Probiotics can help many people manage gastrointestinal symptoms, offering relief from constipation, gas, and bloating.
However, once these conditions have been resolved, it isn’t clear whether you should keep taking probiotics or stop them completely.
There aren’t many studies that look into the microbiome before and after taking probiotics. This isn’t very helpful, so we’ll cover some pros and cons of continuing and discontinuing probiotic therapy.
By the end of this article, you’ll have a better idea of what will happen if you decide to stop taking probiotics.
What Happens After Discontinuing Probiotics
In most cases, once you stop taking probiotics, any changes in gut health will be gradual, rather than instantaneous.
Instead of focusing on knowing if your microbiome is healthy or not, you should keep note of how you are feeling. The body is always going through different processes, including your microbiome.
Some can cease taking probiotics without issue, while others will notice that they feel worse after a while.
In this case, they will be better off taking probiotics again. Once they return to probiotic therapy, symptoms like constipation, bloating, and gas should cease after a few weeks, though some see a difference after a few days.
Discontinuing probiotic use can give some people a better idea of how their body handles digestion.
For instance, if someone stops taking their probiotics and notices that they feel worse, they’ll know that their gut requires more help.
After a few months back on probiotics, they can try stopping the therapy again or lowering the amount that they take.
Why Do People Take Probiotics?
If you’re thinking about going off probiotics, you need to go over the reasons why you need them first.
Probiotics are the various types of good bacteria that keep your microbiome healthy. The microbiome refers to the many microorganisms that reside within your gut.
Probiotics have a lot of health benefits, like increasing the number of beneficial bacteria in your gut, supporting your immune system, and relieving intestinal conditions. Other benefits include:
- Lowering the number of dangerous microorganisms (yeasts, bad bacteria, parasites)
- Improving bowel movements and relieving constipation
- Reducing cholesterol
- Better skin
- Managing stress-related health issues
All of these possible advantages of probiotics explain why they are one of the most common supplements taken each day.
Why People Stop Taking Probiotics
Probiotics have a lot of benefits, which doesn’t explain why people may want to stop using them.
People like to start discontinuing or lowering their probiotic dosage for several reasons. These include the cost of supplements, safety issues, ease of use, and worries about dependency.
If probiotics aren’t covered by insurance, they can get expensive over time. Taking a supplement each day can be an inconvenience for some people, so discontinuing probiotic use may provide some relief.
People also worry if they’re becoming too reliant on supplements, so weaning off probiotics is a better choice for them.
If you want to stop taking probiotics, you can reduce your dosage gradually. This is a safe way to progress while still enjoying some of the benefits of probiotics.
Are Probiotics Safe?
Probiotics are safe to use, and they’re also safe to stop taking. This is a valid concern seeing as lots of medications have side effects, but in most cases, probiotics won’t be harmful.
There aren’t many long-term studies looking at probiotic use, but studies have found that adults and children can take them safely.
This 2017 study even shows that infants with lower immune systems can benefit from probiotics. Probiotics seem to be safe no matter what type you use, how much you take, and how long you use them.
Probiotic foods have been eaten for hundreds of years without any concerns. These include sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and kombucha.
Several cultures also consumed foods known as prebiotics, substances that encourage good probiotic bacteria to grow within the gut.
While research deems probiotics to be safe, probiotic use does come with some possible risks. These include affecting metabolic procedures, influencing the immune system, and the chance of infections.
The majority of people don’t have any side effects from using probiotics, but you should still be aware of them, no matter how rare they are.
Microbiome Changes Aren’t Permanent
Studies have found that probiotics change the gut microbiome, but not permanently. If you have an unbalanced microbiome and start taking probiotics, your microbiome may change for the better.
Once you stop taking the supplement, it will return to its original state after a while.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll have to suffer from your original symptoms. People react to probiotic therapy differently.
If you stop taking your supplements, you might notice that you have different symptoms or less of your original ones. Some people might find that their symptoms completely stop.
Finding Out Your Minimal Dosage
It’s always a good idea to find your minimum probiotic dosage. This will be the lowest amount of the supplement you can take that still provides benefits. Here are some steps to help you find this.
Stop Taking Your Probiotic Supplement
Cutting out your supplement completely can help you figure out if your body needs support or not. If you feel fine after a few weeks, you don’t have to do anything else, as you can stop taking probiotics completely.
If You Notice Any Symptoms Returning, Resume Taking Your Probiotics Again
Don’t change the dose at this point, take as much as you were previously. Monitor how you're feeling and when your symptoms stop occurring.
Once Your Symptoms Cease, Halve Your Dose
Cut down your supplements by half, then keep a note of how you feel after a few weeks.
If You Feel Fine, Halve Your Dosage Again
Keep a note of how you feel for another 2-3 weeks. If your symptoms come back, increase your dosage by half again.
Each person will react differently if they stop taking probiotics. If you believe that this is the right choice for you, pay attention to your body and how you feel.
Working out your minimal effective dose is also a good strategy. Once you know what your minimal effective dose is, you won’t spend as much on supplements, and you’ll feel less reliant on them.
Remember that probiotic use doesn’t have to be as strict as prescribed medication. You can always decide to take them on the weekends or skip a few days. It’s better to find out what routine works for you.