Probiotics FAQs: What You Need to Know

8 MINS READ
Tags:

Share with a friend

Close-up of a happy young woman taking vitamins

Probiotics have been gaining significant attention in recent years because of their potential benefits for gut health and overall well-being. Millions of Canadians experience digestive conditions, which can affect the delicate balance of good bacteria and yeast making up the gut microbiome. [1] And with so much information available, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction.

This blog post aims at providing a comprehensive overview of probiotics, including what they are, how they work, and their potential benefits.

We will also address common questions and concerns surrounding probiotics, such as how to take them, when to take them, and if they are safe for everyone. Whether you’re a beginner looking to understand the basics of probiotics or a seasoned user looking to expand your knowledge, this article has everything you need to know.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are active cultures of beneficial bacteria and yeast. Consuming probiotics regularly and in adequate amounts can help keep the populations of microorganisms making up your gut microbiome healthy and balanced. [2]

Probiotics are found in a selection of fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso, and can also be taken as supplements. [3] Most probiotic strains are similar or supportive to the ones that naturally live in your gut, including the Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Enterococcus, and Saccharomyces strains. [2][4][5]

What are the Benefits of Taking Probiotics?

Healthy gut

Digestive health may be a popular reason for taking probiotics, but it’s not the only benefit. Whether your gut microbiome has been disrupted by stress, illness, or antibiotics, probiotics can help re-establish its healthy balance of bacteria and yeast populations. By supporting a healthy gut microbiome, probiotics can contribute to other aspects of health indirectly, such as:

  • Digestive regularity [5]
  • Vitamin production and nutrient absorption [6]
  • Protection from gut pathogens [6]
  • Mood balance and cognitive function [4]
  • Immunity [4]
  • Gut-barrier function [4]
  • Toxin removal [6]
  • Vaginal and urinary microbiomes [6]

The benefits and effectiveness of probiotics vary depending on the specific strain used and your personal health.

Which Probiotics Should I Take?

Different probiotic strains have their own unique functions in the body. Choosing the “best” option will depend on your specific health, age, gender, and lifestyle. [6][7]

When deciding which probiotic to buy, look for a high-quality probiotic supplement from a reputable brand. Be sure to check the label for:

  • Probiotic strain(s): Choose a strain or combination of strains that have clinically supported health benefits
  • Colony forming units (CFUs): The number of CFUs indicates how many live cells you will get in each dose
  • Evidence of third-party testing for allergens and potency

We offer a range of probiotic supplements, each with its own specific strains and concentrations. Adult 50+ Probiotic is an age-specific formula designed to replenish beneficial gut bacteria in older adults, while Probiotic 10 Billion is a high-potency formula that combines three lactobacilli strains for small intestine care with two bifidobacteria strains for colon care. Women should also consider whether a probiotic can help restore a healthy vaginal microflora, which is dominated by lactobacilli strains. [7]

Additionally, we’ve created a detailed guide to help you navigate the world of probiotics and choose the best supplement for your needs.

How Do Probiotics Work?

Overall, probiotics promote a healthy gut microbiome, which in turn can have a positive impact on your overall health and well-being. Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria strains work alongside other beneficial microorganisms in your gut to:

  • Create a physical barrier in your gut lining that prevents harmful bacteria from attaching to the intestinal wall and causing infection or inflammation [2]
  • Make compounds, such as short-chain fatty acids and metabolites, that help nourish the cells lining the gut and interact with immune system cells [2][4]
  • Release enzymes that help break down food particles and make nutrients easier to digest [2][4]
  • Interact with the nervous system through the gut-brain axis [4]

However, the specific activity of probiotics can vary depending on the strain or combination of strains used, as well as your individual health and microbiome composition.

When is the Best Time to Take Probiotics?

The timing of probiotic consumption can impact their effectiveness. For best results, we recommend taking our probiotic supplements with or at the end of a meal. Taking probiotics with food can help protect the active cells during digestion to ensure maximum potency and efficacy. [8] Where the recommended dosage is more than one capsule per day, it is best to take each dose at different meals.

If you find separating your doses too inconvenient, they can be combined. Additionally, it’s important to note that consistency in taking probiotics is key to reaping their potential benefits. Also, if you are taking an antibiotic, it is recommended to take the probiotic at least 2–3 hours before or after taking your antibiotic.

How Many Doses of Probiotics Should I Take?

The recommended dose of probiotics can vary depending on the specific combination of strains and the number of CFUs delivered in each dose. Dosage can also depend on your age and reason for supplementation.

