immune system can bring about a variety of positive effects. Let’s explore some of them in more detail:
Your gut bacteria play a critical role in how quickly and thoroughly your food is digested. If your gut microbiome is out of balance, you might be experiencing digestive discomfort such as gas, bloating and stomach aches, especially after eating.
One of the first positive effects of a high-quality probiotic is improved digestion and a reduction in symptoms such as bloating, gas and stomach aches.
More Regular Bowel Movements
An imbalance in the composition of good bacteria in your intestine can contribute to irregular bowel movements. For example, frequent diarrhea can be a sign of pathogenic bacteria present in your intestines. A high-quality probiotic will help bring more good bacteria into your gut so that they crowd out the bad bacteria.
Constipation, on the other hand, can be due to low mucus production or low motility of your intestinal muscles. Certain probiotic bacterial strains are known to increase mucus production, which can regulate constipation.
Your body gets its energy from the nutrients and micronutrients in your food and your gut plays a critical role in absorbing these nutrients. An imbalance in your gut microbiome can result in inflammation of your gut lining.
This inflammation prevents proper nutrient absorption, which can leave you deficient in key nutrients that give you energy. Therefore, repairing your gut and reducing inflammation in the gut via a high-quality probiotic supplement can help improve your energy levels.
In addition, inflammation in your gut can lead to leaky gut, which is when your gut lining becomes permeable. In this instance, larger food particles and pathogens can enter your bloodstream, which will trigger an immune response.
If your immune system is constantly in fight mode, this will impact your energy levels as well. A high-quality probiotic supplement can help repair and maintain a healthy gut lining, thus reducing the burden on your immune system.
The gut and the brain communicate constantly via many messenger signals, including neurotransmitters. Our gut bacteria can influence how brain chemicals are metabolized in the body. Interestingly, the gut produces some of the same neurotransmitters as the brain, including the happiness hormone serotonin.
An imbalance in your gut bacteria and inflammation in your gut can reduce the amount of serotonin produced, thus negatively impacting your mood. In addition, they produce certain chemicals that has been shown to decrease anxiety and depression.
The gut plays a critical role in absorbing all essential nutrients from the food you ingest. Many of these nutrients are important for immune support, including your B vitamins, Zinc and Vitamin C. Any imbalance in your gut microbiome can impact this nutrient absorption process and your immune function.
As discussed above, an imbalance in your gut bacteria can lead to inflammation in the gut. If inflammation turns into leaky gut, larger food particles and other toxins can enter your bloodstream, triggering a constant immune response. Taking a high-quality probiotic supplement can help restore and maintain a healthy gut barrier, preventing these larger particles from entering your bloodstream.
Lastly, certain probiotic bacteria help manage the immune system in two critical ways so that it does not spiral out of control.
First, specific probiotic strains are known to increase IL-10 production in the body, thus helping your body manage inflammation. IL-10 is a messenger substance of the immune system that protects against exaggerated inflammatory processes and autoimmune diseases.
Second, the other immune-modulating property of some probiotic strains is the stimulation of Secretory Immunoglobulin A (sIgA) secretion. SIgA is an antibody that plays a crucial role in the immune function of mucosal membranes. If your body doesn’t have enough sIgA, then your immune system may be weakened, and you might be more prone to infections and illnesses.
Lower Anxiety and Better Response to Stress
The gut and the brain stand in constant communication with one another. Oftentimes, an imbalance in gut bacteria goes along with increased anxiety. In fact, several psychological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease and depression have been linked to an altered gut microbiome.
In addition, leaky gut is often associated with inflammation in the brain, which can also impact mood and how you respond to stressful situations. OMNi-BiOTiC STRESS Release has demonstrated in clinical studies to improve positive mood and focus by strengthening the gut barrier function and by acting on the gut-brain axis.
Multiple research studies indicate that the composition of the gut microbiome is linked to a person’s metabolism and body weight. Whereas research is still in its early stages and ongoing, research has shown that certain types of bacteria are more common in thin people whereas other types of bacteria are more common in overweight individuals.
Depending on which type of bacteria you have more of, your weight can be affected. In addition, if your gut flora is out of balance, there is an opportunity for bad bacteria and other pathogens such as Candida Albicans to grow.
Many of these pathogens can send signals to the brain that encourage the body to crave sugar. The more sugar you eat, the better these bad bacteria and other pathogens can thrive and grow! A high-quality probiotic can help rebalance the diversity of good bacteria in your gut, which in turn can affect your metabolism and what types of foods you crave. To learn more about probiotics and weight loss, check out our blog post here.
Increased Cognitive Function
Multiple studies have established a strong link between gut health and cognitive health. An imbalance in your gut bacteria often leads to inflammation in the gut.
Over time, this inflammation makes your gut barrier permeable (leaky gut). As a result, larger food particles, pathogens and toxins can enter your bloodstream and eventually reach the brain where they trigger inflammation as well.
This inflammatory process negatively impacts cognitive function. Probiotic supplementation may also improve your cognitive function as a result of restoring a healthy gut barrier.
Fewer Sugar Cravings
Some harmful bacteria and other pathogens such as Candida Albicans can trick the body into craving sugar. This benefits the pathogens as sugar is one of their main food sources. The more sugar you eat, the faster they can grow and proliferate.
Taking a high quality, multispecies and multistrain probiotic supplement will improve the diversity of your gut flora and leave less opportunity for these pathogens to grow. In fact, certain strains of probiotics are known to have properties that fight Candida Albicans and other pathogens.
