Probiotics are classified as microorganisms that enhance health of the host when ingested. The concept of probiotics was first introduced by Élie Metchnikoff (a Nobel laureate) who suggested that Bulgarian peasants exhibited longer life expectancies due to their regular consumption of yogurt – which contained health-enhancing microbes.
Although these days there are many foods marketed as enhancers of gut health (e.g. yogurt, kimchi, etc.), there are even more companies selling probiotic supplements. As of 2016, the market for probiotic supplements exceeded $40 billion, and by 2020 the market is projected to reach $60+ billion.
Many probiotic retailers claim that probiotic supplementation can: enhance gastrointestinal function; improve immune function; alleviate constipation; and/or prevent the common cold – the Federal Trade Commission considers these claims as deceptive. Why? Because currently, robust data are lacking to substantiate the idea that probiotic supplementation effectively treats medical conditions.
Nevertheless, probiotics are generally considered safe and user anecdotes suggest that they can provide benefit – at least as an adjunct. If you recently began using a probiotic to help manage a medical condition such as: acne, allergies, diarrhea, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, IBS or IBD – you’re probably wondering how long it’ll take for the probiotic to work – or facilitate a noticeable therapeutic effect.
How long does it take for probiotics to work?
It varies depending upon the specific user and the probiotic ingested. Assuming you’re ingesting a high-quality probiotic with a high CFU (colony forming unit) count that is formatted in a way to survive stomach acid and actually reach the gut – probiotics could begin working on the very first day of administration. In fact, probiotics could begin working within the very first hour of ingestion.
That said, if you’re using a probiotic with a low CFU count that isn’t properly formatted to survive stomach acid and reach the gut – the probiotic that you’re taking will never work or facilitate a therapeutic effect. Additionally, if you have any medical condition that might interfere with probiotic absorption and/or if you are using any other substances (e.g. medications or drugs) that could impair probiotic absorption – it may never work.
If we assume that you’re taking a probiotic with a high CFU count that’s properly formatted to survive stomach acid and populate the gut, and you don’t have any preexisting medical conditions that would interfere with its effect, the probiotic should begin “working” or taking effect within minutes of ingestion. However, just because a probiotic takes effect within minutes of ingestion does not mean that you’re guaranteed to consciously notice its effect.
Nevertheless, even if you consciously notice or perceive the probiotic working within ~30 minutes of administration, this does not mean that the probiotic will provide immediate relief from a preexisting medical condition. Assuming a probiotic supplement is capable of treating your preexisting medical condition, you may need to supplement for several weeks to derive maximal therapeutic benefit.
The rate at which probiotics provide therapeutic benefit may be contingent upon the user (and his/her preexisting gut bacteria composition) and the condition being treated. For example, someone using probiotics to alleviate gastrointestinal distress may find that they provide benefit on the first day of use – whereas someone using probiotics in attempt to treat acne probably won’t notice acne miraculously disappearing on Day 1.
Note: It is important to iterate that not all individuals supplementing with probiotics will find them to be therapeutically beneficial. Certain users of probiotics may find that supplementation is incapable of providing any noticeable benefit in managing medical symptoms. Keep in mind that while a high-quality probiotic supplement should always “work” (or alter populations of gut bacteria), the alteration of gut bacteria may not be of medical benefit.
Why Probiotics may work rapidly (Possible reasons)
Many individuals claim to notice the effect of probiotics on the very first day of administration – possibly within just hours of ingestion. Assuming a quality probiotic supplement is ingested at a high dose (i.e. CFU count), it’s very possible that the probiotics could take effect rapidly (such as within hours). Included below is a list of possible reasons as to why probiotic supplements may elicit a fast onset of action.
Such reasons as to why probiotics may induce seemingly-immediate effects include: efficient absorption and modification of gut bacteria; the ability to modulate immune function and inflammatory cytokine production; and the ability to alter peripheral and central nervous system activation (via the gut-brain-axis). If you notice probiotics working within hours, one day, or the first several days of administration – most would classify this as a rapid response.
