You have probably used probiotic once or twice, and doctors typically prescribe them when you have gastrointestinal problems. Probiotics are exceptionally useful to prevent diarrhea if you’re taking antibiotics. They are also helpful to stop chronic diarrhea when it is associated with an imbalance in the gut microbiota. But what about taking probiotics daily long-term, without any significant gastrointestinal problems?
Are there any benefits in using probiotics that way? Are you going to become dependent on them? You will see in this article how probiotics are traditionally used, the new approach science is taking on probiotics, and all about the adverse effects in susceptible people.
Are there any benefits in taking probiotics daily?
People who take probiotics daily usually do it, not because they have diarrhea but as a part of their healthy diet, supplementation, and lifestyle. However, they understand that, similar to exercise, taking probiotics is not a quick fix for their health problems, and only continued use will guarantee good results. They sometimes eat fermented foods or prefer to take probiotics in supplements. Either way, the benefits of probiotics are becoming more apparent in scientific studies.
Probiotics modulate the gut microbiota, and the strains and quality of bacteria living in your gut have an important role in how your body functions. Some unhealthy bacteria are more predominant in certain diseases, and healthy colonization is typically reduced in chronic health problems. In the majority of cases, these alterations cause systemic inflammation that contributes to obesity, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune disease, and many other ailments.
Thus, probiotics can be used daily to:
- Modulate your gut microbiota and reduce the incidence of gastrointestinal problems
- Take the space in your gut, preventing pathogenic bacteria from invading and causing disease
- Stimulate your immune system and improve your response against pathogen bacteria
- Stimulate your metabolism and reduce the incidence of obesity
- Break down nutrients that you can’t naturally break down
- Create nutrients and vitamins that your body absorbs
- Reduce systemic inflammation by modulating the immune function on your behalf
Doctors and researchers have evaluated all of these effects in clinical trials. Some of them last for a few weeks, others a few months, but all of them have something in common. The participant in these trials usually use probiotics daily.
In any case, we are constantly exposed to non-organic meat, antibiotics, street food, and drinking water with chemicals and bacteria. By taking probiotics on an ongoing basis, we will be countering all of these influences and obtaining the same benefits studied by scientists and other specialists in human health.
Probiotics are over-the-counter supplements you can have without a prescription. However, acetaminophen is also an over-the-counter drug, and it comes with adverse effects on your liver, among other potential causes of concern. What can we say about probiotics? Are you going to become dependent on probiotics if you take them every day? Are you going to suffer any other adverse effects?
Will you become dependent on probiotics?
This question poses a common concern people have when taking new drugs or supplements every day. We have become aware of drug dependency, especially after benzodiazepines, which are used against anxiety and to improve insomnia.
These and other drugs create tolerance and dependence, that is, you need to take progressively higher doses to obtain the same result, and if you get used to them and then quit, you will have a rebound effect. That’s why they are prescription drugs.
Probiotics are over-the-counter drugs because they do not cause any tolerance or dependency. Your digestive system will not become lazy, and you will definitely not have an overdose if you took two or three doses in one day.
Overdose cases are extremely rare and only appear at exaggeratedly high doses that we wouldn’t normally even think about. And still, the most common effects of very high doses include bloating and other transient gastrointestinal problems that will not become a major concern.
When to ask your doctor about probiotics before taking them?
In the majority of cases, you will have no problem by taking a daily dose of probiotics. If you’re healthy and only want to maintain your wellbeing, probiotics are safe and do not require any additional recommendation by doctors or nurses. But if you suffer from chronic disease and if you are under current medication, go through these contraindications and ask your doctors if you have one of them.
The most critical contraindications to taking daily probiotics are as follows:
- HIV and other immunosuppressive conditions: If you have a disease that impairs your immune defenses, introducing bacteria in your system is not a good idea. These are healthy bacteria but may become dangerous in patients heavily immunosuppressed.
- Drugs that cause immunosuppression: Certain drugs modulate the immune system and cause the same susceptibility than HIV. An example would be patients under corticosteroids to treat arthritis and inflammatory conditions.
- Pancreatitis: According to research, probiotics are not useful in patients with acute pancreatitis and should be used with care.
- Patients in the intensive care unit: These patients are usually immunosuppressed or heavily diseased. They should recover their health before starting to think about probiotics.
- Open wounds after surgery: Probiotics may accelerate wound healing, but there is insufficient research in patients with open and complicated wounds after surgery. They should be evaluated by a doctor before deciding on probiotics.
- Patients with a central venous catheter: There’s a high risk of bacteremia in these patients, and if they ever use probiotics, it should be managed and administered by competent medical staff.
Doron, S., & Snydman, D. R. (2015). Risk and safety of probiotics. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 60(suppl_2), S129-S134.
Kechagia, M., Basoulis, D., Konstantopoulou, S., Dimitriadi, D., Gyftopoulou, K., Skarmoutsou, N., & Fakiri, E. M. (2013). Health benefits of probiotics: a review. ISRN nutrition, 2013.
Fuller, R. (Ed.). (2012). Probiotics: the scientific basis. Springer Science & Business Media.