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Home arrow Health arrow Gut Health arrow What Happens When You Stop Taking Probiotics? The Consequences

What Happens When You Stop Taking Probiotics? The Consequences

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
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Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: July 25, 2023
6 min read 1154 Views 0 Comments
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Some people take probiotics daily, while others use them sparingly to boost their gut health. So, what happens when you want to stop taking probiotics? Can you quit your daily supplement without side effects?

what happens when you stop taking probiotics

So, you’ve been taking probiotics, but now you want to stop.

You might wonder if stopping probiotics will cause problems. For instance, when taking antibiotics, you must complete the whole course. Similarly, some medications require you to reduce your dose gradually to prevent withdrawal symptoms and possibly harmful effects.

Does the same practice apply to probiotics?

In this article, we explore the outcome of stopping probiotics. You can also learn about the safety of probiotic use, why you might take them, possible side effects, and how long to continue probiotic therapy.

What Happens When You Stop Taking Probiotics?

What happens when you stop taking probiotics can vary from person to person. The outcome can depend on your reasons for taking probiotics in the first place. Those health benefits you experience will likely stop within a few weeks after you stop taking probiotics.

Your gut bacteria might return to its former state before taking probiotic supplements or consuming probiotic foods. If you had any specific symptoms that led you to begin taking probiotics, such as bloating, indigestion, or diarrhea, these past symptoms would likely return.

When you stop providing your gut with friendly bacteria, it can disrupt your gut microbiota. The bad bacteria might thrive and begin to take over, causing an imbalance that upsets your digestive health. Gas, bloating, constipation, and other digestive woes might occur.

On the other hand, if you don’t notice the benefit of including probiotics in your routine, you might not notice any difference when you stop. Not everyone will have the same experience because everyone has a unique gut flora that responds in its own way.

Although canceling your probiotic routine might have some adverse effects, it doesn’t mean you have to take them forever. Probiotics are considered safe to use and discontinue. You can always talk to your doctor if you want to quit but are worried about how your body will react.

More studies are needed to confirm exactly what happens when an individual no longer consumes probiotics.

Are Probiotics Safe? What You Need to Know

Probiotics appear to be safe for most healthy individuals. They do not tend to cause harm, and many people are willing to try them without fear of consequences. That’s because probiotics are live microorganisms already naturally present in the human body.

Therefore, you are not putting anything unknown or dangerous into your body. Still, you should be mindful of your dose and the type of probiotic strains you decide to take. Probiotics can cause adverse side effects, particularly in the early days you begin taking them.

Keep in mind that just because we consider probiotics safe and beneficial to overall health, they are not a good choice for everyone. Some people need to urge caution more than others. Always talk to your healthcare provider before trying probiotic supplements.

Those with certain health conditions, critical illnesses, or compromised immune systems should only consider probiotics if recommended by their doctor. The potential side effects of probiotic use can be more severe and may increase the risk of bacterial or fungal infections.

Why Take Probiotics?

People take probiotics for various reasons. You might use a probiotic supplement to help restore your gut health following illness or medical treatment. These events can trigger an unhealthy intestinal environment, with a lack of good bacteria and an excess of bad bacteria.

Others wish to take probiotics to ease gastrointestinal symptoms. Certain probiotics are well-known for treating and preventing diarrhea. They can also alleviate other discomforts in the digestive system, like bloating.

Some bacterial strains can relieve symptoms of digestive disorders. For example, studies show the probiotic strain Bacillus coagulans is effective for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by decreasing abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Remember, probiotics may activate gastro problems in the first few days of use, including constipation. Your body just needs time to adapt to the changes in the gut microbiome.

In addition to gut health benefits, probiotic supplementation can boost the immune system and promote a healthy immune response. A strong immune system protects you from infections and illnesses that make you feel unwell.

Other possible benefits of probiotics are:

  • Better skin health
  • Improved mental health
  • Reduced allergies
  • Cardiovascular benefits, including lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels

How do probiotics work?

You might have heard great things about probiotics, but what do they actually do?

Probiotics work by providing your gut with more beneficial bacteria. When bad bacteria increase, it can make you sick and knock your body off-balance. Probiotics create a healthy balance in your body and help control bad bacteria.

These beneficial bacteria contribute to good overall health by supporting your immune system.