Efficient absorption of probiotics & instant gut modification
If you’re using a high quality probiotic supplement with respect to CFU (colony forming unit) count and formatting (enabling survival through stomach acid), your probiotic supplement should exhibit efficient pharmacokinetics. In other words, after ingesting your probiotic supplement, the supplement should be efficiently transported to the gut wherein it’ll introduce healthy bacteria for gastrointestinal colonization.
According to Marteau and Shanahan (2003), when probiotic microbes colonize in the gastrointestinal tract, there may be immediate physiologic effects resulting from this colonization – particularly with regard to immune function and inflammation. Some believe that rapid modulation of immune function and suppression of inflammation may be the reason as to why some individuals notice probiotics working quickly.
Immediate immune modulation & inflammation suppression
When the beneficial microbes from a probiotic supplement populate the gut, they may immediately modify immune function. It is understood that approximately 70% of all immune cells are located within the gut, and that gut bacteria communicate with immune cells – particularly our T-cells to manufacture Th1, Th2, Th17, or Treg cells.
If you have preexisting immune dysfunction or an autoimmune disorder, the immunomodulation facilitated by probiotics may be noticeable within the first hour post-ingestion. It is believed that probiotic-mediated modulation of T-cell activity and Th1/Th2 balance could account for rapid responses to probiotic supplementation.
Nonetheless, even if you don’t have substantial immune dysfunction, you may have a slightly impaired immune response due to unmanaged inflammation. Probiotic supplementation may immediately reduce or suppress concentrations of inflammatory cytokines via the induction of Treg cell activity or modulation of Th17 cell production.
Specifically, inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-1B, interleukin-6, interleukin-23 – may decrease after ingestion of a probiotic. Because inflammatory cytokines efficiently cross the blood-brain-barrier, modifying inflammatory cytokine levels may immediately affect neurotransmitter production in the brain – possibly explaining why someone would consciously notice probiotics working right away (or in a short duration after administration).
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18721321
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26999199
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26734006
Probiotics quickly alter PNS & CNS activation
It is known that modifying bacteria within the gut can quickly alter activity throughout the peripheral and central nervous system. When probiotics are ingested, they alter the composition of gut bacteria. The new bacteria that colonize within the gut (delivered by probiotics) interact with a division of the peripheral nervous system known as the enteric nervous system (ENS).
ENS: The enteric nervous system contains various types of neurons (afferent, motor, etc.) and glial cells. The activations of these neurons and cells (within the ENS) can be modified by bacteria contained within probiotic supplements. What’s more, the modification of ENS activity can alter signaling of the vagus nerve.
Vagus nerve: The vagus nerve serves as a conduit between the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system such that altering vagal nerve function influences central nervous system (CNS) activity. In particular, sensory signaling from vagal nerves can affect many aspects of brain activation including: neurotransmission, regional activity, etc.
Peripheral neurotransmission: Evidence suggests that neurotransmitters are manufactured within the gut – and that the specific neurotransmitters manufactured by the gut are reflective of gut bacteria; certain strains of bacteria generate neurotransmitters that differ from other bacteria.
If you alter your gut bacteria with a probiotic, you may end up with different neurotransmitters circulating throughout your peripheral nervous system (compared to before you used the probiotic). Peripheral neurotransmitters can influence muscle relaxation, heart rate, digestion, and hormone production.
Central neurotransmission: It is believed that a subset of peripheral neurotransmitters generated by gut bacteria may circulate throughout the body and eventually cross the blood-brain-barrier (BBB) whereby they’ll impact neurochemical signaling throughout the brain. Preliminary research suggests that concentrations of neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA, and substance P can be altered in animal models after probiotic supplementation.
Hormonal modulation: By altering concentrations of neurotransmitters in the peripheral and central nervous system, probiotics may influence hormone production via modulation of autonomic balance. Particularly, gut bacteria may alter the balance of activation among the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the ANS. Most probiotics are believed to decrease sympathetic activation and ultimately reduce stress hormone production (e.g. cortisol).
Antioxidant effect, nutrient absorption, intestinal barrier restoration
Other mechanisms by which probiotics may facilitate an immediate and noticeable effect in users include: oxidative stress reduction (via antioxidant upregulation); restoration of intestinal barriers (minimizing permeability) and/or enhancement of nutrient absorption. Though these actions are not always immediate, they can occur rapidly and may explain why a subset of users derive seemingly-instant benefit from probiotic supplementation.
