Frequently Asked Questions About Probiotics |

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With all the information out there about probiotics, sometimes it’s hard to find the exact answer you are looking for. We have carefully curated the questions here to provide some key insights into probiotics in general and probiotic supplements in particular. These answers are provided by a combination of clinical nutritionists, industry experts and research scientists; all experts in the field of probiotics

Our Experts

James LaValle

R.Ph., C.C.N.

James LaValle, is a nationally recognized clinical pharmacist, author, board certified clinical nutritionist and founder of Metabolic Code Enterprises, Inc.

Sherry Torkos


Sherry Torkos is a pharmacist, author and former fitness instructor with a keen interest in holistic and preventative medicine.

Jane Juarez

Jane Juarez is Research Associate and customer care specialist with over 15 years of experience at Wakunaga of America.

Ask the Expert Videos

Click on the links below to hear our probiotic experts respond to some of the most frequently asked questions about probiotics.

Did You Know That Not All Bacteria In our Bodies Are Bad?
Did You Know That the Levels of Beneficial Bacteria in Your Gut Can Be Disrupted...
Did You Know That Taking a Single Course of Antibiotics Can Disrupt Your Microbiome?
How Do Probiotics Fit Into Your Healthy Life?
Where do Probiotic Supplement Bacteria Come From?
Did You Know the Ratio of Bacteria to DNA in Our Bodies is 10:1?
Did You Know That Over 70 Percent of Your Immune System is in Your Gut?
Did You Know Just How Hard Working Your Beneficial Bacteria Is?
Did You Know That Your Gut Microbiota Contains About 100 Trillion Bacteria?
Where Do Probiotic Supplement Bacteria Come From? Let's Find Out.
When it Comes to CFU Count, More is Not Always Better! Watch and Find Out Why Not
Shelf Stability is SO Important When Choosing a Probiotic! Watch and Find Out Why
Where Do You Start When Choosing a Probiotic Supplement? We Recommend Starting With the Strains!


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How does stress affect our microbiome?

Stress is known to have has far reaching detrimental effects on our health, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, depression, sleeplessness and more. Our gut microflora or microbiome is also susceptible to the effects of stress. Chronic stress triggers the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which leads to inflammation. Stress also causes changes in gut motility, increased gut permeability (leaky gut) and it reduces the number and diversity of the beneficial bacteria in our gut. Not surprisingly, this affects our digestion. Manage stress with exercise, meditation, and deep-breathing. Eat a healthful diet with nutrient dense foods and consider a quality probiotic supplement to help restore balance to your microbiome.


Does our microbiome change as we age?

There are many factors that affect our gut microbiome such as diet, lifestyle, use of medications, stress and even age. As we age there are changes that occur in our gut microbiome that affects our digestion and immunity, increasing our susceptibility to digestive disorders and infections. More specifically there can be changes in the composition and diversity of the gut bacteria. A reduction in the number of beneficial bacteria can throw the delicate balance of beneficial vs. pathogenic (harmful) bacteria out of line, allowing pathogenic bacteria to flourish. This can lead to an increased risk of digestive disorders and infections. A good quality probiotic supplement can help support gut health, relieve accessional digestive discomfort and support immunity. When considering a probiotic supplement it’s important to look for one that is designed for your life stage as potency and formulas will vary depending on whether the supplement is designed for kids, adults or those over age 50.


What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria and/or yeast that naturally live in the body. Probiotic bacteria can also be obtained by eating certain foods, such as yogurt and kefir, or by taking probiotic supplements. Probiotics are often referred to as friendly or good bacteria because they have many beneficial properties. In supplement form probiotics are taken to help maintain or improve our gut microflora, and have been shown in numerous studies to support digestive and immune health. Probiotics aid digestion of nutrients, help with both constipation and diarrhea, they help reduce inflammation, and lessen the symptoms of allergies. Emerging research suggests that probiotics also help with weight management, fighting gum disease and treating depression. That’s a lot of benefits in one supplement. When choosing a probiotic it’s important to choose one that contains clinically studied strains and a product that is stable at room temperature so that refrigeration isn’t required. For optimal benefits, take a probiotic supplement daily.