How Long Does it Take Probiotics to Work?
The short answer is: It depends on the specific outcome you’re hoping to achieve, the current condition of your gut and overall health, and the quality of the probiotic you are taking.
If you are taking a high quality, multispecies and multistrain probiotic, you can expect to notice initial improvements and health benefits in your digestion as early as the first 1-2 weeks after starting your probiotic.
Depending on how sensitive you are, many people feel a difference after a few days. More fundamental effects of the probiotics such as improvements to mood, weight loss or a reduction in inflammation of your gut barrier might set in after 4-8 weeks.
Why Your Current Probiotic May Not Work Or May Take Longer to Work
Taking the supplement incorrectly: Check the intake instructions of your supplement to ensure that you are taking it correctly.
Wrong probiotic strain: Different bacterial strains specialize in different functions in your gut and can have vastly different effects on your body. If you are not seeing improvements in your digestive health, you might simply be taking a probiotic that does not contain the right strains for you.
A qualified healthcare practitioner with gut health experience can provide you with medical advice and may be able to direct you to the right probiotic. Once again, we recommend looking for a probiotic specific to your health needs for optimal results.
Improper storage: Some probiotic supplements require refrigeration to ensure the survival of the bacteria. If these probiotics are left outside of the fridge for prolonged periods of time or exposed to too much heat, then the probiotic bacteria may have died and are no longer effective.
Poor product quality: There are many probiotics to choose from and unfortunately product quality is difficult to determine for the consumer.
Product quality is based on many factors, but the overarching ones to look out for are the science the products are based on, the manufacturing process, the source and quality of the bacteria strains, and the composition of the product itself. Each of these factors can negatively impact product quality and the success you experience with the product.
Incorrect dose: Taking an incorrect dose may also impact how quickly you are seeing results. Make sure to check the label and intake instructions for details.
How to Choose the Right Probiotic
When looking for probiotic products, look for a supplement with the following features
Multispecies and multistrain probiotic: The product should contain different bacterial species and multiple strains of bacteria.
Differentiated products tailored to your needs: Different digestive issues warrant different probiotic strains. Therefore, for optimal benefits, try to seek out a probiotic that is tailored to the specific health outcomes you are trying to achieve.
Clinical studies: The probiotic and its claims should be backed by clinical studies using the final product. This will ensure that you are buying a product whose effects have been studied and proven.
Human strains: Only human bacterial strains can colonize your gut (i.e., live and reproduce in your gut). Other bacteria, such as bacteria found in fermented foods such as yogurt and in soil-based probiotics, cannot colonize the gut and usually pass through your body within a few days. For lasting positive effects, you want to make sure that you have human strains that can colonize.
Free of animal proteins, allergens and fillers: It is recommended to choose a probiotic that is free of dairy and other animal proteins, gluten, soy and yeast to ensure you are taking a clean product.
Delivery mechanism: When you ingest your probiotic, the probiotic travels through the harsh, very acidic environment of the stomach before it reaches the small and large intestine.
Many capsules contain freeze-dried bacteria. If these bacteria get in contact with stomach acid as the first liquid, then they will soak up the stomach acid and die from the acidity as a result. The most effective probiotic is formulated as a powder and activated with water prior to intake.
In addition, look for a probiotic that has prebiotics mixed in, as the prebiotics are food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Beware of probiotics that require refrigeration, as you can not be sure how “fresh” these bacteria are by the time they reach your fridge.
How To Ensure The Probiotic Will Work
To ensure your probiotic is working, make sure to follow the recommended use instructions on the packaging. Depending on the delivery mechanism, the method of taking your probiotic may differ. For example, some probiotics may need to be dissolved in a liquid, whereas others may need to be taken on an empty stomach.
Certain medications such as antibiotics can have a negative impact on the good bacteria in your gut and in your probiotic supplement, so probiotics are best taken away from other medications.
Check the product label for storage instructions to make sure your probiotic is stored properly. Improper storage can make your probiotic less likely to work.
Lastly, check the expiration date to make sure that the probiotic supplement has not expired.
Signs Your Probiotics Are Not Working
No improvement: If you don’t see any improvements in your digestion or the digestive issues you are experiencing, this is likely not the right product for you.
If the probiotic works for you, at the very least you should be seeing an improvement in your digestion within four weeks of taking the product.
Side Effects: Some individuals experience minor side effects like mild bloating, flatulence or more frequent bowel movements for the first few days of taking a new probiotic.
This is your body getting used to the probiotic and potentially cleaning out harmful substances like pathogens. However, if these side effects persist beyond the first week of taking the probiotic, stop taking the product and consult a physician. If you experience more serious side effects like allergic reactions, dizziness, swelling or difficulty breathing, discontinue the product and contact your physician immediately.
What Should You Do if Probiotics Aren’t Working?
Read the label: If you experience minor side effects like bloating, nausea or gas, check the ingredients to see whether the label contains any ingredients you might be allergic to. Many probiotics contain lactose, which can irritate the gut, especially in adults. This is also important for people who are lactose intolerant or vegan.
Try a different brand: Probiotics vary widely in quality and composition. Perhaps the probiotic you are taking just isn’t strong enough or doesn’t contain the specific strains to make you feel better. Consider looking for a high quality, multispecies and multistrain probiotic that fits your needs.
Seek out a qualified healthcare practitioner: If you’ve tried several probiotics and none are working, it might be time to seek out a healthcare practitioner with expertise in gut health to help you get to the root cause of your symptoms.