Probiotic bacteria are naturally present in your body, so you don’t necessarily need to use probiotic supplementation. You can keep enough healthy bacteria from eating a nutritious diet. Fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and other dietary fiber sources promote a healthy gut.

You can eat probiotic foods if you don’t want to use probiotic supplements. Fermented foods, including kefir, yogurt, kimchi, tempeh, pickles, and kombucha, are all great for your gut flora. Adequate water intake also plays a significant role in shaping a healthy gut microbiome.

So, whether you want to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms, boost your gut health, or better your immune health, probiotic supplements and foods might help.

Possible Side Effects of Probiotics: Can They Harm Your Gut Health?

Most probiotic supplements and foods can cause side effects, especially in the early days. These side effects mainly affect the digestive system. They do not affect everyone and often subside after a few days. Some people might need a few weeks to see the benefits.

If they do not subside after a few weeks, it’s best to stop taking the probiotic and contact your healthcare provider for advice.

The most reported side effects include increased gas, bloating, constipation, and thirst. You can start with a small dose before gradually increasing your intake to minimize the chances of these symptoms. This can also help you establish your minimum effective dose.

However, probiotics are safe and can’t affect your gut health in a negative way.

Should You Use Probiotics Temporarily?

You can use probiotics temporarily if you want to treat or support a temporary issue. For example, you might take probiotics alongside a course of antibiotics to prevent the onset of antibiotic-associated constipation or diarrhea rather than to boost your long-term health.

In that instance, you can take them with your antibiotics, which typically last around 1–2 weeks. However, it’s recommended that you continue probiotic supplements for an additional week or so after completing your antibiotics course.

You will benefit from extended use if you want to consume this good bacteria to nourish your gut and alleviate some digestive issues. Sometimes, a temporary dose is not enough. Many probiotics take 3–4 weeks for you to witness noticeable results.

Either way, you should only take a probiotic supplement according to the label or as advised by your doctor.

Is It Okay to Use Probiotics Long Term?

Yes, long-term use of most probiotics is considered safe. Research suggests that using the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains for extended periods is safe and effective. However, some probiotics are more well-studied than others, so it can depend on the type and quality.

Furthermore, you need to keep taking probiotics for the effects to last. Currently, evidence is limited regarding the optimal dose and duration of probiotics. As the body reacts differently to different strains, finding the right probiotic for you becomes even more important.

Long-term probiotic supplementation requires some essential considerations. You must review what the supplement contains, whether you’re looking for the best probiotic for bloating or the best probiotic for managing symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBS).

For example, the number of billion colony-forming units (CFU) per dose can determine the quality and effectiveness of a particular product.

Just remember, probiotics are known as dietary supplements and not medications. Therefore, the FDA does not monitor or regulate the manufacturing of probiotic supplements. You must do your research and ensure you are only using high-quality products.

A Word From a Nutritionist

Probiotics can easily fit into your lifestyle for better overall health. They promote a healthy gut microbiome by rebalancing the microbes in your gastrointestinal tract. Meanwhile, they have a powerful influence on the immune system by keeping harmful bacteria under control.

You can take probiotics as a supplement in the form of capsules, tablets, powders, and drinks. You can also eat probiotic-rich foods, such as cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, and pickled vegetables, which are packed with these good bacteria.

Depending on your condition, you may want to take probiotics for the foreseeable future. In many cases, long-term use is safe for most healthy adults. You can talk to your doctor about the long-term effects of prolonged probiotic therapy.

If you stop taking them, your gut bacteria will return to normal, i.e., the way it was before you introduced a daily dose of probiotics. You should note, however, that there is a lack of evidence about the exact outcomes of using and discontinuing probiotics.

You can continue to provide your body with good bacteria without supplements. Simply follow a diet rich in fiber to feed your gut, reduce indigestion, and improve bowel movements. Some good examples of fiber foods are broccoli, beans, lentils, pears, apples, oats, and quinoa.

Conclusion

So, what happens when you stop taking probiotics?

Ultimately, stopping probiotics is not harmful, but it will likely stop the health benefits you have been getting. You will need to continue taking probiotics for the benefits to last. If you want to stop, just prepare for the return of your original gut bacteria before supplementing.

While cutting probiotics from your routine is generally safe, you may want to taper off your probiotic supplements to avoid sudden changes in your gut microbiome. You should talk to your doctor before stopping if you have a medical condition.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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