How to Start on Probiotics

Two yogurt glass on wooden board with spoon
Freshly made yogurt. (Image: diamant24/iStock/Getty Images)

Probiotics are the good, healthy bacteria that live in your gut and help keep your digestive system running in tip-top shape. However, if you get sick or are taking antibiotics, the good bacteria in your body can be depleted or overrun over by bad bacteria. You can take over-the-counter probiotics, such as acidophilus or lactobacillus to repopulate the healthy bacteria, and many foods are cultured to contain probiotics. Many people use probiotics to treat everything from irritable bowel syndrome to yeast infections. Always check in with your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you are currently on a prescription medication.

Step 1

Look into food containing probiotics, such as yogurt or kefir, which is a kind of drinkable yogurt. Some other dairy products, like sour cream or cottage cheese, may also be made with live and active cultures. Kombucha, a fermented Japanese tea, contains probiotics, and some companies are producing juice blends or candy chews that are made with probiotics. Foods and beverages made with probiotics usually have lower levels of the bacteria, so they will be more gentle on your stomach. Begin with a small amount, about one-half or one-third of a recommended serving to see how your body reacts, and increase the amount if necessary.

Step 2

Consider probiotic supplements. Probiotics come in capsule, tablet or powder form, and they may be either a single strain of bacteria or a blend of several strains. Your doctor or naturopath can help you find a probiotic supplement that is right for your condition. However, probiotics effect every body differently, and while one strain of bacteria may do wonders for your friend's diarrhea, it may do nothing for yours.

Step 3

Read the label of any supplements you are considering and follow all instructions to the letter. Unless otherwise directed by your doctor, begin with the smallest dose recommended and slowly work your way up to a dose that works for you.

Step 4

Ask your doctor if you can take probiotics to replenish the good bacteria that is unintentionally killed off by antibiotic medication. Often, you can take probiotics in conjunction with antibiotics, without reducing the effectiveness of the antibiotic, if you take the two medications 12 hours apart from each other. However, eating yogurt or drinking kombucha may be a better way to repopulate the good bacteria in your intestines.

Warning

Probiotic foods and supplements are generally safe, although taking very large amounts may cause a stomach ache. According to the Harvard Medical School, there may be a risk associated with probiotics for people with an impaired immune system.

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