If you frequent probiotic-related forums, you will notice several testimonials of people claiming that their health gains were reversed shortly after they stopped taking their probiotic supplements….their bloating came back, their food intolerances and allergies came back, their skin conditions worsened…and all manner of reversed fortunes. When you look over my profile details, you will also see that I started this forum after making a two-year commitment to probiotic supplements. However, you will also notice that my relationship with probiotics dates back to around 2017. If you are still keeping up with the math, I have a five-year history with probiotics, and at the same time a two-year subscription/commitment? By now you are probably worried that you will have to keep taking probiotics forever. Not to worry, you are in luck because I have gathered as much evidence as possible. Being the probiotic lab rat at your service, I also have some astute observations and reliable experiences on this matter.
So, should you keep taking probiotics forever?
No, you should not keep taking probiotics forever because the length of time that you have to keep taking probiotics is mainly dependent on the specific wellness goal that you are looking to achieve. Ideally, you should take probiotics for the length of time that it takes you to achieve necessary and lasting gut microbiota balance. Notably, very few if any wellness-related goals require you to keep taking probiotics forever.
The length of the time that you need to keep taking probiotics also depends on the other health-related changes you make in your life, such as changes in diet and lifestyle.
All the above factors show that depending on the wellness goals that you want to achieve, you could end up taking probiotics for anywhere between a few weeks to several years. Nevertheless, you should be aware of the fact that probiotics do not aim to “treat” any specific condition. Their main purpose is to help you achieve the right balance of gut microbiota, meaning that you should take them until you achieve this overall result, however long this might take.
How Long Should You Keep Taking Probiotics?
First, you should not take probiotics if you are perfectly healthy, according to reliable scientific research (1) (2). These supplements are taken for the specific purpose of improving the number and diversity of the good gut bacteria in the gut. How long you take probiotics is determined by the time it will take you to achieve this goal.
This goal sounds simple, but it is not quite the case. Taking probiotics with multiple strains of bacteria in their billions is one thing, but getting them to colonize the gut and serve you in perpetuity is a whole different story.
I promised you that I have quite the experience on this matter. As previously stated, I suffer from leaky gut and subsequent inflammation. Hold on to that information for a moment, and let me tell you what it takes for colonization of good bacteria to take place in your gut….
When you take probiotics supplements, they are supposed to pass all the way to your colon and attach themselves to the gut lining. People with leaky gut often have their gut lining compromised and this means that their gut bacteria is imbalanced by default. It also means that people with leaky gut are among the ones who will be taking probiotics for a loooooong time!
Probiotic Dan is among this unfortunate group, but he is leading from the front.
Now, some not-so-encouraging research shows that the bacteria that we ingest in probiotics does not have the capacity to colonize the gut. Basically, the probiotic bacteria are transient and the only serve you for the time the are in your digestive system before you eventually poop them out. Most of the stuff that is making you feel so good when you are taking a probiotic will “pass” through your gut, but it will not “stay”. Sounds familiar?
However, while the probiotic-bacteria is passing through your gut, there is research (1), (2) to show its impact in triggering changes in your gut bacteria. For example, if you take a probiotic with strain X of bacteria while your population of good bacteria A is suppressed by an overgrowth of bad bacteria B…. even though the presence of strain X in your gut is temporary, it might promote an increase of Bacteria A and a suppression of Bacteria B.
Therefore, if you keep taking the probiotics with strain X long enough, they will help you repopulate your gut with good bacteria A, although they are not necessarily the ones you ingested with the probiotic.
The conclusion on this matter is that the probiotic bacteria have low chances of colonizing your gut, but if you take them for longer periods they might allow the good bacteria that is already suppressed within your system to multiply.
So When Should You Stop Taking Probiotics?
Now that we have established how probiotics help you regain the much-needed balance of good bacteria in the gut, we are curious as to how long an individual should keep taking them.
There are various examples of people taking probiotics, feeling good, and then stopping taking them only for their digestive and other wellness gains to be reversed. It has happened to me so many times and this is why I ended up on the probiotic lifestyle. I have always pointed out that probiotics are quite expensive, hence there is a temptation to stop buying them after you start feeling good.
First, it is perfectly safe to stop taking probiotics because they do not come with any known dependencies. In addition, there are no known side effects of taking probiotics, even in the long-term. The assumption is that a probiotic supplement from a reputable manufacturer should not be any different from you eating kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, or kombucha every morning for the rest of your life. All these foods also contain probiotic bacteria…only that the price tags might be different.
You can see where we are going with this… starting and stopping taking probiotics is mostly an individual choice.
You should only stop taking probiotics once you have achieved your health and wellness goals, but you should take the initiative of testing the validity of probiotic-gains. Therefore, it is not advisable to stop taking probiotics abruptly because this might leave you susceptible to health problems. For instance, you might want to get off probiotics for a while to test the health gains with the intention of resuming later. It is also viable to cut the probiotics dose in half and then observing your overall health and wellness.
Also, given that it might take time to regain gut microbiota balance and that probiotics are expensive, once you get the initial benefits, you can work on determining the most effective minimal effective dose. The goal is to be able to maintain the right gut environment that will help you start the process of repopulating the good gut bacteria.
How Long Do You Need To Keep Taking Probiotics Depending on Your Specific Condition?
