Do Probiotics Really Work? | My Experience
This may be oversharing, but if you are curious about probiotics and how they work, I kind of have to share what the process has been like for me. Ever since I was young, I can remember having a problem with eating dairy products, chicken and eggs. After eating non-organic chicken, without fail, my stomach would hurt for hours. I also had a major problem with dairy products and it seemed that over time things continued to get worse.
When I first joined the military, I went to Germany and saw a gastroenterologist after getting food poisoning from chicken several times in a row. It seemed after this series of food poisoning my gut was never the same, so I figured a gastroenterologist could help me figure out why my gut was so reactive.
What My Gastroenterologist Found
I had several tests to see if I was lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant, if I had Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel disease, as well as a range of tests to see if I was allergic to certain foods. Everything (thankfully) came back negative, and I was told that I had irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D), and that I had a sensitivity to foods that acts the same as intolerance, so I should cut back on those foods, up my fiber intake, and reduce my stress-level. I did try this for years, but nothing really ever changed.
Over time, I noticed that I was more reactive to high fat foods, and since the dairy I was eating had a high fat content, I figured that I might just be more sensitive to foods with a high fat content. I researched irritable bowl syndrome and high fat sensitivity, I found that ingesting foods high in fat and having problems afterwards affects many people with irritable bowl syndrome. I reduced my fat intake drastically, yet still continued to have problems.
At this point, I was very tired of never being able to eat anything I wanted. I would go to a restaurant and have sour cream, knowing I wouldn't be able to leave without going to the bathroom at least once. I was afraid to eat chicken that wasn't organic because I had gotten sick so many times before and became convinced that I had to find a way to help my IBS-D permanently.
My Probiotic Research
I started researching probiotics because I had read that sometimes the bacteria in the gut can be disrupted by severe food poisoning, and once the bad bacteria has taken over, the good bacteria has a difficult time getting back to where it was and the body can demonstrate all sorts of negative problems when that happens. I thought back to when I was in Germany, and knew that was the time when everything had changed for the worse.
I started researching probiotics and how they work. I found out that in a lot of people with irritable bowel syndrome, they tend to have more harmful bacteria in their gut than good bacteria. I researched which strains would benefit me the most and found a brand Nutrition Now PB8 (I got mine on Vitacost for less than $10 for a 60-day supply). This brand has the strains Lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacterium lactis, lactobacillus plantarum, lactobacillus salivarius, bifidobacterium bifidum, bifidobacterium longum, lactobacillus rhamnosus, and lactobacillus casel.
What Happened When I Took It?
I planned to take the probiotics (two capsules at night, once a day) for at least a month in order to see if I saw any benefits. At first, it was rough to say the least. It's kind of funny, but I passed gas for the first two weeks every single time I took the pills. It only lasted a couple hours and they weren't painful or stinky, it just seemed like my body was fighting some war in my gut. Right away my gut felt very different, kind of like when you're unsure if you're getting sick (you don't know if things are going to get better or worse, you just feel uneasy). After two weeks, I definitely felt like my body was getting better. I knew that I'd have to take it for a while to see results, but I noticed that I had less cramping when I ate trigger foods (high fat, dairy, and non-organic chicken and eggs) and hardly any diarrhea.
I stopped taking the probiotics every day after about a month and moved to every few days. I can't say I noticed what was happening as far as the drastic improvement until a few months after I had begun the treatment when I was out with a friend at lunch. I was talking to the person and they were saying how they have irritable bowel syndrome and can't eat cheese. I was in the middle of eating and all of the sudden realized that I had been eating dairy and high-fat foods occasionally for months and had had no problems with them. My stomach very rarely hurt and I almost never got cramps after eating. The only times I had cramps was when I ate something that I suspect was contaminated in some way. Looking back, I would guess that my body truly healed between two and four months of probiotic therapy.
I was really amazed that I hadn't noticed the change in my body sooner; it had become my new normal. Now, if I eat something that I suspect was contaminated, my gut hurts and I take three probiotic capsules (my tolerance went up as time went on), and it heals my gut. I can tell now when I've eaten something my body is rejecting rather than not knowing if ate something bad because my gut hurt all the time no matter what. In the past, if I ate something that was contaminated in some way, nine times out of ten I would get very sick with vomiting and diarrhea. Now, the most I will get is cramping in my gut and when I take the probiotics I am usually fine the next day.
How Will You Know if They Are Working?
Before the actual probiotic capsules, I would eat yogurt all the time because I had heard that the strains in yogurt were good for your gut. I have to say, it never worked for me because it wasn't enough. I don't know if the strains are destroyed by your stomach acids because they aren't protected, but the strains in the Nutrition Now PB8 capsules were enough and I could tell it was working. In my opinion, if the probiotics are working, you will know and you will feel it. I could tell immediately it was working. I did try another brand before the Nutrition Now PB8 brand and I never felt any difference. If you can, try different brands if you aren't noticing a difference. It could be the strains aren't live or those particular strains aren't needed in your body. Give your body time to heal. If you start this process, don't give up. If the capsules are too much at first, just take one instead of two, then increase as time goes on.
I would say at least give the therapy two months and see how your body feels. The first couple of days I took the probiotics I felt like there was a war going on in my gut and I knew I was helping my body. Depending on how much healing your body needs to do, it might take some time for the probiotics to take effect, so don't give up if you don't feel results right away.
Web Sites I Found Helpful for Information on Probiotics and Probiotic Therapy
I hope this has helped you. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. If you have tried probiotic therapy, did you find it worked for you? Please share your experiences below!
*I am not a doctor, so please do not take this as medical advice. If you have questions about your intestinal/gut health, please see your doctor and/or gastroenterologist and discuss probiotic therapy with them if you are interested.