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Andrey asked...

How long can I take probiotic supplements for?

How long can I take probiotic supplements for? Can I be taking them all the time or is there a limitation of intake? Can I have microbio disbalance if taking probiotic supplements regularly? Is there such a thing as "too much good bacteria"? Thanks!

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The answer

Thank you for contacting health at hand

It is known that Probiotics have been promoted as helping stimulate the growth of ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. There have been claims that they treat a wide range of conditions e.g. Eczema, Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Probiotics appear to be safe for most people who have a healthy immune system. They have not been known to cause any unpleasant side effects.

However according to evidence based data there has been little evidence to back claims of health benefits fully. For example, a recent review compared seven trials to assess health benefits of the digestive system following the use of number of formulations of probiotics (Supplements, biscuits, yoghurt drinks). Essentially, none of the studies provide evidence of the benefits of probiotics on gut bacteria.

The studies however did have limitations, these include:

  • Sample size of participants not large enough (less than 100 subjects)
  • No statistical assessment of difference between placebo and probiotics groups
  • Limited transparency of outcomes and analysis
  • Trials were carried out in healthy adults with no known diagnoses e.g. eczema, IBS or digestive disorders
  • The following sources of probiotics have been tested : capsules, yoghurt drinks and biscuits, it could be that alternative formulations could yield different effectiveness outcomes
  • None of the trials were performed in the UK, therefore, formulations used may differ from those used in UK market
  • Trials tested outcomes following 2 months use, therefore it is unknown, how longer durations of use would affect results.

Those who consider trying probiotics need to be aware of the fact that they are classed as a food product / supplement, not a medicinal product due to how they are regulated. You can’t always be certain that:

  • The product actually contains the bacteria that is stated on the label
  • The product contains enough active substance to have an ‘effect’
  • The bacteria survives long enough to reach your gut

It is worth considering that different types of probiotics have different effects on the body, and due to limited evidence based research, little is known about which types work best. Further good quality and better designed research is needed to conclude the health benefits of short/ long term use of probiotics

Probiotics may not help everyone with certain health conditions e.g. IBS, however, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggests taking them for at least four weeks, at a dose recommended by the manufacturer, to see if they help.

If you have been taking Probiotics and are otherwise a healthy individual, and believe that they appear to alleviate specific symptoms, there is no reason to believe that you must stop taking them.

We hope that is of some assistance to you.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses