How to Tell If You Need a Probiotic

Probiotics are a type of dietary supplement consisting of live bacteria. Bacteria naturally live in our intestines and help promote health by destroying yeast and harmful bacteria that enter our bodies. When this good bacteria are eliminated, sickness and other problems may occur. Probiotics can be purchased in capsule and liquid form in health food and natural stores. Consult with your doctor or health care provider prior to adding probiotics to your daily supplement regimen.

A woman is holding a white capsule. (Image: mheim3011/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Monitor for signs and symptoms of a stomach virus or other intestinal dysfunction. These symptoms include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. According to Dr. Bousvaros with the Children's Hospital of Boston, probiotics have been shown to shorten the duration of diarrhea associated with rotavirus in infants. These symptoms may be caused by an imbalance of beneficial bacteria in the intestines which may be reversed by taking probiotics.

Step 2

Discuss the need for probiotics with your doctor if you are prescribed a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics are helpful for eliminating bacteria that cause illness. Unfortunately, they are not selective and kill the beneficial bacteria in the intestines as well. Replenishing these bacteria can help prevent stomach discomfort and diarrhea.

Step 3

Consider taking probiotics if you are diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, bladder cancer, urinary tract infections or eczema. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, probiotics may be beneficial in improving and managing these conditions. Individuals diagnosed with these conditions should discuss probiotics with their doctor before starting treatment.

Step 4

Observe for signs of a yeast infection that can occur vaginally or on the nipples for breastfeeding women. Vaginal yeast infections are itchy and have a cottage cheese-like discharge. Yeast on the nipples will cause redness and pain while nursing. Infants and small children might display yeast as white patches in the mouth known as thrush. When the good bacteria levels in the intestines decrease, yeast is allowed to grow uncontrolled.

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