Health supplements are expected to reach a global market share of $278 billion by 2024. That's a sizable market and it continues to grow. Probiotics are one of the fastest growing items in the category in the U.S. With so much focus on the microbiome and the as more information points to their effectiveness in minimizing digestive issues and promoting gut health, the demand for probiotics is all set to explode.
A recent report reveals that Canada could save up to $100 million CAN per year through probiotic use designed to minimize instances of upper respiratory infections. The supplement market in China, with probiotics at the top of the list, is also set for rapid expansion.
However, while probiotics are a great choice to combat many digestive issues, they are not always the best choice. That's why it is important to know when to take probiotics and when to seek alternative treatments.
What Are Probiotics?
While bad bacteria can make you sick, good bacteria can help break down food and support your immune system. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that work in harmony with your biological systems. Many probiotics specifically help support good digestive health, combating issues like diarrhea, nausea, malabsorption, and dozens of other symptoms of a leaky gut.
You can get probiotics through consuming probiotic-rich foods such as lacto-fermented vegetables and yogurt or through beverages like kombucha and kefir. Or you can get them through supplementation. However just because they can have some health benefits doesn't always mean that they always have health benefits. There can be times when it's best to not take probiotic-rich foods or supplementation and you should actually avoid them.
3 Reasons to Avoid Probiotics
Below is a quick list of those occasions when it might be better to seek alternative treatments for digestive issues. In each of these cases, use of or consumption of probiotics is contraindicated until the condition has been resolved.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) refers to a condition where you already have too much bacteria in your small intestine. Adding more is not a healthy solution to anything, even when it is otherwise helpful bacteria. For those with SIBO getting a diagnosis can sometimes be difficult. But once you have a diagnosis there's a specific dietary protocol and supplemental support required to support your system.
The symptoms of SIBO are quite diverse and can include
- Abdominal bloating and pain
- Joint pain
- and more
2. Candida Overgrowth
Candida is a type of yeast that can overrun your intestinal tract and cause a variety of symptoms. When your candida levels are under control, this yeast helps with digestion and nutrient absorption. When levels get too high, symptoms can range from simple things like a white coating on the tongue to more serious symptoms like:
- Brain fog
- Joint pain
- Chronic sinus and allergy problems
- Gas and bloating
- Weakened immune system
- Frequent UTIs
This is just a small sample of the potential problems associated with an out-of-control candida overgrowth. While some low-level imbalances can be treated with over-the-counter medications (such as fluconazole for yeast infections), chronic overgrowth needs to be addressed through dietary changes, nutritional support, and possibly antifungal medications. The use of a self-scoring quiz can be helpful for diagnosis. Many people who switch to a candida protocol after scoring high on the test have good results ranging from clearer skin and better digestive function to clearing of infections and weight loss.
3. Probiotics Don't Fix Everything
The effectiveness of probiotics depends entirely on the cause of your problem. If your gut flora is out of balance or you have too little bacteria to help with digestion, probiotics can be a great way to rebalance everything. If you have been on antibiotics, pairing those with probiotics might help prevent conditions like H. Pylori. Since H. Pylori can cause systemic and prolonged digestive upset, a bit of prevention is well worth the investment in probiotics. If you don't suffer from any of these conditions or your digestive upset has nothing to do with your gut biome, probiotics won't help.
While probiotics can be a great way to improve your digestive health, it is important to know when to take them. Unless directed by a doctor, you likely won't want to take probiotics on a daily basis.
Unfortunately with all the news about the benefits of probiotics many food producers are starting to add them to a wide variety of items at the grocery store. Cereals, chocolate, cold brew coffee, salad dressings, and more are all being promoted as a healthy choice due. However, overconsumption of probiotics can lead to an imbalance of the gut and is not a healthy choice.
If you suspect you have gut health issues it's best to work with a health professional and be evaluated to see if you need to add or avoid probiotics in your diet.