Our probiotic supplements vary widely in potency, ranging from five to 80 billion active cells per dose. The recommended number of daily doses is provided on the label of each individual product. It is important to follow these instructions carefully, along with any instructions provided by your physician.

Are Probiotics Good for Older Adults?

Yes, probiotics are a wonderful dietary choice for adults 50+! Your gut microbiome continues to evolve throughout your lifespan, with populations of good bacteria declining in older age. These changes affect how your microbiome interacts with your immune system, nervous system, metabolism, and more. [9] By supporting a healthy gut microbiome, probiotics contribute to healthy aging.

During menopause, many women also experience a decline in vaginal populations of lactobacilli, along with hormonal and epithelial changes. [6] Choosing a probiotic formulated specifically for vaginal health will offer targeted support.

What is the Difference Between Probiotics and Prebiotics?

Probiotics and prebiotics are both important for maintaining a healthy digestive system but serve different functions.

While probiotics are the live microorganisms that make up your gut microbiome, prebiotics are the non-digestible carbohydrates that nourish them. [9] Prebiotics essentially work as a fertilizer for your microbiome, helping to increase populations of good bacteria and improve your gut and overall health.

Prebiotics, such as inulin and pectin, can be found in foods like bananas, garlic, onions, and artichokes, or taken as a supplement. [10] Some probiotic supplements include prebiotics to make them more robust. [9]

Are Probiotics Similar to Digestive Enzymes?

While probiotics and digestive enzymes both play a role in digestive health, they are not the same thing. Digestive enzymes are proteins that help break down food into smaller molecules, making it easier for you to absorb its nutrients. Some enzymes are made naturally by your body, while others are found in certain foods, like papaya and pineapple. [11]

Supplementing with digestive enzymes may be helpful for people with enzyme insufficiencies or food sensitivities, or if you are following a high-fat or high-protein diet. [11] They may be used separately or together with probiotics depending on your individual needs.

Do Probiotics Need Refrigeration?

Our probiotic supplements are specially formulated to maintain their potency until after the expiration date without refrigeration! However, if you prefer storing the bottle in the fridge, this will not harm the product.

Using our shelf-stable probiotics is a convenient and reliable way to support a healthy gut microbiome without the hassle of refrigeration.

How Do Probiotics Survive During Digestion?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that need to survive the acidic environment of the stomach in order to reach the intestines, where they can exert their beneficial effects. There are several ways that probiotics can survive during digestion:

  1. Encapsulation: Some probiotic supplements are encapsulated or coated, which can protect the bacteria from stomach acid and digestive enzymes. This can improve their chances of surviving the journey to the intestines.
  2. Strain selection: Different strains of probiotics have different abilities to survive the acidic environment of the stomach. Certain strains, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, have been shown to be more acid-resistant than others.
  3. Prebiotics: Prebiotics are types of dietary fibre that feed and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. When consumed together with probiotics, prebiotics may help improve the survival of the probiotic bacteria by creating a more favourable environment in the gut.
  4. Timing: For best results, we recommend taking our probiotic supplements during or after a meal, when the pH of your stomach is naturally higher, around 5–6. This higher pH provides a more favourable environment for probiotic cells to survive and thrive, ensuring maximum potency and effectiveness.

It’s important to note that not all probiotic supplements are created equal, and the survivability of the bacteria can vary depending on the specific product and its formulation. We take great care in selecting the most robust probiotic strains for our products and only choose those that have shown exceptional viability and resistance to stomach acid under rigorous laboratory testing. Our probiotic supplements do not need enteric coating to be protected during digestion. It’s always best to follow the instructions on the label and consult with a physician before starting a probiotic regimen.

What are the Side Effects of Probiotics?

For most people, probiotics can be used without significant side effects. Some people may experience mild stomach problems, such as gas or bloating, in the first few days of taking probiotics. These symptoms typically go away once your digestive system adjusts to them. [12]

In certain people, probiotics may trigger an allergic reaction or other side effects. If you have a compromised immune system or a serious health condition, we recommend that you consult your physician before taking a probiotic. [13]

Can Probiotics be Taken with Antibiotics?

Women’s Daily Probiotic 25 Billion

Many health experts recommend using probiotics alongside antibiotic treatment to help reduce the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. [14]

We do, however, recommend that you take the probiotic at least 2–3 hours before or after taking your antibiotic to make sure it remains effective.

Are Probiotics Safe During Pregnancy?

Probiotics are generally considered safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding; however, it is important to consult your physician about potential risks before using any form of supplement during this special time. [15]

Can I Open Probiotic Capsules to Mix with Food or Drinks?