Oxidative stress reduction: High oxidative stress is implicated in many medical conditions and diseased states. Although oxidative stress is generally not the root cause of medical conditions and diseases, excessive oxidative stress may worsen preexisting symptoms.
Supplementation with probiotics has been shown to facilitate an antioxidant response within the body. Specifically, probiotics augment the scavenging of free radicals and may minimize production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated by pathogenic microbes.
Restoration of intestinal barriers: If you have preexisting leaky gut syndrome – or a damaged intestinal lining, you may find that the microbes delivered by probiotics begin immediately restoring intestinal barriers. In other words, the healthy microbes within probiotics may quickly repair open intercellular tight junctions. Assuming probiotics close some of the open intercellular tight junctions, this should decrease foreign antigens in systemic circulation and decrease downstream immune activation plus proinflammatory cytokine production.
Enhancement of nutrient absorption: Among persons with leaky gut syndrome, nutrients aren’t being absorbed properly from the foods that are consumed. Why? Because there are openings in tight gap junctions that interfere with absorption.
If probiotics restore and strengthen your intestinal barriers, you may be capable of absorbing more vitamins, minerals, etc. from foods that are consumed. Persons with preexisting nutrient deficiencies may notice a rapid onset of effect due to improved nutrient status (resulting from increased absorption).
Placebo-like effect from probiotics (?)
If you’re using a low-quality probiotic supplement such that the microbes contained within the probiotic are unable to survive stomach acidity and colonize within the gastrointestinal tract, you might still notice substantial benefit from probiotic supplementation due to the placebo effect. Simply having a strong expectation that probiotics will facilitate a rapid and significant effect may result in probiotics facilitating a rapid and significant effect.
Furthermore, even if you are using a high-quality probiotic supplement with formatting such that the beneficial microbes survive stomach acidity and colonize within the gut – you might experience a placebo-like effect. In this case, even though beneficial bacteria from the probiotic are altering aspects of your physiology – a preexisting expectation or belief that these bacteria will “help” may also modulate your physiology to facilitate a rapid effect.
In the event that you respond to probiotics quickly (such as within 30 minutes of administration) and the response is significant – there’s a chance that a placebo effect (in users of low-quality probiotics) or a placebo-like effect (in users of high-quality probiotics) might fully or partially account for your rapid response. That said, because high quality probiotics definitely modulate physiology (via the gut) – a placebo response (or placebo-like response) might play zero role in rapid responses for a subset of users.
When considering the potentially-rapid effects elicited by probiotics upon: the immune system; inflammatory cytokine generation; the enteric nervous system (ENS); the vagus nerve; peripheral neurotransmission; central neurotransmission; and/or hormone production – it’s not farfetched to assume that a subset of users might derive immediate benefit from probiotic supplementation.
Moreover, a combination of oxidative stress reduction, intestinal barrier restoration, and/or enhancement of nutrient absorption might also allow probiotics to induce a rapid effect. Lastly, we cannot discount the potential role of a placebo-like response in explaining immediate responses to probiotic supplementation.
Why Probiotics might not work – or take effect right away… (Possible Reasons)
If you’re using probiotics and aren’t noticing any effect on the first day of administration – or within the first several days of administration – there are many possible explanations for the lack of rapid effect. Possible reasons as to why probiotics might not begin working in the early stages of supplementation include: low quality probiotic choice; suboptimal dosing; and concurrent substance use.
Other reasons as to why your probiotic supplement might not take immediate effect include: severe dysbiosis; leaky gut syndrome; probiotic offsets (e.g. unhealthy diet and lifestyle); and nutritional status. Furthermore, physiologic adaptations to probiotics within the peripheral and central nervous system may require time (e.g. several weeks) to fully emerge. If your probiotic supplement doesn’t seem to be working well – these are all possible reasons why.
Low quality probiotic (Bioavailability)
Though people looking to improve their gut health don’t intentionally purchase low quality probiotics, the probiotic industry is massive – and there are likely many probiotic supplements hitting shelves that fail to exert any physiologic effect. If a probiotic isn’t properly formatted in a way that enables sufficient colony forming units (CFUs) to survive stomach acid and colonize within the gastrointestinal tract, users won’t notice any effect from its administration.
