Five mistakes people make when taking probiotics

Susan Hunter Digestive Health Leave a Comment

More people are reaching for probiotics to help with their digestive problems and after a course of antibiotics. The commercials with cartoons of lots of blue coloured “bugs” jumping up and down on see saws have many of us wanting to all “put the balance back into our health” as the ad professes. Probiotics are not a cheap supplement to take and many people get it wrong when they are self prescribing. Here are five things to be mindful of next time you reach for that probiotic capsule.

You are taking the wrong strain of probiotic

You will have noticed every bottle of probiotics contains different strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium mainly. There are often numbers on the end of the name of the bacteria strain and species and that is significant because the most important thing to do when taking probiotics is to take the right strain for the job. Different probiotics have different jobs. For example, the Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG) strain is useful in reducing the likelihood of developing allergies and it is also useful in treating bacterial gastroenteritis. 

You avoid taking probiotics with food

It is commonly thought that you should take your probiotics on an empty stomach.  The research clearly shows that survival of bacteria in the gut increases when taken with a meal. Having your probiotic with a dairy or grain based meal further increases the chances of survival of bacteria in the upper gut.

You believe probiotics will permanently colonise your gut

Many people think that by taking probiotics they are replacing the bugs they have lost after taking an antibiotic or a period of time of eating poorly. This just is not the case. Probiotics work to re-colonise the gut while you take them and then when you stop taking them they stop recolonising. Some probiotics will continue to raise levels of bacteria in the gut for up to 21 days. However, longer term probiotic supplementation will not re-colonise the gut.

You only take probiotics AFTER a course of antibiotics

You avoid taking a probiotic while you are on antibiotics because you worry that the antibiotics will kill the beneficial bacteria and render it useless. Research supports the use of probiotics during antibiotic treatment because it reduces antibiotic side effects and minimises the damage to beneficial bacteria in the gut. The trick is to keep your dose of probiotics at least two hours away from your antibiotics.

You think eating yoghurt is not as good for you as taking a probiotic supplement

You can actually be getting your good bugs in food form. There are therapeutic benefits and medicinal amounts of probiotic strains in some well known commercially made yoghurts and fermented dairy products. Vaalia yoghurt has viable, high concentrations of Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG), whilst Activia yoghurt has good levels of Bifidobacterium animalis DN-173 010 which is great for those prone to constipation. Other notable probiotic foods that have been found to have a therapeutic role to play in the body include Yoplus yoghurt (contains Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG), Yakult (contains Lactobacillus casei Shirota) and Jalna drinking yoghurt (contains Lactobacillus acidiophilus LA5). Food as medicine! 

Susan Hunter
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Susan Hunter

B.Hsc (Naturopathy), B.A. (Psych) at Healthful Clinic - Founder and Director
Susan Hunter is a double-degree qualified naturopath, a published academic author and the founder of Healthful Clinic. She writes widely on mental health, digestive conditions and children's health.
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