Nutrition

How Do You Know Probiotics Are Working?

5 min read
Here are the signs to look for.
Here are the signs to look for.

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FYI: Timing is everything. Here’s when some experts say to take a probiotic supplement.

Ever wondered if your probiotics are working? When it comes to supplementation of any kind, it can be hard not to equate efficacy with some sort of felt sensation—or a visible, specific result. In today’s hyper-paced, go-go-go world, the notion that you need to see—or feel—the effects of a formula in order for it to be doing its job is certainly tempting. But as the age-old adage goes, judging a book by its cover—or in this case, judging a supplement purely by its physical indicators—isn’t really the best approach.*

That’s not to say that physical sensations don’t provide valuable insight; they certainly can. But when assessing how well a supplement performs in the body, there’s much more to consider, especially when it comes to gut support. Here, we cover key things to know, from what to expect from the adjustment period to why daily consumption is so important.*

What are probiotics and why take them?

The World Health Organization defines probiotics—also known as good bacteria, healthy bacteria, or beneficial bacteria—as “live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, provide a health benefit to the person taking them.” There are many benefits of probiotics: Among other things, they work to support gut health, digestive health, and immune health.* (1,2,3)

Each of us has a distinctive gut microbiome shaped by our environment, diet, and lifestyle—and imbalances in our gut microbiota can be caused by any number of things, from poor diet, stress, travel, and the use of certain medications to various other lifestyle and environmental factors. (It houses trillions of microbial cells, so it’s no wonder there’s so much going on in there.) (1,2,3)

That’s why ingested live probiotics can be so beneficial—to help support microbiome balance.* (1,2,4,5)

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New to probiotics? There may be an adjustment period

Emphasis on “may”—because each of our bodies are so different, it’s impossible to say for sure who will feel what. Some people experience an adjustment period with a new probiotic (regardless of whether they’re new to gut health supplements), whereas others don’t feel a thing.*

Here’s what we can say: If you’re part of the former adjustment period camp, it’s completely normal and to be expected. When first starting a regimen, the gut flora may need a little time to adapt—so some people may experience side effects such as minor digestive discomfort, gas, bloating, or stomach rumbling. The good news? These “symptoms” are temporary and should subside with ongoing use.*

When to expect feeling effects

Again, everybody is different: Some people may feel effects within two to four weeks of consistent use, while others may not notice anything at all. The principal takeaway here is that just because you do not feel it, does not mean it is not working.*

Why some feel effects (and others don’t)

The body may experience a temporary period of acclimation with any new supplement (or even dietary change)—and probiotic bacteria are no different. The changes happening in the gut microbiome, along with the new bacteria being introduced, may lead to minor GI discomforts. While this discomfort typically subsides within a few days, if symptoms persist longer than two weeks, it never hurts to consult a trusted healthcare professional.*

What’s happening to the body when feeling effects?

If you’re feeling physical sensations like the ones mentioned earlier (minor gas, bloating, stomach rumbling), not to worry. This is simply the body changing and acclimating to the introduction of ingredients—in the case of Synbiotic+, our prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotic.*

Essential reading → Postbiotics: A Missing Key to Gut Health Support?

Okay, the body has acclimated. Now what?

Like any dietary change, with constant use, the body (and digestive system) will begin to adapt to the introduction of daily probiotics—or in our case, prebiotics, probiotics, and a postbiotic. Since probiotics are only able to stay in the gut for a few days or weeks at a time, everyday use helps support the benefits of the probiotic strains. In other words, when it comes to gut support supplements (like Synbiotic+), daily use is key for helping support a balanced gut microbiome.*

Oh, and something else to note regarding the strains of bacteria in our formula: Both of the probiotic strains—Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG (LGG®) and Bifidobacterium lactis, BB-12® (BB-12®)—are supported by human clinical studies.*

Why in-vitro studies are important

As obvious as this might seem, investing in a high-quality probiotic can help alleviate some of the concern around whether or not a probiotic is working. Here’s the short of it: Bacteria are living things—which means they’re fragile, and sensitive to environmental factors like heat and moisture. That’s why studies play such an important role, particularly when it comes to probiotic products meant to be consumed (versus applied topically)—you’ll want to shop from brands that go above and beyond to help ensure the primary ingredients can make it to their intended destinations in viable forms.*

With that in mind, we performed two in-vitro studies to assess the performance and behavior of Synbiotic+. As for the results? We’re thrilled. In a model of the human upper gastrointestinal tract (part one of our study), the majority of probiotics survived transit through the stomach and small intestine, to be delivered to the colon in a viable form. And in part two of our study, modeling the human colon, Synbiotic+ was shown to significantly increase the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, microbial diversity, and production of butyrate—the primary source of energy for the cells that line the colon. In other words, you can trust that Synbiotic+ is supported by science, at every step of the way.*

References:

  1. Guarner F, Sanders ME, Eliakim R, et al. World Gastroenterology Organization. World Gastroenterology Organisation Global Guidelines: Probiotics and Prebiotics. 2017.
  2. Lynch SV, Pedersen O. The Human Intestinal Microbiome in Health... N Engl J Med. 2016 Dec 15;375(24):2369-2379.
  3. Robles Alonso V, Guarner F. Linking the gut microbiota… Br J Nutr. 2013 Jan;109 Suppl 2:S21-6.
  4. Gilbert JA, Blaser MJ, Caporaso JG, Jansson JK, Lynch SV, Knight R. Current understanding of the human microbiome. Nat Med. 2018;24(4):392-400.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Probiotics: What You Need To Know. National Institutes of Health, Department of Health & Human Services. 2019.

Meet Our Experts

This article features advice and has been reviewed by members of our Science Team.

Science Thumb — Arianne

Arianne Vance, MPH, Senior Scientist

Arianne Vance is a Senior Scientist at Ritual. She earned her MPH in Epidemiology from UCLA. Her graduate research focused on maternal and child health, with an emphasis on breastfeeding and maternal mental health. She is passionate about sharing her love of science by presenting cutting-edge research in an accessible and engaging way.

Science Thumb — Arianne

Arianne Vance, MPH, Senior Scientist

Arianne Vance is a Senior Scientist at Ritual. She earned her MPH in Epidemiology from UCLA. Her graduate research focused on maternal and child health, with an emphasis on breastfeeding and maternal mental health. She is passionate about sharing her love of science by presenting cutting-edge research in an accessible and engaging way.

Meet the Author

Courtney Cho

Courtney Cho, Content Marketing Manager, Writer, Journalist

Courtney Cho is a health and wellness writer who has covered a wide variety of industry topics, from the science of nutrition and gut health to clinical testing and greenwashing. After earning her B.A. from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she specialized in journalism and reporting, her career has focused on the intersection between clean products, ingredient transparency, and science-backed wellness—and how everyday habits can contribute profoundly to our quality of life.

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Courtney Cho

Courtney Cho, Content Marketing Manager, Writer, Journalist

Courtney Cho is a health and wellness writer who has covered a wide variety of industry topics, from the science of nutrition and gut health to clinical testing and greenwashing. After earning her B.A. from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she specialized in journalism and reporting, her career has focused on the intersection between clean products, ingredient transparency, and science-backed wellness—and how everyday habits can contribute profoundly to our quality of life.

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