Probiotics: Who Shouldn’t Take Them?
Some people find that taking probiotics causes them to have gas, bloating, and abdominal discomfort. For most people, these symptoms are temporary; however, side effects are more likely in those who are very young or elderly and those who have less robust immune systems or a damaged immune system, such as those with HIV or a terminal illness. Indeed, probiotics might not be good for people who are already extremely ill.
A general concern is that probiotics are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Instead, they are classified as a food supplement, so consumers are at the mercy of manufacturers and their health claims.
Keep in mind that the effects of one strain of probiotics do not necessarily hold true for other strains or even for different preparations of the same species or strain. If you do experience gas and bloating from one type of probiotic, you can try switching to a different kind to see whether it agrees more with your digestive system.
“Because the quality and quantity of probiotics is not regulated by the FDA, it is difficult to accurately assess the effectiveness of one formulation against another,” Lucak says.
Expert Tips for Choosing Probiotics
Probiotics come in two forms: live cultures — such as in probiotic yogurt — or in a dormant (but still living) form, such as those found in capsules. If you want to try probiotics, here are tips to help you choose.
Decide on food or supplements. One advantage to probiotics in food is that they may also contain other beneficial ingredients, such as dietary fiber, which also promotes digestive health. But most experts agree that it’s a matter of preference whether you consume probiotics in your diet or as supplements. I find that supplements tend to be more effective, as long as the probiotics are good quality.
Watch the expiration date. Because probiotics are living organisms, the amount placed in the container or capsule when it was manufactured may not be the same as when you consume the product. You must use these products before the expiration date to be sure the probiotic is still effective.
Play detective. If your doctor recommends a specific species and strain of probiotic, be aware that you may have a difficult time finding it. Many manufacturers don’t tell you exactly which strain is in their product; they only list the species (e.g. Lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifidobacterium lactis). If you’re looking for a specific strain of probiotic and it’s not listed on the label, call the manufacturer and ask. This information might also be on the company’s website.
Buyer beware. To avoid being scammed, don’t order products over the Internet unless you know and can trust the site. Keep in mind that the price of probiotics can vary tremendously, and a higher cost doesn’t mean the products are of higher quality.
If you decide to try probiotics, make sure you store them according to the directions on the package; some must be kept in the refrigerator.
Sometimes when you start a probiotic you will experience some dye-off as your body begins to rebalance the good bacteria. Give it a week or two and see how you feel before you throw in the towel. If things aren’t getting better try a new brand. The one I have found to be the most effective with all of my clients is the Orthomolecular Biotic. Take one Am and one PM.