Did you know that there are some key signs your probiotic supplements are working? Here, Hunter, our resident exercise physiologist breaks them down!
Last Updated: September 13, 2019
You might have picked up some probiotics to help treat your IBS or even just to improve your general health.
But let me guess? After taking them for a good couple of weeks, you are not entirely sure if they’re actually doing what they’re supposed to?
Well, no need to worry! I’ve got everything you need to know right here!
What are Probiotics?
You may not realize this, but your body is actually covered in trillions of little microorganisms. Scientists refer to this collection of bacteria, fungi, and viruses as your “microbiota”.
Interestingly, the microorganisms that make up your microbiota are a little more important than first thought. In fact, they genuinely impact how your body works. You need them to function effectively.
Which is right where probiotics enter the equation.
Probiotics are any food or supplement that contains the live microorganisms you find in your microbiota.
While we’ve already spoken about probiotics benefits in-depth, the key thing you need to know for this article is that probiotics bring healthy organisms into your body. Once there, they begin to populate and help keep your body functioning well.
Learn More: Probiotics: Benefits, Dangers and Best Sources
When Should You Take Probiotics?
Now, your microbiota impacts your health in a very big way.
As a result, taking probiotics can improve a number of nasty health-related symptoms. Some sure signs that you might be in need of some probiotics include:
- you are experiencing digestive issues
- you’re currently taking (or have recently finished) a bout of antibiotics
- you find yourself getting sick often
- your mood and energy levels are down all the time
Let’s look at each of these in more detail!
You are Experiencing Digestive Issues
Your microbiota has a huge impact on your body’s ability to break down and digest food. This means that a healthy microbiota can improve digestive function.
Considering this, if you find yourself experiencing frequent digestive discomfort, this is a hint that your microbiota might be out of whack!
Regularly nausea, digestive irritation, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea could be a sure sign you need a probiotic.
You Have Been Taking Antibiotics
While it may seem a little counterintuitive, you may actually need a bout of probiotics after antibiotic treatment.
You see, while antibiotics kill off harmful bacteria, they can’t actually tell the difference between good and bad bacteria. As a result, they end up doing a huge amount of damage to your healthy microbiota, as well.
So, if you have recently taken antibiotics, it’s definitely in your best interest to get on some probiotics as quickly as possible. This is a great way to repopulate your body with the healthy gut bacteria it needs.
You Find Yourself Getting Sick Often
Probiotics boost immunity, according to research. With this in mind, if you find yourself getting sick all the time, then you could be in need of a quality probiotic treatment.
Your Mood and Energy Levels are Down
A microbiota overpopulated with unhealthy bacteria can have serious negative consequences for your brain. This can lead to a chronic decline in energy levels and poor mood.
What are the Signs Your Probiotic Supplements are Working?
The signs that your probiotics are working effectively are as varied as the symptoms that suggest you need them!
The top signs your probiotic supplements are working include:
- your bowel movements are more regular
- you’re experiencing less digestive discomfort
- your mood is improving and your stress levels are coming down
- you have lost some weight
Your Bowel Movements are More Regular
Your healthy stomach bacteria play a very important role in helping you move the food you eat through your digestive system.
They have been shown to be very effective at increasing colonic transit and defecation frequency (i.e. science speak for “helping you go to the bathroom regularly”).
People with unhealthy gut bacteria pass stool much slower than those with healthier gut bacteria. This often results in constipation.
If your probiotic supplement is working and your gut is becoming repopulated with healthy digestive bacteria, you will likely find your bowel movements becoming more regular.
You’re Experiencing Less Digestive Discomfort
The state of your microbiota seriously affects your ability to digest the food you eat. As a result, if your gut bacteria are out of whack, your ability to digest food becomes limited.
This can lead to a host of digestive issues, including:
- passing gas
- stomach cramps
Fortunately, taking probiotics can improve your ability to break down and digest food and ease many of these symptoms.
So, if you have been taking a probiotic for a while and you’re noticing less digestive discomfort after you eat, you can be pretty sure that your supplements are starting to work.
Your Mood is Better and You’re Less Stressed
If your gut is unhealthy or your microbiota is out of whack, you are likely to have difficulty digesting large food molecules. In turn, these chunks of food can actually damage the walls of your intestine, causing it to become inflamed.
This inflammation can have negative effects in areas of your body you’d never expect — like your brain!
Gut inflammation causes inflammatory chemicals to be released throughout your body, including into your brain. Once there, these chemicals interact with your nerve cells, causing drops in mood and leading to feelings of stress and anxiety!
With this in mind, a sure sign your probiotic is working is that you are noticing your stress levels dropping and your mood improving.
You Have Lost Some Weight
The balance of bacteria in your gut has an impact on your weight.
Individuals who fall into the “healthy weight range” have healthier bacterial profiles than people who are either overweight or obese.
In general, overweight individuals appear to have more “bad bacteria” and less “good bacteria” in their gut.
Researchers think these “bad bacteria” directly contribute weight gain in those who are a little heavier.
This is because bad bacteria can increase the absorption of dietary fat from the food you eat. This can lead to a huge spike in daily calorie intake (even from the exact same meals), causing weight gain.
So, if you have started taking a probiotic and you have noticed that your jeans are a little looser — despite not really changing your diet or exercise routine — then you can be pretty certain they are starting to work.
Read More: How Do Probiotics Affect Your Metabolism
Are There Side Effects of Taking Probiotics?
Side effects from probiotics are extremely uncommon — but they can happen.
Though it’s unlikely if you do happen to be experiencing any of these side effects, your probiotic is not a great fit for you individually, and you should switch to another strain or brand.
How Long Does It Take to See Results from Probiotics?
Probiotics are typically thought to take around 2-3 weeks to start working.
This really comes down to the fact that they need time to actually colonize your gut. There isn’t really a clear answer as to how long you should keep taking them after this 2-3 week period, though.
Evidence suggests that you can use probiotics for 9 months (a long time, I know) without increasing your risk for any long-term side effects. This means it’s likely safe for you to take your probiotic daily for as long as you feel you need too — at least up to 9 months!
So, in short, after three weeks of taking probiotics, you should be noticing some of the signs that your probiotic supplements are working. And, if you see signs your probiotics aren’t working, you should switch up your probiotic routine!
Take Home Message
If you are experiencing digestive issues, have recently finished a bout of antibiotics, find yourself getting sick often, or your mood and energy levels are down all the time, then you might be in need of some probiotics.
After 2-3 weeks of supplementation, there should be some key signs that your probiotics are starting to work. These include more regular bowel movements, improved mood, reduced stress, weight loss, and improvements in digestive health.