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DrSugar Answers: Probiotics?

DrSugar is in the house and answering your questions.

Hey DrSugar,
Lately I've started seeing various dairy products boast of their products' probiotic content, and they say that two weeks of eating their product daily will fix irregularity. What happens after those two weeks? Are you "cured," or do they expect you to continue consuming probiotics daily to stay regular? Is it possible for your GI system to become "dependent" on these probiotics?
— Pro Probiotic?

This is a great question, since probiotic foods and supplements seem to be everywhere. To see what DrSugar has to say on the subject just


Probiotics are living organisms commonly found in dairy products and other foods that can provide potential health benefits. Basically, they are “good bacteria.” Probiotics have been marketed for the treatment of many ailments including diarrhea, constipation, gas, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and more generally inflammation. Some of these claims are supported by high quality scientific evidence and some are not. One study looked at irritable bowel syndrome symptoms over the course of one month in patients treated with probiotics versus placebo. The results showed a remarkable reduction in symptoms in the probiotic group of 42.6 percent. However, the catch was that the placebo group had an equally impressive reduction in symptoms of 42.3 percent. Placebo effect or not, 42 percent is a very impressive statistic so it is probably worth a shot if you’re suffering from irregularity.

Getting to your specific question, there is no evidence to support a long term benefit from probiotics. The stool levels of the probiotics have actually been shown to decrease within a few days after not taking the supplement. Probiotics live harmoniously with the naturally occurring gut flora but do not replace that flora permanently. So you will not be cured and will need to continue to consume probiotics to maintain the desired benefit. Probiotics are different than other medications that treat diarrhea and constipation and have not been shown to cause dependence. One of the great things about probiotics is that there are almost no negative side effects or contraindications. The only exception is if you have severe immunodeficiency from a serious underlying disease; a probiotic supplement could overstimulate the immune system creating more harm than good. More information can be found at the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine.

If you have a question for DrSugar, send me a private message here and I will forward it to the good doctor.

DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

Join The Conversation
Mino Mino 9 years
I take probiotics every day and it really helps me with stomach cramps;-)
Lilybeth84 Lilybeth84 9 years
I've been having stomach issues, and my primary car physician told me to take probiotics in both the powder and the capsule form. She also suggested Nancy's yogurt because it has the highest amount of good bacteria. I haven't done so yet, but I hope it helps!
Spectra Spectra 9 years
If you eat yogurt with live cultures, you don't need special probiotics to get the benefits of good bacteria. Yogurt has Lactobacillus species in it that help keep your normal flora intact. It's also very important to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables because they contain fiber that beneficial bacteria need to live off of. It's called "prebiotic" food...foods that help cultivate good bacteria in your guts.
rebelkate rebelkate 9 years
I love the yogurt shots. I started having one a day when they first came out and I have never felt better. Don't know if it is related but I also have not been sick one day since; no cold, flu, nothing.
Deadly-Lemur Deadly-Lemur 9 years
I tried one of those products (the one you take like a shot) and all it did was make me feel worse. I remember reading somewhere that there are lots of different kinds of probiotic bacteria, and not everyone reacts well to every kind. I figure if I eat decent, unprocessed food & the ocassional fermented food, I'll probably be ok. And FWIW, I took acidophilus for a long time and never noticed any difference from it.
beram1220 beram1220 9 years
I started taking probiotics and it made me horribly sick, like I had the stomach flu. I thought it would go away after a week or so but nope - so I stopped taking them.
nv27 nv27 9 years
This isnt something Id ever really paid any attention to but good to know, thanks for the answer DrSugar.
ilanac13 ilanac13 9 years
thank you for answering this one. i used to wonder about the facts behind the commercials for all the yogurt that would tell you that you'd be healthier and have a better digestive system after 2 weeks of eating the stuff. i'm not one to always believe that - and at least now i get a sense of what my real results might be.
LaurenG22 LaurenG22 9 years
I give my dog FloraJen when he has an upset stomach. It usally cures him right away!
bigestivediscuit bigestivediscuit 9 years
Seriously, I drank a Yakult the other day after feeling like I was about to puke b/c of indigestion and it literally took me 15 minutes to feel absolutely normal again.
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