Yes, you can open the capsules of our probiotic supplements and mix the powdered fill with cool, moist food or cold beverages. Great options include yogurt, apple sauce, and smoothies. Adding probiotics to food is a great technique if you struggle with swallowing pills; it will not significantly reduce the effectiveness of our probiotics when used right away.

Which Probiotics are Dairy-free?

We offer the following probiotic supplements with no dairy in the formulation, making them suitable for dairy-free diets:

Why Do Probiotic Labels Have a Caution About Immune-compromised Conditions?

Health Canada requires all probiotic products sold in Canada to carry a caution statement advising against use in cases of immune-compromised conditions. This is because the use of probiotics in these individuals may increase the risk of infections or other complications. For this reason, it’s important for individuals with immune-compromised conditions to consult with a physician before starting a probiotic regimen. The physician can help determine if probiotics are safe and appropriate for the individual’s situation and recommend a probiotic product specifically formulated for their needs if necessary.

As a manufacturer of natural health products, we are not permitted to offer medical advice or suggest treatment, so we encourage you to share this information with a physician who can determine if there is any risk for you specifically.

Are There Other Supplements for Digestive Health?

Yes. In addition to probiotics, we offer a range of enzymes, fibre supplements, herbal formulas, and other products to support your digestive health. There are so many options to choose from. Find the perfect combination of products for your personal digestive needs.

Patience Lister, BSc

Patience Lister, BSc

A wellness writer who helps to inspire healthier & more sustainable food and supplement choices.

References :
  1. Canadian Digestive Health Foundation (CDHF). Why should we care about our digestive health? 2023. Available from: https://cdhf.ca/en/why-should-we-care-about-our-digestive-health/ 
  2. Kim SK, Guevarra RB, Kim YT, et al. Role of probiotics in human gut microbiome-associated diseases. J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2019; 29(9):1335-40.
  3. Soemarie YB, Milanda T, Barliana MI. Fermented foods as probiotics: A review. J Adv Pharm Technol Res. 2021; 12(4):335-9.
  4. Wieërs G, Belkhir L, Enaud R, et al. How probiotics affect the microbiota. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2020; 9:454.
  5. Wilkins T, Sequoia J. Probiotics for gastrointestinal conditions: A summary of the evidence. Am Fam Physician. 2017; 96(3):170-8.
  6. Barrea L, Verde L, Auriemma RS, et al. Probiotics and prebiotics: Any role in menopause-related diseases? Curr Nutr Rep. 2023; 12:83-97.
  7. Lloyd-Price J, Abu-Ali G, Huttenhower C. The healthy human microbiome. Genome Med. 2016; 8(1):51.
  8. Tompkins TA, Mainville I, Arcand Y. The impact of meals on a probiotic during transit through a model of the human upper gastrointestinal tract. Benef Microbes. 2011; 2(4):295-303.
  9. Badal VD, Vaccariello ED, Murray ER, et al. The gut microbiome, aging, and longevity: A systematic review. Nutrients. 2020; 12(12):3759.
  10. Davani-Davari D, Negahdaripour M, Karimzadeh I, et al. Prebiotics: Definition, types, sources, mechanisms, and clinical applications. Foods. 2019; 8(3):92.
  11. Ianiro G, Pecere S, Giorgio V, et al. Digestive enzyme supplementation in gastrointestinal diseases. Curr Drug Metab. 2016; 17(2):187-93.
  12. NIH. Probiotics; 2022. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Probiotics-HealthProfessional/#en3
  13. Health Canada. Probiotics; 2023. Available from: https://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=probio
  14. Rodgers B, Kirley K, Mounsey A. PURLs: Prescribing an antibiotic? Pair it with probiotics. J Fam Pract. 2013; 62(3):148-50.
  15. Jarde A, Lewis-Mikhael AM, Moayyedi P, et al. Pregnancy outcomes in women taking probiotics or prebiotics: A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2018; 18:14.
Back to blog
  • Young women preparing and eating morning meal

    Probiotics vs. Digestive Enzymes
    6 MINS

    Digestive enzymes and probiotics both benefit digestion, but their roles differ. Learn about the differences so you can choose what's best for you.

  • Probiotics vs. Prebiotics

    Probiotic and Prebiotic Foods
    5 MINS

    The Benefits of Probiotic Foods Like probiotic supplements, probiotic foods can restore and maintain a good balance of microorganisms in the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts. Probiotic foods can also help...

  • Womangrabbing stomach-probiotic

    How to Choose the Best Probiotic for Gut Health
    4 MINS

    Probiotics help stimulate the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Learn about the strains that are right for you.