Your small and large intestines contain about 400 different types of bacteria, some of which work to keep you healthy by digesting food, preventing infection and supporting your immune system. When the ratio of good versus bad bacteria becomes imbalanced, ingesting food or supplements containing probiotics can help. The question of how often to take probiotics, however, depends on your current health status.
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The best way to proactively gain long-term health benefits from probiotics is to take them every day, according to the American Dietetic Association and registered dietitian Marisa Moore, in an interview with CNN Health. You can get your daily dose of probiotics from a supplement or from food products containing live cultures, like yogurt.
If you do not wish to take probiotics daily, health experts like Moore recommend at the very least taking them whenever you are taking an antibiotic. Antibiotics kill the good bacteria along with the bad in an effort to fight infection. Probiotics can help replenish the good bacteria and will not diminish the effectiveness of your antibiotics. Take the probiotics at least two hours after each dose of antibiotic together with food or shortly after eating. Once you’ve finished your antibiotic treatment, double or triple the probiotic supplements for 10 to 14 days.
Maximizing Probiotic Effectiveness
To maximize effectiveness, take your probiotic with a meal or shortly after eating. If you miss a day on your daily probiotic regimen, you do not need to double up. Instead, just begin again the next day. It is important to be aware of a side effect called the Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction, which is in reality an indication that the probiotics are doing their job. Symptoms of this reaction include headache, bloating and gas. If these symptoms become too uncomfortable, you can reduce your dosage until symptoms subside, before slowly increasing to the maximum recommended dosage on the package label.
Caution for a Weakened Immune System
If you have a compromised immune system due to a virus such as HIV/AIDS or because of chemotherapy, check with your doctor before beginning a regular course of probiotics. According to Dr. Athos Bousvaros with Children’s Hospital Boston, there have been rare reports of bacterial infections in patients with weakened immune systems who took probiotics.
- CNN Health: 'Healthy' Bacteria Help Keep You in Balance
- Align Digestive Care: Frequently Asked Questions
- Children's Hospital Boston: Understanding Pros and Cons of Probiotics
- "The Internet Journal of Nutrition and Wellness"; Probiotics And Antibiotics: A Brief Overview; S. S. Biradar; S. T. Bahagvati and B. Shegunshi; 2005 Volume 2 Number 1