Probiotic supplements are becoming increasingly popular, and unsurprisingly so, given the range of what they can do for your health! With benefits ranging from treating diarrhea to preventing the recurrence of urinary tract infections (UTIs), more and more people are beginning to incorporate probiotics into their routines.
But how long are you going wait before you start to reap the benefits? And will you notice any differences when they begin to take effect? We are going to talk you through what you can expect when you start taking probiotics, and how long it can take for you to notice a difference.
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When Do I See Results?
There are hundreds of different varieties of probiotic supplement around. In those hundreds, there are many different strains and combinations of good bacteria, along with different prebiotic fibers. Different brands have different mechanisms by which they can prevent damage from your stomach acid, enabling the probiotics to actually reach your gut where they can begin to work.
Some formulations of probiotic supplement may start working within hours of you taking them. This is more likely to be the case if you choose a high-quality probiotic with a high colony forming unit (CFU) that can withstand stomach acid to deliver the probiotic organisms into your gut. Having said that, even if you are using a probiotic with a high CFU, if the tablet cannot survive your stomach acid, it will not work at all.
It is important to know, however, that just because a probiotic has started working, it doesn’t mean that you will feel noticeable results straight away. Similarly, often one dose of probiotic is not sufficient – it can take weeks of regular doses of probiotic for you to get the maximum benefits of taking it. It also depends on what you are using it to treat. Probiotics which you are taking to relieve skin conditions such as eczema will take longer to show results than if you are taking it to relieve diarrhea or bloating.
Other Factors Affecting How Long It Takes
An element of how long it takes for gut bacteria to work is the generation time of the bacteria. This is the time it takes for any particular strain of bacteria to double its numbers. Faster generation times mean that the probiotic ‘gets to work’ quicker because it is more likely to be able to outnumber its competitors (bad bacteria) faster. There are two common strains of probiotic bacteria; they are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These both have very short generation times – doubling in just a few hours. This can mean, therefore, that they are able to start working almost immediately.
How Do I Know When Probiotics Work?
Just like we have discussed above, this is another question to which the answer is ‘it depends.’ The main gauge is that it depends on the reason you are taking the probiotic. If you are generally in good health, but you are taking it to maintain your digestive health and overall well-being, then you may not particularly notice any effects, but you will still be getting the benefits. On the other hand, if you are taking it to reduce symptoms such as digestive discomfort – bloating, cramping or diarrhea – then you may notice changes quickly.
So it varies from person to person, and the symptoms you are looking to improve. Here are some ways that you may notice the probiotics are beginning to work:
- Your symptoms ease – this can happen as soon as a few hours after you begin taking your probiotic. We aren’t talking about your acne clearing up; we are talking about things like reduced bloating or fewer episodes of diarrhea.
- Your symptoms get slightly worse (temporarily) – again, this is talking mainly about digestive symptoms such as cramping, bloating and diarrhea. This is because it can take a little while for the good bacteria to overturn the bad. However, if your symptoms have not got better after a couple of weeks, talk to your doctor.
- You pick up fewer illnesses – it will probably take you a little while longer for you notice this, but if you suffer from recurrent infections such as UTIs, nail infections or yeast infections, you may notice that you get fewer infections, or they are less severe.
How To Lengthen The Lifespan Of Probiotic Supplements
Many probiotics have a considerable lifespan anyway – the use by date is often months in the future when you receive them. But how do you preserve them so that they keep their potency, given that they are living organisms? The main way you can preserve them is to follow the storage instructions very carefully.
Storing your probiotics at the wrong temperature will quickly result in the good bacteria dying before you have even consumed and had any benefits from them. Some probiotics are referred to as being shelf-stable. This means that they can be stored at room temperature and will still retain their potency. Others must be stored at a certain temperature, and therefore must be kept in the fridge.
Often these probiotics will even be shipped with a cold pack to prevent damage while they are in transit and ensure they arrive potent. If they are meant to be stored in the fridge but arrive without a cold pack, there is a chance they have already been destroyed and will therefore not give you any benefits.
Packages of shelf-stable probiotics will likely give you instructions to store them in a ‘cool, dry place.’ If this is the case, then make sure that you don’t store them in a humid place. Humidity can cause probiotics to begin to degrade; and even if the bottle is kept firmly shut, some may even be sensitive enough to be affected in just the few seconds each time you open to the bottle to take your dose. Therefore, storing them in your bathroom may not be the best option.
A kitchen side where you can see them each day to prompt you to take them, but away from humidity from appliances such as your kettle or stove may be a good place to store your shelf-stable probiotics. Alternatively, consider keeping them somewhere like on your dressing table. If your probiotics are meant to be stored in the fridge, make sure you keep the lid securely shut, so that no moisture gets in.
Out Of Direct Sunlight
It is not just probiotic bacteria which are affected by sunlight. Many bacteria, for example, some of those which cause acne are destroyed by ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun. It is for that reason that medications are often given in orange or brown containers – and your probiotic may be too. Either the sunlight itself or the heat from the direct sunlight can quickly denature probiotics and medications, so even if they are supplied in colored bottles, you should store them in the shade.
If they are stored in the fridge, this is unlikely to become a problem, given the short time that the light inside the fridge stays on, and the short time the door is open!
The use-by dates given are the dates which the probiotics should retain the potency given on the packaging. This is providing they are stored correctly – as per the directions given on the packaging. Just like with food, this does not mean that the day after the use-by date they will be rendered useless, but it is likely that gradually the product will lose its potency and not give you the benefits it is capable of. Therefore, it is best to consume the probiotics soon after you have opened them, following the dosage instructions carefully.
You should now have a better understanding of what to expect from your probiotics. The factors which can affect how long they take to work, the ways in which you can tell they are working, and how you can maximize the lifespan of the probiotics so that you get the benefits from the entire pot.
Probiotics can be extremely beneficial, and even if you do not experience improvements in your health immediately, it is worth continuing with your probiotic supplement, for long-term advantages.
If you have any concerns about side effects or taking them in combination with certain medications or conditions, we suggest that you consult your doctor before you begin use.