How To Tell If Your Probiotic Is Not Working For You

The gut microbiome in the digestive tract is consists of trillions of microorganisms belonging to 300 to 500 bacterial species. Lifestyle issues such as stress, eating processed food and insomnia can lead to an imbalance in the microbiome, with bad bacteria outnumbering the good ones. 

This in turn affects the immune system, brain, hormone levels and even increases the risk of cancer. Microorganisms break down indigestible fiber and maintain the gut-brain axis. In order to restore balance in the gut microbiome and combat this condition termed dysbiosis, people can sometimes opt for probiotic supplements, however, in consultation with their doctor.  

Why consider taking a supplement? Probiotic supplements provide a few of the good strains of microorganisms already within the gut and multiply the population of the good bacteria present by encouraging their growth. The increasing number of good bacteria fights the bad bacteria, thus preventing a whole host of diseases. 

"The probiotics are like good cops. We're putting in the good cops, and the good cops can keep watch over the bad guys," Robert Rountree, renowned integrative physician

, explained in an article on mindbodygreen. Probiotics are not considered unsafe, but the claims do not divulge the unwanted side effects such harmful bacteria-host interactions.  

How to figure out if the probiotic has benefited your health? First, keep track of your symptoms. The more severe the symptoms, the sooner the change is noticed, especially with improvements in the digestive tract while supplements are orally taken. 

What are the signs of improvement? Less diarrhea, less bloating, less stomach pain, less constipation, regular bowel movements, normal cholesterol and better glycemic control are common signs of improvement in gut microbiome. If the improvements do not appear, switch to a different strain. 

"With probiotics, it's all about survival. These delicate microorganisms must survive several obstacles: the manufacturing process, shelf life, and (once you take them) the acid in your stomach environment to reach your intestines, where they do their job," Vincent Pedre, Medical Director of Pedre Integrative Health, explained.

Ensure you pick the right brands that are trustworthy and have third party verification. Probiotics, sometimes, need to be refrigerated to prolong their shelf life. 

To increase chances of success with probiotic products, try to choose one with multiple microbial strains. According to Pedre, Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Saccharomyces families are the safest bets. Also, find the correct quantity, particularly 10 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per strain.  Do not stick to medication and also eat probiotic-rich foods. 

Probiotic Antibiotic MIT chemical engineers devised a way to encapsulate probiotics so that they can be delivered along with antibiotics to kill multiple strains of bacteria. Image: Ryan Allen

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