How To Take Probiotics
Probiotics are everywhere these days, even in your granola bar! With all of the information out there on the benefits of probiotics, you’re probably curious to try them…but choosing the best probiotic can seem intimidating when you’re staring at all of the choices on the store shelves. So I wanted to take the opportunity to answer some of the most common questions I receive about how to choose a probiotic, and how best to take them.
Probiotics are very different from supplements like vitamin D or omega 3 fatty acids because they are living organisms, as opposed to chemical structures. In fact, the very definition of a probiotic is “live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.1” So creating a living probiotic – and keeping it alive so it stays active and effective - takes a lot of hard work and passion about process. And it makes choosing a probiotic an important process.
Which probiotic to choose?
Obviously, I’m biased…I think Bio-K+ is the best probiotic around! However, it’s important to make an informed choice about the best probiotic for you. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics has created some helpful resources, including outlining the minimum criteria for manufacturing quality probiotics2. These criteria include properly identifying the individual strains of bacteria, instead of just the species; demonstrating safety of the strains and having at least one human clinical trial to show effectiveness2. Seems pretty basic, but many of the probiotics on the shelves don’t meet these criteria!
That’s why one of my favored resources for making quick and trustworthy decisions about probiotics is Probiotic Chart. Each year, a team of health professionals and researchers reviews the probiotics on store shelves to see whether or not they’re evidence-based – and what claims they have evidence for. Currently, there isn’t a probiotic with research for each and every health condition although I’m sure that future is around the corner. Instead, when my clients have a health concern that the research suggests might be helped by a probiotic, I recommend they choose one of the current evidence-based products in the Probiotic Chart to see if it has an effect.
Another decision point around choosing a probiotic is whether to buy refrigerated or shelf-stable products. The easy answer? Buy refrigerated unless the box clearly states that the product is guaranteed shelf stable until a stated expiry date. Because bacteria are living organisms, refrigeration slows down their life cycle to preserve efficacy. Probiotics can be sitting out on the store shelves for a long time…you don’t want to spend your hard earned money on dead probiotics. For this reason, Bio-K+ capsules are sold refrigerated and have guaranteed potency for two years when refrigerated, but you may not know that Bio-K+ capsules are actually shelf-stable for three months!
Should I take a probiotic?
I have digestive and skin concerns that are linked to gut bacteria, so I’ve been taking probiotics regularly for a decade. While the field is still growing, there is a significant amount of research literature out there to suggest that probiotics may be effective for a host of digestive, inflammatory and skin conditions in addition to mental wellbeing and immune support3. There are a lot of people who might benefit from taking a probiotic, including:
- those taking antibiotics
- people looking to decrease their risk of cold and flu
- people suffering from skin conditions like eczema
- those with arthritis
It’s worth talking to your pharmacist, doctor or dietitian to see if probiotics are right for your specific needs.
Are probiotics safe?
Since we’re talking about ingesting bacteria, safety is an important part of the standards for manufacturing probiotics. In fact, in the over 20-year history of making Bio-K+ probiotics, they’ve had an outstanding record of safety.
Probiotics generally are considered safe across the lifespan, from early childhood through to our elder years, including pregnancy. The only significant contraindication of using probiotics is immunosuppression, such as those with organ transplants, or the critically ill4.
Probiotics are given in seemingly large doses – and you might have wondered if you can take too many. Because probiotics stay in the gut, there isn’t really a danger in taking too many probiotics as there might be with some vitamins or minerals.
That’s not to say you won’t experience some effects of very large doses. Depending on your individual tolerance, you may experience some gastrointestinal upset such as bloating or loose stools in large doses. However, if you are taking probiotics as directed, this is less common and generally mild as your system adapts.
When is the best time to take probiotics?
The easy answer? The best time to take probiotics is whenever you’ll remember them!
Bio-K+ capsules are enteric coated so they bypass the acidic stomach environment and since they aren’t being absorbed into your bloodstream, you don’t need food to aid in absorption the way you do with most vitamins and minerals.
The only exception to this rule is when you take antibiotics. You want to wait two hours after your antibiotic dose before you take probiotics to help preserve the efficacy of your probiotics; in addition, continue to take your probiotics for at least five days after your antibiotic course is over to decrease your risk of side effects of antibiotic use.
Probiotics for life
Every day in my practice, I see probiotics changing guts…and changing lives. However, I’ve also seen plenty of people taking ineffective probiotics for years because they received less than evidence-based advice. I’ve been using Bio-K+, and recommending it to my clients, for almost a decade. Their commitment to safety, efficacy and clinical research results in a product I trust.
Do you have any other questions about probiotics? Ask us in comments below. If you are looking to stock up on Bio-K+, head to the store locator. For more information on Bio-K+, probiotics and digestive health, contact us, find us on Facebook and Instagram or join our community.
- Morelli, Lorenzo, and Lucio Capurso. "FAO/WHO guidelines on probiotics: 10 years later." Journal of clinical gastroenterology46 (2012): S1-S2.
- ISAPP position statement on minimum criteria for harmonizing global regulatory approaches for probiotics in foods and supplements. https://isappscience.org/minimum-criteria-probiotics/
- Rijkers, Ger T., et al. "Guidance for substantiating the evidence for beneficial effects of probiotics: current status and recommendations for future research." The Journal of nutrition140.3 (2010): 671S-676S.
- Happel, A. U., et al. "Weighing in on the risks and benefits of probiotic use in HIV-infected and immunocompromised populations." Beneficial microbes9.2 (2018): 239-246.