Are there any foods that contain both prebiotics and probiotics?

Unfortunately, there aren’t any foods that contain both prebiotics and probiotics. However, you can carefully combine foods to get the benefits of both at the same meal. For example, having bananas and yogurt, asparagus and kombucha, or dandelion greens and asparagus will give you both prebiotics and probiotics. The challenge with this strategy is knowing whether you’re getting enough of the right amounts of these beneficial ingredients. A better approach is to choose a “Synbiotic” supplement, such as Kyo-Dophilus Pro + Synbiotic, which contains clinically studied strains of probiotic bacteria called “The Friendly Trio” along with BioEcolians® prebiotics to help feed the good bacteria and maintain healthy bacteria balance in the gut. The convenience of a synbiotic provides the benefits of prebiotic and probiotic together in one supplement.


How do probiotics support the immune system?

Numerous studies have demonstrated that probiotics supplements that include strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, can help support the immune system and reduce the risk of infections, such as respiratory infections (cold, flu) and ear infections. There are several ways in which probiotics do this. They enhance the innate immune system and modulate inflammation; they compete with and block harmful bacteria from adhering to the cells in the digestive tract; they enhance the gut barrier and they stimulate the protective immune responses from the gut. There is also evidence that Lactobacillus probiotics may enhance the protective effects of vaccination against influenza, basically boosting the efficacy of the flu shot.


Do Kyo-Dophilus Probiotics need to be refrigerated?

Because of the unique and proprietary processing methods used in the manufacture of Kyo-Dophilus® Probiotics, the bacteria are stable at room temperature and therefore do not require refrigeration. Kyo-Dophilus selected bacteria strains are dormant and do not become active until they are introduced to moisture, as when consumed with a meal or liquid. Kyo-Dophilus guarantees that “at the time of expiry (or consumption),” you are getting the bacteria count (CFU) that is stated on the label.


Is it normal to have some gas and bloating when first taking probiotics?

While probiotics are generally considered to be safe, you may experience some symptoms such as mild upset stomach, diarrhea or flatulence and bloating, when you first start taking supplements or increase your intake of probiotic-rich foods. These symptoms should pass after a few days once your body gets used to the new regimen.


When and how should I be taking probiotics?

It’s easy to assume that you only need to take probiotics when you’re feeling out of balance (i.e. when you’re overly stressed, you’ve just finished a round of antibiotics or you’re feeling run down). However, we recommend daily probiotic and prebiotic supplementation (and loading up on probiotic-rich foods) in order to keep your gut bacteria healthy ahead of any issues that arise and to support long-term health overall. Want to get the most out of your supplement? Some research shows that probiotic survival was best when taken 30 minutes before or with foods or beverages that had fat content. The time of day isn’t as relevant as making sure you’re consuming your probiotic supplement with food.


Are probiotics safe for kids?

Check the product and its strains for specifics but generally speaking, yes!  Probiotics are safe, effective and often recommended for children due to their role in supporting the immune system, addressing skin issues and easing digestive woes associated with antibiotic usage.


Should I be taking a probiotic when I’m taking an antibiotic?

Taking a probiotic with an antibiotic has become so mainstream that it was published as a recommendation for practitioners in the Journal of Family Practice. The reason is rather intuitive: Antibiotics kill off the bad bacteria, but also much of the gut’s good bacteria in the process. This can lead to an off-kilter digestive tract, making probiotics highly beneficial in addressing antibiotic tummy-related troubles. However, we also recommend being consistent with your probiotic supplementation rather than just doing antibiotic "damage control."


Do I need probiotic supplements if I eat yogurt?

Yogurt may be a healthy snack choice but, bacteria-wise, it doesn’t necessarily measure up to a comprehensive probiotic supplement. First, yogurt may not be as probiotic-rich as you think. Many yogurts on supermarket shelves are heat-treated (pasteurized) to give the products a longer shelf life which, unfortunately, kills off the live cultures. Plus, while most yogurt contains just three strains of probiotics, many supplements offer more. Finally, foods just don’t seem to have the amount of probiotics necessary to provide the benefits that supplementation can.


Do I need both a probiotic and a prebiotic? How do I take them?

