Everything You Need to Know About Taking Probiotics
Most of us know that around perimenopause, many women struggle with symptoms linked to declining estrogen levels, including hot flashes, weight gain, bone loss, and poor sleep. Declining estrogen levels also affect the human microbiota. Imbalances in the microbiome can have a negative impact on everything from your digestion to overall mental health, and some of the symptoms we associate with perimenopause may be caused by these estrogen-related changes to the microbiome.
This is why probiotics have the potential to improve these kinds of symptoms, by rebalancing good bacteria in the body. Promoting the growth of “good” bacteria and limiting an overpopulation of the “bad” with the help of probiotics can allow some women to alleviate or even eliminate their menopause symptoms. However, it isn’t necessarily a quick fix made with a pop of a pill. Improving menopause symptoms with probiotics still takes time, and has its share of best practices and supplemental lifestyle changes that improve their efficacy.
How long do I need to take probiotics before I can expect results?
The amount of time it takes for a probiotic to work depends on the product formula, dose, and the health condition it’s intended to address. In a 2010 study on probiotics and diarrhea, researchers found that when combined with rehydration therapy, a probiotic reduced the duration and frequency of diarrhea in as little as two days. Another study in 2011 found that it took up to four weeks for subjects with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to see improvement with the aid of probiotic supplementation. But when it comes to issues outside of the digestive tract, it may take longer to notice a difference. For instance, studies on probiotic impact on fat loss and skin health found that it took 12 weeks for the probiotics to yield any changes.
But for all the research there is on the topic, it stands to reason that individual bodies all have their own unique makeup and can react to supplements differently. What helped your friend in just two weeks may take two months to work for you. With that in mind, it’s generally recommended to take probiotics for at least 90 days, to get a full picture of how probiotics will impact you and your own microbiome.
Do I need to also take prebiotic fiber?
Prebiotic dietary fibers are non-digestible nutrients that beneficially affect the body by selectively stimulating the growth of good bacteria in the gut. These fibers act as a carbon source that feeds the good bacteria in the digestive system. Foods including apples, onions, asparagus, leeks, and oats are rich sources of prebiotic fiber.
So, do you need to take prebiotic fiber with your probiotics? Yes and no. Your body needs fiber to function healthily, whether you’re taking probiotics or not. And since prebiotic fiber is the food for the probiotic bacteria, it’s necessary for your overall gut health. Finally, since 95% of Americans don’t eat enough fiber, it’s a good idea for most of us to eat more fiber than we are currently.
But with all that noted, it is safe to say that you don’t have to take a prebiotic supplement alongside your probiotic for it to work. If you’re eating enough fiber-rich foods in your diet, your microbiome can use those fibers as fuel. However, if your diet is lacking fiber or you find that your probiotic isn’t working in the way that you expect, adding a fiber supplement or switching to a synbiotic that has prebiotic fiber in it may give you the boost you need.
What are synbiotics?
Synbiotics are probiotic supplements that contain additional ingredients such as prebiotic fiber, vitamins, minerals, and herbal support. They’re designed to make probiotic support simpler and more effective.
Should I take my probiotics with food?
There currently isn’t sufficient research to prove that probiotics either become more or less effective if you take them alongside a meal. One 2017 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that probiotics were effective regardless of whether they were taken with food. However, some experts advise that you take probiotic supplements about 20 to 30 minutes before a meal. It’s pretty common for people to experience nausea or digestive discomfort when taking supplements on an upset stomach, so that’s definitely something to take into consideration. But if you don’t experience stomach trouble in this situation, there isn’t any inherent danger in taking probiotics on an empty stomach.
When should I take my probiotic?
There are a lot of conflicting opinions and studies regarding the ideal time to take a probiotic supplement. One 2011 study found that survival rates of probiotic bacteria were best when taken 30 minutes before or alongside a meal. Another 2017 study didn’t find a significant difference in bacteria survival rate between taking a probiotic before or after eating breakfast. In the end, the best time to take your probiotic is the time that you’ll remember to take it consistently.
Are all probiotics the same?
Beyond the differences in formulas found in synbiotics, there is a lot of variety in the types of bacteria you might find in a supplement. Make sure to do your research and find the one that best corresponds to your needs.
What are CFUs and how many should be in my probiotic?
CFU is short for Colony Forming Units, meaning the number of live strands in a single dose of a probiotic. Probiotic supplements can contain anywhere from 1 to 50 billion CFU, but higher CFU counts do not necessarily mean a formulation is better. Note that CFU counts are the recorded levels at the time of manufacturing and actual counts may be lower than what’s on the label.
Will my probiotic work if I’m on antibiotics?
An antibiotic has the potential to kill whatever you’re adding to the gut with a probiotic supplement. But some research suggests if you space taking them about two to three hours apart, you can avoid that outcome. Furthermore, one study found that people who took a probiotic for four weeks after an antibiotic restored their microbiome to its pre-medication state. Finally, another study found that taking probiotics alongside antibiotics is effective both for the prevention and treatment of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
Are probiotics vegan?
Not all probiotics are vegan. Some may contain animal products as additional ingredients or come in a gelatin capsule, so make sure to check ingredients before taking a probiotic. While not all MenoLabs products are vegan, our probiotic supplements MenoFit and MenoGlow come in a Hypromellose vegetable capsule and contain no animal ingredients.
Of course, everyone’s probiotic experience is different. But if you keep these basics in mind, you’re more likely to have the best experience possible with your probiotics.