What Happens When You Stop Taking A Probiotic?
Gut health is so important. Full stop. In Chinese medicine and ayurveda, your digestive tract is considered the first warning sign of emerging chronic medical issues. And today, more people are becoming aware that compromised gut health can lead to other long-term medical problems.
In our gut we have bacteria, both good and bad, that live comfortably—and various factors can have an impact on that balance, including stress, medications, and hormonal imbalance. Of course, one of the biggest contributors to gut health is what you consume.
How diet and probiotics affect your gut.
Your microbiome changes daily with the foods you eat, so eating more fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, and kombucha all help add good bacteria to your gut.
Oftentimes, a probiotic supplement is also a good option. As an Integrative and functional medicine physician, I often recommend patients take a probiotic supplement daily to help add good bacteria to the gut and also aid with bloating, gas, and constipation.* Fermented foods are great, but your body often needs more diversity than what you can get from those foods alone.
Within 24 to 72 hours of taking an oral probiotic, your gut starts adapting to the probiotic you are taking. For some people, results are instant; for others, depending on their existing microbiome, they may notice a difference later. However, within two weeks, most people notice some improvement.
So, what happens if you stop?
Your microbiome also changes when you stop taking a probiotic supplement. Within three days, your microbiome can reset to whatever diet you are currently eating.
For example, if you go on vacation and leave your probiotic at home (plus you're drinking more and eating less healthy), your new microbiome will adjust to the not-so-nutritious diet quicker since you're no longer supporting it with a probiotic supplement.
This can be problematic because you lose the protection of the probiotics supplement, and if you're not eating the best foods, it may be causing inflammation in your gut. As a result, this could potentially set you up for GI issues, or even chronic medical problems.
Ideally, you may want to talk to your doctor to see if you should be on a probiotic in the first place. There are different strands of probiotics, so you want to find the right balance for you and what your body needs.
In general, if your doctor recommends a probiotic or you start one on your own, don't abruptly stop it. You could be causing more harm than good.
Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an American Board Family Medicine–certified physician who studied family medicine at Georgia Regents University/Medical College of Georgia. She completed her undergraduate training at the University of Georgia with a bachelor's of science in biology and psychology in 2004 and her doctor of medicine at American University of Antigua College of Medicine in 2010. She completed an integrative medicine fellowship at the University of Arizona with Dr. Andrew Weil. She is also currently working on her functional medicine training with the Institute of Functional Medicine. Her interests include integrative, holistic, and functional medicine; women's health; preventive medicine; international medicine; and health care reform. She's also a certified yoga instructor and Reiki master. She enjoys writing and educating everyone on important health matters.