Should You Take A Break From Probiotics? (SEE HOW LONG)


should you take a break from probiotics

Probiotics have long been known to be beneficial to our bodies, yet some people have also experienced side effects. Some have even reportedly experienced heart palpitations and other effects after taking probiotic supplements!

Does that mean that you should probably take a break from probiotics?

Different people can have varied reactions to probiotics, but the good news is that most people only experience the good effects of probiotics, with minimal or no side effects at all. Regular intake of probiotics is even considered a good thing and no break is needed.

However, if you’re among those who experienced side effects like rashes and itches, palpitations, or stomach pain, it might be best to take a break from probiotics.

Why do we experience these side effects, and is it really a good idea to take a break from probiotics instead of finding another solution?

Should You Take A Break From Probiotics?

For most people, my answer would be “No, don’t take a break from probiotics.” Although studies and data about probiotic safety and effectiveness are limited, there are still more studies that show probiotics to be safe and useful than reports or research about their side effects.

For example, a 2019 study published in The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology pointed out that 52 studies showed the positive effects of probiotics on several medical conditions.

Surely, these many studies about the positive benefits of regular probiotic use can’t be wrong, no?

Well, that still depends on you.

While most people only have good experiences with probiotics, it’s also true that others had it bad.

Because the effects vary among users, here’s the best way I can answer your question:

  • Don’t stop taking probiotics if you don’t experience any side effects
  • Immediately stop taking probiotics if you experience side effects, especially serious symptoms linked to allergies, eye issues, or heart problems

It’s also a good idea to check with your doctor if you experience any of these side effects or issues after taking probiotics.

If you need to take time off probiotics, you might be curious when you can take them again. Let’s dive into that below.

How Long Should You Take A Break From Probiotics?

probiotics tablet image

If you experience any of the side effects I mentioned above, it might be a good idea to stop taking probiotics for one week or two. This will give you an idea about the possible involvement of probiotics in the symptoms or side effects you’re experiencing.

If your symptoms improve, then it might be a good idea to stay away from probiotics.

For most people, the benefits of probiotics far outweigh their risks. So, regular probiotic intake may be advisable instead of taking a break from them.

After all, many users have reported experiencing discomfort for the first few weeks, but the symptoms improved after a few more weeks of regular, continued probiotic intake.

Still, it’s important to talk to your doctor about returning to probiotic use, proper dosage, the best strains to take, and the intake duration to be safe.

Let’s discuss some of the reasons why your doctor might recommend a break from probiotic intake below.

Why Should You Take a Break From Probiotics?

  • Reason #1. Probiotic supplements can cause side effects.

Some probiotic users have actually reported experiencing a wide range of side effects, including stomach pain, itches and rashes, and eye problems such as uveitis.

Bloating and gas are also reported among their most common side effects, but these are usually temporary and simply go away after a few days of continued probiotic intake.

  • Reason #2: Your gut is OK.

If your gut is OK, then there’s no need to continue taking probiotics because you might see them as an added cost that doesn’t benefit you at all.

Remember, though, that there’s no way of telling if your gut is absolutely OK. Also, the reason why you feel that it’s alright is that you’ve been benefiting from your regular probiotic intake.

  • Reason #3: It’s a good way to save money.

You know, probiotics supplements could be expensive for most people. In this regard, you can actually get similar gut microbes from fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut as those found in probiotic supplements.

However, since these supplement companies can’t patent these common foods or regularly “harvest” their microbes from these food products, they need to come up with other ways to make probiotics. One way to do that is to develop and produce proprietary strains.

Alternative health therapies like probiotic intake can add up to the costs of your medical treatment. 

Worse, they aren’t covered by insurance.

So, if you feel that you’re getting enough gut microbes from other sources, you can save some money by taking a break from probiotics.

  • Reason #4: You’re concerned about dependency and probiotic bacteria safety.

Probiotic supplementation remains a debated subject because studies haven’t fully established that they’re 100% effective and safe. Also, probiotic supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA.

Some people are also worried that, aside from possible issues in probiotic safety, these supplements might eventually lead to dependency. 

If you have any of these concerns, talk to your doctor so they can evaluate your situation and determine the best course of action to take. They might switch you to another brand or product to suit your individual needs.

  • Reason #5: The microbes can evolve in your gut.

Yes, probiotics contain live strains of gut-friendly microbes, particularly bacteria and some yeasts. 

What’s a bit scary to think about is that these microorganisms could actually evolve inside our gut and turn into something that could harm us, the host. According to Medical News Today, a study involving probiotics and mice models showed that bacteria can harm the host under certain conditions. 

These evolved bacteria could eat the protective lining in our intestine, causing problems like IBS or other gut-related conditions.

Does that mean we really should take a break from probiotics before that situation happens to us? Well, that might actually be a rare occurrence.

Let’s take a look in the next section at some reasons why it’s still a good idea to continue taking probiotic supplements.

Why You Shouldn’t Take a Break From Probiotics

  • Reason #1: They’re good for your health (and even for your kids’ health).

Based on a meta-analysis of the 52 studies mentioned above (in the 2019 study), probiotics might help prevent or treat:

  • Infant colic
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis (a serious gastrointestinal problem that causes premature babies’ inflamed intestinal tissues to die)
  • Constipation
  • Acute infectious diarrhea
  • Antibiotic-associated diarrhea
  • IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Acute respiratory tract infections

These are just some of the positive effects reported with probiotic use. 

Other studies even showed that probiotics have positive effects on our eyes, respiratory system, immune system, and overall health. They might even help improve your sleep quality.

In a 2018 review of 384 clinical trials, including 57 studies involving immunocompromised individuals, no serious safety issues were reported with probiotic use.