There are various reasons why you should take probiotics ranging from a caution for antibiotic usage, solving food intolerance issues, all the way to dealing with a leaky gut condition. One of the main determinants of the length of time you have to keep taking probiotics is the specific condition that you are dealing with. Below are some estimates on the length of time that you should keep taking probiotics depending on the specific condition that you are dealing with. Note that these estimates are based on scanty research details and they should only act as a guide to your probiotic use. Remember, the best judge of when to stop probiotics use is you…based on your wellness and health considerations.
How Long Might You Need to Keep Taking Probiotics After Antibiotic Use?
If you are taking probiotics after antibiotic use, you need to take them for the entire time that you are taking the antibiotics, plus two weeks to two months after you have stopped taking the antibiotics. This length of time is based on research that was conducted indicating that after you take antibiotics, it takes about a month for the gut microbiome to “grow” back. However, in some instances researchers have found that the numbers of bacteria in the gut might remain depressed even six months after taking probiotics.
When taking probiotics to protect your gut bacteria from destruction by antibiotics, you should start your dose immediately after you start the antibiotics. These doses should be taken at least two hours apart. The information above shows that the least amount of time that you should practically take a probiotic after antibiotic use is about 3-4 weeks. However, for optimal and all-round wellness results, you can keep taking the probiotics for anywhere up to six months after you have taken the antibiotics.
I am a victim of antibiotic damage, but in my case, I took three doses of antibiotics back-to-back. Two of these were extra-strength doses with more than 500mg per tablet. The damage to your gut microbiota balance in those few weeks might take more than a year’s work to resolve. There are major variables when it comes to the above estimations such as the potency of probiotics and the extent of antibiotic damage on your microbiota. My mistake was not taking the probiotics with the antibiotics in the first place. The year was 2016 so probiotics were not as mainstream as they are today…You can read all about it here.
How Long Might You Need to Keep Taking Probiotics to Resolve Digestive Problems?
If you are taking a probiotic to resolve digestion issues such as IBS, food intolerances, and acid reflux among other problems, you will need to keep taking them for at least four weeks in order to realize some notable benefits. However, the length of time that you need to keep taking probiotics for digestion issues varies greatly and it might last up to several years depending on the extent of damage in your gut microbiome.
It is important to consider that the key aspect in resolving most digestive issues such as acid reflux is BALANCE. In this case, the key is to achieve the right microbiota balance, and remove the imbalance that is messing up your digestive system. A key determinant of how long it takes to resolve this imbalance is your ability to balance other aspects of your diet. For instance, it will take a lesser time for probiotics to resolve your gluten intolerance issues if you first take gluten off your diet and re-introduce it slowly after you have achieved the right balance. Hence, it is advisable to take probiotics while at the same time giving your gut a fighting chance.
Consider this; two people might be suffering from the same digestive condition, only for one to heal after six months of probiotics, and the other to continue with lingering digestive issues for more than two years of taking probiotics. This variation in timeframe will mostly depend on how well the two individuals make the right dietary and lifestyle changes to support the functions of the probiotics that they are taking.
How Long Might You Need to Keep Taking Probiotics to Resolve Leaky Gut and Associated Conditions?
Various sources will tell you that it takes 4 to 8 weeks to heal leaky gut, but this estimation is more theoretical than practical. In the practical sense, healing the leaky gut will involve regaining the full integrity of the mucosal lining of the intestines. Using probiotics to regain the mucosal permeability of the gut fully will require you anywhere from six months to two years. This is the practical time that will allow the gains from probiotics in healing the leaky gut not to be lost when you stop taking the supplements.
Leaky gut is the mother of various other conditions including skin conditions, cognitive problems, and autoimmune manifestations. Most of the information that you will get about the time it might take you to heal the leaky gut mainly comes from probiotic manufacturers and vendors. Therefore, they might not want to scare you away by telling you will be buying probiotics for more than a year. I am yet to encounter someone who resolved leaky gut problems in two months and went back to living and eating normally after struggling with the condition for years in the first place. If you are one of them, please notify us through the comments below.
Nevertheless, an extreme diet regimen such as Keto diet, combined with probiotics and postbiotics might resolve leaky gut in two months. But you will still need to avoid the initial triggers for another few months so that the condition does not reoccur.
It is also unlikely that probiotics alone will heal your leaky gut without you having to make commensurate changes in lifestyle. The mechanism of this condition makes it hard to “heal” it without withdrawing essential elements of your diet.
The long and short of it is that you do not need to keep taking probiotics forever, but there are no accurate templates for how long it might take individuals to regain their gut microbiota balance and subsequently stop taking probiotics. The decision will ultimately depend on your ability to test the permanence of your probiotic gains. Nevertheless, there is no downside to taking probiotics even for several years. Better yet, adopting a Probiotic Lifestyle might involve you taking probiotic-rich foods as part of your regular diet.
I take probiotics for leaky gut and it took at least a month for me to start noticing some tangible health changes. I also choose probiotics because they are the path of least resistance. I have been on keto diet about four or five different times….and I would come crashing without achieving any lasting benefits. So I figured that the path of least resistance was the best. From my past experiences, it is a long journey from the time it takes you to “start” feeling good after taking probiotics, to the time when you will consider yourself “healed”. For example, people who have gluten intolerances might take years before they nurture the right kind of gut microbiota to help them fully overcome this shortcoming. Most of the pundits who promise you solutions that last weeks, assume probiotics are working in lab-environment where there are no interfering factors. In my experience, all it takes is for me to eat sugar and wheat for only a week in order for me to lose a month’s worth of probiotic gains. For anyone who can combine an extreme diet such as keto with probiotics and postbiotics….the results will come much much faster.