The #1 Reason Why Your Probiotic Supplement Isn’t Working Properly

The #1 Reason Why Your Probiotic Supplement Isn’t Working Properly

As a registered dietitian, I often encounter clients who are puzzled by the lack of results from their probiotic supplements. And for a company that has put so much time, research and devotion into its products, I want to make sure you’re getting the biggest benefit out of them too!

Even when taking probiotic supplements, some people fail to experience the promised benefits such as improved digestion, strengthened immunity, and better overall health. So, what could be the culprit behind this disappointment? It all boils down to one thing: consistency. Your probiotic supplement won’t work properly if you’re not taking it consistently. Let's delve into the heart of the matter.

Consistency is Key

The number one reason why your probiotics may not be working as expected is a lack of consistency in their usage. They need to be taken daily, over the course of weeks or months, in order to provide results. They are not a quick fix! 

Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide so many health benefits when consumed consistently and in adequate amounts. Consistent intake is essential - it’s the only way for these microorganisms to colonize and flourish in your gut.

What Happens if I Don’t Take my Probiotic Consistently?

The human gut is a dynamic ecosystem inhabited by trillions of bacteria, both beneficial and harmful. When you introduce probiotics into your system, they compete with the existing bacteria for space and resources. Consistency in consumption allows probiotics to establish themselves in your gut microbiota, forming a robust community that can positively influence your health. If you’re only taking your probiotics once every few days or weeks, yes, it will still impact the microbiome in your gut, but the few days break will allow the old bacteria to continue flourishing and outnumber what you’re getting from the probiotic supplement. 

Similarly, when you stop taking probiotics, your gut bacterial balance will go back to how it was before you started probiotics, especially if the foods you consume haven't changed. That means that for everyone consuming probiotics for digestive health and managing gut symptoms, the symptoms will likely return when stopping the probiotic supplementation. 

Moreover, research suggests that regular consumption of probiotics may help maintain a diverse and balanced gut microbiota, which is crucial for various physiological functions, including digestion, metabolism, and immune response. After all, 70% of your immune system lives in your gut. However, optimal health from taking probiotics, especially when it comes to immune response, requires consistent intake over a period of several weeks. 

So… What Should I Consider When Taking my Probiotic Supplement?

Timing can play a crucial role in maximizing the effectiveness of probiotic supplements. While there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer, many experts suggest taking probiotics on an empty stomach, ideally in the morning before breakfast or at bedtime. This timing allows the probiotic bacteria to bypass the acidic environment of the stomach and reach the intestines relatively unharmed, where they can exert their beneficial effects. However, some individuals may experience better tolerance when taking probiotics with food, particularly if they have sensitive stomachs. 

Ultimately, it's essential to find a routine that works best for you and stick to it consistently to optimize the benefits of probiotic supplementation. Like any new habit, you need to plan ahead to successfully stick to it. Think about what the ideal time in your existing schedule would be to take your probiotic supplement. Would it be  with your breakfast, packed in your lunchbag for work, or as part of your bedtime routine after brushing your teeth? Incorporate your new probiotic habit at a time when you feel it will suit your lifestyle best.

It’s easier to remember to take your supplement if you stack it with something you’re already doing consistently. You could tell yourself “I will take my probiotic when I drink my morning glass of water” or “I will take my supplement while I wait for my coffee to brew.” with lemon”. It’s also helpful to use  cues to remind you to take your supplement. Put a reminder in your phone, leave the bottle in the same cupboard as your water glasses, or keep it on your nightstand so you can remember to take it as you get into bed. 

What Other Factors Could be Affecting the Efficacy of My Probiotic Supplement?

While consistency is top of the list to getting your probiotic to work effectively for you, there are a few other factors that could be playing a role too. 

Plainly put, these are lifestyle factors. Things that you can modify or change that will help you gain more benefit from your probiotics. Lifestyle factors include:

  • Nutrition: Eating whole, minimally-processed foods and including prebiotics and prebiotic foods in your diet.
  • Stress: As you already may know, stress can have a huge impact on your gut. It’s important to practice stress management techniques for your digestive system, hormonal and inflammatory response, and mental health.
  • Medications: Certain medications come with side effects that impact your gut microbiome. A common one is antibiotics, especially if used frequently or over a longer duration.
  • Environmental exposures: Food additives, pesticides and heavy metals are three you should watch for most. 
    • Food additives: Read ingredient lists on food labels to limit or avoid those with artificial colors, artificial sweeteners (like aspartame, saccharin and sucralose) and preservatives. 
    • Pesticides: Synthetic pesticides like Roundup should be avoided as much as possible so it’s best to opt for organic produce. 
    • Heavy metals: Mercury commonly found in swordfish, shark and king mackerel; lead found in contaminated water, soil and some consumer products; and arsenic that can be found in rice, certain seafoods and contaminated drinking water should also be avoided when possible. Choose products and supplements that have been tested for heavy metal contamination
  • Excessive cleanliness and sterilization: Our modern lifestyle often involves excessive cleanliness. This reduces our exposure to beneficial bacteria which can be a problem because our gut microbiota thrives on diversity. Being exposed to a wider range of bacteria from things like spending more time outdoors, playing with our pets, or even just being less stringent with antibacterial products can complement the effects of probiotic supplements and promote a healthier gut
Adopting a healthy lifestyle that supports microbial diversity can enhance the efficacy of probiotics and positively influence the composition and function of your gut microbiota. 

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, the number one reason why probiotics don’t work is a lack of consistency in their usage. Probiotics require regular intake to colonize the gut, compete with harmful bacteria, and exert their beneficial effects on health. By incorporating probiotics into your daily routine and maintaining consistency over time, you can support a thriving gut microbiota and reap the rewards of improved digestion, immunity, and overall well-being. Remember, achieving optimal gut health is not a quick fix but a journey that requires commitment and perseverance.

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