If they don’t harm immunocompromised individuals, then my mind is certainly rested because I’m assured that these probiotics might also be good for me.

Still, this brings the next question to mind:

Can Long-Term Use Of Probiotics Be Harmful?

There’s a lot that still remains unknown about probiotics. The good news is that they’re generally considered safe even for long-term use.

A 2014 study published in the BioMed Research International journal showed that long-term probiotics use (nine months) is safe, well accepted, and could be an effective prophylaxis (prevention) option against pouchitis. This condition involves the pouch created during surgery for certain gut conditions, including ulcerative colitis.

The study used the following strains for the probiotic treatment:

  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus

But what if I stop taking probiotics? Is that going to be harmful to my body?

What Happens When You Stop Probiotics?

For most people, quitting their probiotic intake won’t lead to any issues. They can start, quit, or resume intake anytime they want to. Withdrawal symptoms, something experienced with drugs or medications that lead to dependency, are also unlikely to happen.

However, a few people might experience dysbiosis, particularly if you abruptly stop taking the supplements.

This disruption of the gut’s physical function and microbial balance can lead to discomfort. 

Some people might even develop diseases because the number of pathogenic (bad) bacteria is now much more than the good ones in your gut, according to a 2016 study in Scientific Reports.

Does that mean it might be better to just rotate the probiotics you take? Let me explain that below.

How Often Should You Rotate Probiotics?

There are some conflicting answers to this question.

Let’s take a look at each one:

Regularly Rotate (Every 30 to 90 Days)

Le’Nise Brothers, a nutritionist and the author of You Can Have a Better Period, tells Stylist that rotating probiotics makes sense because different strains have different effects on different people.

Experimenting with probiotics might help you find the best strain suited for you and your needs.

Rotating probiotics every 30 to 90 days can provide your gut with new strains, adding to the existing colonies. Doing this can help ensure that you have a wider diversity of gut bacteria that might be suitable for different needs and purposes.

Based on what I’ve learned about the effectiveness of different probiotics against parasites, I would agree with this recommendation.

After all, several studies have shown that some strains of probiotics can be effective for one form or type of parasite, yet they might not work for other types.

No Need To Rotate

Probiotics brand Optibac’s resident microbiologist, Dr. Kate Stephens, disagrees with the probiotic rotation. She explains on Stylist that although rotation can boost diversity, she doesn’t think this might be that effective.

Dr. Stephens explained that in clinical trials, participants usually take the same probiotic supplement for a given duration, then the parameters or outcomes are measured and compared with a control or placebo.

She believes that this should also be the way that we take probiotics.

Alternating probiotics every day or every other day could make it difficult to determine whether they’re beneficial or not. She also points out that there isn’t enough evidence to show the effectiveness of alternating probiotics every few months or so.

Her explanation also makes sense.

So, which advice should you take?

The Right Probiotic Works

Whether you’re taking the rotation advice or choosing to stick with one for the long term, what’s really important is finding the right probiotic that works for you.

And while there isn’t one perfect probiotic that works for everyone, the right one can provide you with the best strains you need.

Dr. Stephens further shares on Stylist the important probiotic strains to check on the probiotic supplements you’re trying to consider for a wide range of benefits:

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG – among the most studied probiotic strains shown to support immunity and gut health
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus – can help with bloating and abdominal cramping
  • Lactobacillus paracasei – can help reduce the duration of illnesses and boost immune response
  • Bifidobacterium lactis – might help boost the good bacteria in your gut
  • Saccharomyces boulardii – among the most studied probiotic for diarrhea that could reduce the growth of pathogenic (harmful) bacteria in your gut
  • Bacillus coagulans – another important bacteria that can help support immune and gut health

Based on these recommended probiotic strains, which probiotic supplements should you take? Let me share my recommendations below.

Probiotic Supplements to Try

There are lots of probiotic supplements on the market. Finding the most suitable one for you might take time, but here are my recommendations:

  • YourBiology Gut+
  • Bauer Nutrition Biotics 8

What do these brands offer and which one should you get? Take a look at the benefits each one can provide to help you decide.

YourBiology Gut+

YourBiology Gut+ (previously Probiology) contains 40 billion CFUs (colony forming units) of the following gut bacteria strains:

  • Bifidobacterium lactis
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus paracasei
  • Lactobacillus plantarum

The first three are among the probiotic strains recommended by Dr. Stephens, as discussed above.

Yourbiology probiotics for women

As an added bonus, these shelf-stable probiotics are delivered using a patented technology that ensures the live bacteria can survive your stomach acids to reach the small intestines where they’re supposed to thrive and do their thing.

Bauer Nutrition Biotics 8

Bauer Nutrition Biotics 8, another shelf-stable probiotic, contains 20 billion CFUs of the following strains:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus paracasei
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Saccharomyces boulardii
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium breve
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus fermentum

The first four probiotic strains are among those that Dr. Stephens listed. 

What’s great about having more strains, 10 in total, is that you don’t even have to worry about rotation because you already get a wide range of probiotics that could work in your body in different ways.

The only downside to this probiotic is that it’s formulated for men.

Conclusion

Probiotics are good for our health, not just gut health but also for our immune system and overall body health.

Don’t take a break from probiotics because their benefits far outweigh the rare risks. However, if you do experience these rare but serious side effects, such as palpitations and eye problems, then it’s best to take a break and immediately consult your doctor.

Brenda L. Mosley

Hi, Brenda here, I have been a health advocate and writer with 10 years of experience in health and nutrition. I also hold a BS in Nutrition Science and am based in Massachusetts with my family. My mission is to impact the world using my health and nutrition experience by sharing, writing, and educating on the internet - and offline too when possible. When I'm not busy writing or engaging in health forums and groups - you'll find me spending time with my 3 kids, eating, or reading literary fiction books.

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