Probiotic FAQ: Part 1
Hope you all had a great weekend! Our family was visiting my husband’s parents. On Friday my daughter and I had appointments for acupressure allergy treatments which went very well. I’ve been struggling with a lot of sinus headaches recently and I’m hopefully that these will help those calm down. One of the foods I was reacting to was chocolate 😔, but thankfully the treatment should allow me to put it back in my diet occasionally. 😊 I think I’m going to try to abstain for a little while before re-introducing. Our daughter is doing so well from where she was as a baby, hopefully these will help her be able to continue to expand her food choices. We had a lot of success with them in the past and calming down her eczema.
We enjoyed a relaxing Saturday with his family and today are celebrating his mom’s birthday before we head home. Hopefully this week we also get to meet our newest nephew who is due to arrive any day now!
Probiotics are a hot topic, and I don’t have all the answers but this post and my post next week will help address some of the most common questions I receive about them. We aren’t at a place yet where we can say you have this issue and you need this particular product 100%, but we have good data and is helping us guide recommendations. The microbiome is complex and everyone’s is different which makes it challenging. A lot of probiotic treatment is trial and error but sometimes what we try the first few times works! If you missed the first post Probiotic 101, make sure to check it out. As with the last post, two of my interns Vineeta Rao and Ruth Gunti worked hard on this! Thank you!
Hope you enjoy this first FAQ and stay tuned for more next week.
If I have a milk or other food allergy, can I take probiotics?
Yes. A randomized controlled-trial found that supplementation with a probiotic helped infants allergic to cow’s milk develop a tolerance at a higher rate.1 Severe milk allergy patients should avoid probiotics made from milk. Dairy free probiotics are recommended for those with severe intolerance or allergy, where as dairy free would not be necessary for lactose intolerant patients. Additionally, a recent study that followed peanut allergic children found that a combination of probiotics (Lactobacillus rhamnosus) and peanut oral immunotherapy produced a sustained non-allergic response in children even four years after initial treatment indicating potential future use of probiotics in immunotherapy for the treatment of food allergies.2
If I have lactose intolerance, can I take probiotics?
Yes. In fact, probiotics are being used to help those with lactose intolerance. In a review article examining the relationship between probiotics and their use in those with lactose intolerance it was found that there was an overall positive relationship. The species of bacteria that were most common among the reviews studied were lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus bulgaricus, and streptococcus thermophilus all of which demonstrated some level activity. 3
The World Gastroenterology Organisation Global Guidelines on probiotics states that “Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus improve lactose digestion and reduce symptoms related to lactose intolerance.”3
Should I take my probiotic with or without food?
A study looking at four species of bacteria found that survival through the GI tract was most preserved when given with a meal or 30 minutes before the meal.4 This may be due to the changes in acidity of the stomach during the fed and fasting states. During the fasting state, the stomach environment is more acidic, making it is more difficult for the bacteria to survive. Upon eating, however, the stomach environment becomes less acidic, thus providing a more favorable environment for bacteria to thrive. 4,5 In this study, probiotic survival was greater when taken with foods high fat content than with carbohydrates, apple juice, or water alone. Fat content appears to help “coat” the bacteria to protect against stomach acid. Thus, it is best to take your probiotic with a higher fat meal or snack to help the bacteria survive transit through the acidic stomach environment.4
What is the safety profile of probiotics?
Studies have found that probiotics have minimal to no side effects. Side effects that are observed are most commonly bloating and flatulence, but the symptoms are mild and subside with continued use of the probiotic. Constipation and increased thirst have also been rarely associated with the species S. boulardii.6 The extreme side effects that have been found are in patients whose immune system have already been compromised.
Why might my probiotic cause diarrhea or constipation?
Diarrhea or constipation can occur with probiotics especially at the start of therapy due to multiple factors. Likely, it depends on the degree to which the gut is imbalanced to begin with, and as the gut is being rebalanced, bacteria can release by-products through fermentation that influence how fast the bowels move. Also, since the brain and gut appear to influence each other, lifestyle factors such as stress may influence the gut’s movement. While we do not know how each of these factors specifically affect the gut, there are multiple neurological influences by different types of bacteria which may contribute to the speed in which transit happens.7
That is a wrap for today’s FAQ.. more to come next week! Next week I will address probiotics with antibiotics, histamine intolerance, and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). Don’t miss it! If you are looking for a quality probiotic feel free to check out my FullScript Store or send me an email if you need help!
- Probiotic formula reverses cow’s milk allergies by changing gut bacteria of infants. The University of Chicago Medicine. https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/biological-sciences-articles/probiotic-formula-reverses-cows-milk-allergies-by-changing-gut-bacteria-of-infants. Updated September 22, 2015. Accessed February 9, 2019.
- Hsiao KC, Ponsonby AL, Axelrad C, Pitkin S, Tang MLK. Long-term clinical and immunological effects of probiotic and peanut oral immunotherapy after treatment cessation: 4-year follow-up of a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet Child Adolesc Health. 2017;1(2):97-105.
- Oak SJ, Jha R. The effects of probiotics in lactose intolerance: A systematic review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2018;9:1-9.
- 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.
- Zembroski R. Why taking probiotics on an empty stomach is a bad idea. REBUILD. https://www.drzembroski.com/why-taking-probiotics-on-an-empty-stomach-is-a-bad-idea/. Accessed February 9, 2019.
- Williams NT. Probiotics. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2010;67(6):449-58.
- Conlon MA, Bird AR. The impact of diet and lifestyle on gut microbiota and human health. Nutrients. 2014;7(1):17-44.