Yes. Supplementing with probiotics will re-introduce bacteria into the gut. However, this effort is futile without prebiotics, which feed the bacteria and ensure that they flourish. If you are new to probiotics, try supplementing every day to establish a healthy colony. But once it’s up and running, supplementing with prebiotics is critical to keeping bacteria healthy over time. Maintain health by supplementing with both prebiotics and probiotics regularly in order to keep the existing bacteria population intact.


Do you have to refrigerate probiotic supplements?

Not necessarily. Some probiotics are shelf stable and do not need to be refrigerated. But many probiotics do require refrigeration. What’s important to understand is that refrigeration doesn’t equal efficacy. If the label indicates CFU counts "at the time of manufacture," it means that the amount of live bacteria the product contained when it was bottled is not guaranteed at the time you consume it. Look for products that guarantee CFU counts through expiration, instead, regardless of whether they need refrigeration.


How many CFU do I need in my probiotics?

Typical dosages vary based on the product, but common dosages range from 1 to 10 billion CFUs per day for children and from 3 to 20 billion CFUs per day for adults.


What can probiotics do for your health?

Your gut comprises about 70% of your immune system and is critical for brain function, to balance body chemistry, and for converting nutrients into a usable form the body can absorb. When your microflora (gut bacteria) is imbalanced, your health suffers. Probiotics are important for replenishing and restoring microfloral balance. Probiotics are live microorganisms that are believed to be good for overall health, and specifically for digestive health. To help alleviate the symptoms and conditions that harmful bacteria can cause, we need to maintain our beneficial bacteria. Known as ‘friendly’ or beneficial bacteria, probiotics produce a variety of compounds, including natural lactic acids that help to inhibit the growth of the harmful bacteria, thereby preventing them from gaining a foothold and causing illness. Probiotics can be found naturally in some foods, in fermented drinks, and in supplements.


What does the “CFU” number mean?

Most supplements are measured in milligrams. Probiotics, on the other hand, are measured in CFUs (Colony Forming Units). This refers to the amount of viable, live bacteria that are capable of dividing and forming colonies. CFU counts are generally stated in billions.


What foods are naturally probiotic-rich?

Thanks for asking Paula! There are a number of foods that naturally contain probiotics. Just keep in mind that probiotics must be alive when ingested to be of benefit. Often, the food production process destroys living bacteria. If a product is available on a shelf and is not refrigerated, it may not contain live and active probiotics. Look for foods that have minimal artificial sweeteners, sugars, and other artificial flavorings.  Here is a list of some foods to add to your diet to support a healthy microbiome. Yogurt  (but watch out for high sugar content), sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, miso, kombucha, buttermilk, natto, pickles and aged cheeses such as gouda, mozzarella, cheddar and cottage cheese. And you can consider adding bananas for their ‘pre-biotic’ benefits to help feed your beneficial bacteria.


Can probiotics improve your mood or reduce anxiety?

It is true that probiotics (the beneficial bacteria in our gut) produce important substances, including neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Serotonin is often referred to as the happy hormone because it is involved in regulating our mood. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and anxiety. For that reason, drugs and products that work to elevate serotonin levels are found to be helpful in treating these conditions. There is mounting research to suggest that probiotics may play a role in improving mood. More research is need to confirm whether certain probiotics can be beneficial in treating depression, but for now it appears that this may be one side benefit of taking probiotics.


How long does it take before I feel the effects of taking a new probiotic?

Generally speaking, most people will notice the digestive benefits within the first month of taking a probiotic. You may notice more regular bowel movements, less gas and bloating and even a better sense of well-being. If you are taking a probiotic to help alleviate antibiotic-associated diarrhea or for travelers diarrhea you likely will notice the benefits within the first few days. For those taking probiotics to help with Crohn’s, Colitis or IBS symptoms, be patient and allow at least 3 to 4 weeks to gauge the benefits. Probiotics can also support the health of the immune system and this effect could be noticed within a few months with less respiratory infections during the cold and flu season. Consistency matters so take your probiotics daily to achieve the best results.


Do probiotics boost the immune system?

