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What Happens When You Stop Taking Probiotics?
  /   Dr. John Snow

What Happens When You Stop Taking Probiotics?

Probiotic supplements can help to promote digestive regularity, nutrient absorption, and even immune health. Many families incorporate probiotic supplements into their daily routines. Most kids and adults can safely use probiotics daily, and they’ll experience the benefits. But what happens when you stop taking probiotics?

Before you incorporate probiotics into your family’s wellness routine, here’s what you need to know about using probiotics on a daily basis and what to expect if your family stops taking them.

What Are Probiotics?

We often treat “bacteria” like it’s a dirty word. People are mostly focused on eliminating bad bacteria, but not all bacteria need to be eliminated. The human body is full of bacteria, each performing a specific role in our overall health. One of the most important functions of good bacteria is to keep bad bacteria at bay, creating an ideal balance within the body.

Probiotics are good bacteria. They’re the kind of bacteria your gut needs to support healthy digestion. They work within your digestive system to provide additional support to its natural processes. 

How Do Probiotics Work?

The food you eat moves through your digestive system, where it’s broken down in your intestines. Good bacteria ferment the food, helping your body absorb nutrients and eliminate the rest as waste. 

Your gut has an ideal bacteria balance. There will always be some bad bacteria in your gut, simply because of its job. Good bacteria should outnumber the bad bacteria, helping your body process and eliminate everything within your gut. Probiotics supply additional good bacteria to the gut, helping to facilitate smooth digestion.

What Happens When You Take Probiotics?

If your gut is perfectly balanced, you probably won’t see any benefits from taking probiotics. There may be some members of your family whose guts are perfectly healthy with or without probiotics. 

Probiotics are most helpful for people who deal with excessive gas, bloating, abdominal cramping, constipation, or diarrhea on a somewhat regular basis. If your family doctor or pediatrician determines these aren’t symptoms of a serious underlying condition, probiotics can reduce discomfort and support digestive regularity. 

Probiotics can take as long as 3 weeks to significantly affect digestive health. You may notice a decrease in gas or bloating as they begin to work. You may also experience changes in your bathroom habits.

Children ages four and older should have one to two bowel movements a day. Adults should have at least three bowel movements a week, but it’s normal to have as many as three a day. Probiotics may optimize how your body works and help regulate the number of bowel movements your body produces.

Do Probiotics Have Side Effects?

It’s not uncommon to experience mild side effects when you first start using probiotics. Probiotics change the microbiome of your gut. You may experience slight changes like gas or mild diarrhea as they begin to work. These symptoms usually resolve within a few days and won’t return with the continued use of probiotics.

If the symptoms are very uncomfortable or you experience severe diarrhea, stop taking probiotics and call your doctor. Your doctor might recommend fluids and bland foods until your digestive system returns to normal. 

Probiotic side effects can be more severe for people with bowel health issues, digestive health conditions, compromised immune systems, and immune disorders. People who fall into these categories shouldn’t use probiotics unless a doctor recommends them. 

Does My Family Need Probiotics?

You should talk to your family doctor about using probiotic supplements at home. Although most adults and children tolerate probiotics well, there may be some circumstances where they’re inappropriate to use. 

If your child is experiencing digestive upset, it’s best to see your pediatrician as soon as possible. Your pediatrician can rule out any serious conditions that might be causing the issue, including food intolerances. The pediatrician might recommend that you change your child’s diet and lifestyle. Eliminating certain foods, incorporating more whole foods, watching water intake, and getting more exercise are common recommendations to naturally support gut health.

While you’re there, you can ask your pediatrician if probiotic supplements would be a good choice for your child. If your pediatrician thinks probiotics may help, you can begin using them at home.

What Happens When You Stop Taking Probiotics?

The benefits of probiotics are temporary. They take a while to accumulate, and you may need to consistently use probiotics to maintain the benefits. They don’t repair gut health in the long term because, like all things in your digestive system, they eventually need your body. Daily replenishment assures that your gut receives a constant supply of beneficial bacteria.

When you stop taking probiotics, your gut bacterial balance will return to how it was before you started probiotics. This can happen in as little as a week. If you or someone in your family had digestive trouble before taking probiotics, the trouble might come back when probiotic supplementation stops. 

If you want to stop taking probiotics, the best approach is generally to slowly taper them off. Cutting your dose in half for a few weeks will support a slow adjustment process. Pay attention to how you feel on half your dose for two weeks. 

If you have issues with your digestive system after two weeks on half your normal dose of probiotics, resume taking your full dose. If you feel alright and your gut is functioning as expected, cut your dose in half again. After two more weeks, check in with yourself. If you’re doing alright, you can stop taking probiotics. 

Should You Use Probiotics Temporarily?

Doctors and pediatricians sometimes recommend the temporary use of probiotics after an illness that affects the digestive system or after you’ve completed a course of antibiotics.

Antibiotics do a wonderful job of destroying bacteria that lead to infection or serious illness, but they can’t pick and choose. Antibiotics will destroy all bacteria they come into contact with, and this can lead to an imbalance in the body’s bacteria microbiome.

Antibiotic use can sometimes cause an overgrowth of candida yeast, leading to a yeast infection. It can also wipe out the healthy bacteria in the digestive system, leading to constipation or diarrhea. 

If the cause of the imbalance was related strictly to antibiotic use, using probiotics for a month or two can help to fix the imbalance. By then, the side effects of the antibiotics will have completely worn away. 

You might not need to continue taking the probiotics if your digestive health was good before using it. Just pay attention to what happens when probiotics are discontinued. If your body (or your child’s) needs an adjustment period, use the tapering method mentioned above.

Is It Safe To Use Probiotics Long-Term?

As long as someone doesn’t experience side effects from probiotics, they’re safe to use long term. Your family can use probiotics daily for the rest of your lives if you feel that you benefit from them. If the family doctor agrees, you can use them for as long as you’d like.

If someone in your family stops taking probiotics and their digestive upset returns, they can immediately resume taking probiotics. Since the gut is starting from square one, it can take up to 3 weeks for the symptoms to subside again. Continuing to use probiotics regularly may prevent them from returning. 

While waiting for the probiotic benefits to resume, you can supplement your family’s meals with probiotic foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi. No one will say no to a little bit of frozen yogurt for dessert, and the live cultures may help dinner through the digestive process. 

How Much Probiotic Do You Need?

Kids and adults generally benefit from the same amount of probiotics. The suggested amount for children is between 5 and 10 billion colony forming units (CFU), and the suggested amount for adults is 10 to 20 billion CFU. 10 billion CFU is the “Goldilocks” amount for everyone in the household. It’s a good idea to use 10 CFU unless your doctor or your child’s pediatrician suggests a different dosage.

Hiya Was Made for Your Family

Hiya’s children’s chewable probiotic contains 10 billion CFU of probiotics per tablet. There is no sugar, gluten, dairy, or GMOs in Hiya. We’re vegan, eco-friendly, and made in the United States. We’ll ship probiotics directly to your door according to a pediatrician's recommended schedule. We make it easy for all families to support their wellness at home.

 

Sources:

Gut health: prebiotics and probiotics | Mayo Clinic Health System

Q&A: Constipation in children | Mayo Clinic Health System

Probiotics: What is it, Benefits, Side Effects, Food & Types | Cleveland Clinic

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