Published August 26, 2020
A common concern when it comes to probiotics is whether it is okay to consume them daily. While the answer slightly varies by case, the general answer is that they’re safe, even recommended to be taken daily.
Probiotics are natural supplements that are found in a lot of foods. Contrary to medicine, which provides immediate remedies, probiotics support, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Fermented foods have long been a part of many culture’s diets. Many traditional cultures began practicing fermentation because it increased the holding and storing properties of food. The fermentation process paves the way for the growth of these probiotics or good bacteria.
But should probiotics be taken daily?
What we should know before anything is that our bodies comprise of trillions of microbial colonies, which we collectively call our microbiome. Many of these microbes reside in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which makes up our gut microbiome.
Among these microbes are bacteria, which include both good and bad bacteria. If these harmful bacteria outnumber the beneficial ones, this leads to an unwanted imbalance, called dysbiosis. Dysbiosis can lead to several symptoms, including an upset stomach, nausea, and constipation.
This information is relevant because every day, we are one influencing our gut microbiome in one way or another. The most well-known example of something that changes our gut microbiome is antibiotics. Since its inception, antibiotic medication has been a breakthrough in medicine, curing a long list of ailments. But while these antibiotics kill off the harmful bacteria, they indiscriminately eliminate the good ones too. This may lead to an unhealthy imbalance, manifesting itself in antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
However, there are many other ways we mess up our gut microbiome in our daily lives. Here are some of the ways we tip the scales of our microbiome in the wrong direction:
- Not eating a well-balanced diet
- Overconsumption of alcohol
- Lack of regular physical activity
- Smoking cigarettes
- Getting insufficient sleep
- Excessive stress
Because of the complications of our daily lives, we could unknowingly throw off our gut health, which has significant impacts on our immune system and mental health. With all of these factors that take away from our probiotic colonies, this begs the question, “Should we then take probiotics daily to curb these effects?”
Yes and no. The reason why I say that is because scientists still do not fully understand what comprises a “healthy microbiome.” When compared to our genetic makeup, our microbiomes vary on quite a grander scale. So, different probiotic strains may have different effects on people. These effects could range from being overwhelmingly positive to nothing to harmful.
Probiotics may be harmful if you are immunosuppressed, which means you have a weak immune system. These probiotics could cause infections and produce toxic substances in such instances.
However, it’s not uncommon for people to take probiotics daily, especially when probiotic-rich foods are in their diet. When talking about nutrients and their source, the consensus is that well-balanced meals are generally preferred over supplements. Nutrients coming from food is more potent than in supplements and pose a much lower risk of overdose.
What benefits can I get from taking probiotics daily?
When taken independently, probiotics add to the population already residing in your body. These guys can aid in digestion, curbing a lot of diseases like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, the entirety of their effects depends on how you get these sources, which we’ll take about later.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, different probiotic strains have different effects on people. Many of these reside in our guts, but some may fight cavity-causing germs in our mouth and not reach our intestines entirely. Research surrounding probiotics has been generally positive, and here are some diseases probiotics may help fight:
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- vaginal infections
- urinary tract infections
- Clostridium difficile-related diseases
However, you can get numerous other benefits if you’re getting probiotics from food sources too. Some of the popular probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha. Aside from tasting fantastic, these foods are packed with many health benefits.
Yogurt has long been linked with all types of diets. And that isn’t without reason; yogurt is rich in calcium and packed in protein. Some health benefits associated with yogurt are:
- great for bones
- fights against yeast infections
- builds immunity
- faster workout recovery
- controls blood pressure
Next time you think about grabbing a pack of chips, you might want to replace it with a cup of Greek yogurt.
A staple in Korean cuisine, kimchi is their version of sauerkraut, but even better: it’s spicy. Of course, the heat isn’t for everyone, but for those who can take it, you’ll find a great side dish in kimchi. Kimchi is a red, fermented cabbage dish made up of a variety of ingredients, including garlic, salt, carrots, and chili peppers. Aside from containing probiotics, kimchi may also:
- lower cholesterol levels
- improve eyesight (packed with vitamin A)
- lead to clear skin and shiny hair
- aid weight loss
- prevents the occurrence of peptic ulcer
- boosts immunity
It’d be a surprise if you’re only hearing about kombucha right now. It’s one of the fastest-growing products in the US beverage industry. But what is kombucha, really? This drink is the product of fermenting sweetened black tea, resulting in a lovely, fizzy, and tart craft drink. Its flavor profiles have been compared to a more desserty apple cider vinegar. The fermentation allows the good bacteria to grow, making the beverage a “health drink.”
Aside from the probiotics, here are some of the benefits of kombucha:
- rich in antioxidants
- its effects mirror green tea
- reduces heart disease risk
- may regulate blood sugar levels
- may fight against cancer
While the research on probiotics has been promising so far, it remains insufficient. It is insufficient to know what particular strains we should intake and how much of them we should be taking. However, we can come to some conclusions. The first is that it is generally safe to take probiotics daily. Unless you are immunosuppressed or allergic to the food source of probiotics, you should be able to take them on a daily basis. The second conclusion is that it would be best to get your probiotics from food. Not only are probiotics in foods more potent, but you can get so many other benefits from consuming specific foods.
With that, you should take what we say with a grain of salt. The best course of action before making any drastic dietary changes or taking new supplements is to consult your physician.
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About The Author
Terrence Tan Ting is an industrial engineer by profession but a full time writer by passion. He loves to write about a wide range of topics from many different industries thanks to his undying curiosity.