Probiotics don’t boost the immune system per se; rather they support and modulate various aspects of immunity to achieve balance. Research suggests that probiotic supplements can help reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections, such as cold and flu. It is best to take a probiotic on a daily basis to achieve the best results.


Can I take probiotics along with my vitamins and other supplements?

Yes, probiotics can be taken along with other supplements. They are also safe to take with most medications. If you are taking antibiotics, separate the probiotics by at least 2 hours.


I have gas and bloating after meals. Should I take a digestive enzyme, a probiotic or both?

They both offer benefits for helping alleviate gas and bloating, but they differ in how they work to support digestion. Digestive enzymes help the body break down the main components of food, namely carbohydrates, protein and fat so that the nutrients can be absorbed. Digestive enzymes are produced by various organs in our body and also obtained from food. If there is inadequate digestive enzymes available, food does not get properly broken down and the undigested food particles can ferment in the colon and cause gas and bloating. A good quality digestive enzyme can assist the body in breaking down food. Probiotics provide beneficial bacteria that support our microbiome and they also play a role in supporting digestion and nutrient absorption. There are supplements that combine both digestive enzymes and probiotics in one formula.


What type of probiotic can help address antibiotic associated diarrhea?

Diarrhea is one of the most common side effects of taking antibiotics. It occurs because the antibiotics not only destroy the harmful or pathogenic bacteria but also the good/beneficial bacteria. Probiotics help alleviate diarrhea by replenishing the beneficial bacteria that is normally in the gut. Look for a probiotic that has clinically studied strains and provides a higher level of bacteria, such as 50 Billion CFUs.


Can probiotics or prebiotics help with weight management?

Yes, both probiotics and prebiotics have been shown in recent research to help support weight management. This adds to the growing list of health benefits that both pre- and probiotics offer. Several strains of probiotics in both the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium family have been shown to help reduce belly fat and aid weight management. Lactobacillus gasseri appears to be one of the most effective. Research suggests that probiotics work by promoting the release of appetite-reducing hormones, helping reduce the number of calories you absorb from food, as well as potentially reducing inflammation, which can drive obesity. Prebiotics are dietary fibers that nourish probiotics. They are found to some extent in high fiber foods like asparagus, bananas, green onions, soybeans and artichokes, however most people don’t eat enough of these foods consistently to realize their benefits. Studies have found that prebiotic fibers can support weight management by promoting satiety (improving the feeling of fullness). Prebioitcs also support bowel regularity and improve the bioavailability of minerals. Taking a prebiotic and probiotic combination supplement, such as the Pro+ Synbiotic is a good way to get the benefits for weight management as well as gut and immune health.


Is it safe to take probiotics long term?

To get the most benefits from your probiotic supplements, it's best to take them on a regular daily basis. The benefits of probiotic supplements last while they are taken and for a short period of time after they are stopped. There does not appear to be any concerns in taking them long-term and in fact the benefits appear to be greater when they are taken for several months. If you are suffering with a medical condition it is best to consult with your health care provide for individual advice. When choosing a supplement, look for a product that contains clinically studied strains with guaranteed potency until expiry.


What are Synbiotics?

Synbiotics are supplements that combine both probiotics and probiotics. The term synbiotic refers to the SYNergy that these supplements have when taken together. Prebiotics provide fiber that nourishes or feeds the probiotics. They also help improve the survival of the probiotics as they pass through the digestive tract. Together prebiotics and probiotics work to support many aspects of health including digestion and immunity.


What are the health benefits of taking a Synbiotic?

Supplements that contain both prebiotics and probiotics offer a range of health benefits. They can help improve digestion, nutrient absorption, and bowel regularity and support immune health. Recent research also suggests this combination can help with weight management, reducing appetite and controlling inflammation. Taking a synbiotic supplement is a convenient way to get the benefits of both of these ingredients in one product.


Can I get prebiotics in my diet?

Prebiotics are naturally present in foods such as bananas, asparagus, dandelion greens, garlic and onions. It may be challenging to get enough of these foods on a regular basis and this is where supplements can help. Taking a prebiotic with your probiotic supplement can ensure that you are getting enough of these important fibers. This combination of a prebiotic and probiotic is referred to as a Synbiotic supplement. It’s a smart way to boost the benefits of your probiotic.