High quality probiotics are generally engineered in such a way that they contain an enteric coating or protective layer that prevents stomach acid from killing beneficial microbial constituents. If you aren’t noticing any effect from the probiotic that you’re using, you may want to reflect upon the quality of your probiotic product – as well as its formatting and consider trying a different product.
Suboptimal probiotic dosing (CFUs)
In addition to low quality probiotic formatting, some individuals may be ingesting a suboptimal probiotic dose that fails to facilitate therapeutic benefit – and/or makes it difficult to detect whether the probiotic is working. Generally speaking, lower doses (CFU counts) of probiotics will modulate a user’s gut bacteria (and physiology) to a less significant extent than higher doses.
If you administer too low of a probiotic dose, the beneficial microbes that are delivered to your gut may be quickly outnumbered and overtaken by preexisting pathogenic microbes, possibly explaining the lack of therapeutic or noticeable effect. However, if you administer a high probiotic dose, it’s more likely that the beneficial microbes will eradicate and/or displace the pathogenic microbes – yielding stronger and more noticeable physiologic effects.
If you have severe dysbiosis and/or leaky gut syndrome – you may need a significantly higher dose of probiotics than the general population to eradicate the pathogenic microbes and restore intestinal barriers (i.e. tight gap junctions). Moreover, even if your probiotic promises to contain billions of CFUs – if the formatting is suboptimal, odds are that many of these CFUs won’t survive the stomach acid, thus reducing the bioavailability of your probiotic supplement.
Anyone who isn’t getting any benefit from probiotic supplementation may want to evaluate the formatting in combination with the dosing. If the bioavailability of your supplement is poor and/or the dose (CFU count) is suboptimal [in accordance with your current gut status] – do not expect to notice your probiotic working.
Concurrent substance use
If you’re using substances along with probiotics such as pharmaceutical medications; over-the-counter medications; dietary supplements; illicit drugs; etc. – there’s a chance that whatever you’re using could interfere with: probiotic absorption; microbe colonization (within the gut); and downstream physiologic effects facilitated by the probiotic supplement.
For example, concurrent ingestion of an agent that increases acidity may decrease survival rates of microbes within the probiotic supplement – ultimately reducing the efficacy of a probiotic. Additionally, it is known that many medications, supplements, etc. can directly affect concentrations of gut bacteria.
For example, administration of the pharmaceutical medication “Olanzapine” (an antipsychotic) exerts an antimicrobial effect which increases Erysipelotrichi (phylum Firmicutes) and class Gammaproteobacteria (phylum Proteobacteria) and decreases Bacteroidia (phylum Bacteroidetes) within the gut. If you’re using any substance(s) along with your probiotic – particularly antibiotics – realize that they might explain why you haven’t really noticed your probiotic working.
Severe dysbiosis & “leaky gut”
If you have severe dysbiosis and/or leaky gut syndrome, this could explain why you aren’t noticing your probiotic supplement working – or working right away. Dysbiosis refers to overgrowth of unhealthy or pathogenic microbes within the gut, whereas leaky gut syndrome refers to intestinal permeability and the opening of tight gap junctions – allowing pathogenic microbes and food particles to “leak” outside the gut.
Persons with dysbiosis and/or leaky gut syndrome typically do not recover overnight after a single dose of probiotics. In most cases, long-term probiotic treatment is necessary (along with lifestyle changes) to minimize populations of pathogenic bacteria; increase populations of healthy bacteria; and restore intestinal barriers (i.e. close tight gap junctions). A subset of individuals with dysbiosis and/or leaky gut may need to use probiotics for weeks (or months) before benefits are attained and noticed.
Moreover, because leaky gut syndrome may cause nutrient deficiencies (due to impaired nutrient absorption), and nutrient deficiencies require time to recover from – this may explain the lack of immediate or noticeable effect facilitated by a probiotic. First the probiotic must restore intestinal tight gap junctions (which could take a while), then the body must absorb adequate quantities of a nutrient to begin repairing itself from the nutrient-deficient state.
The repair process from a nutrient deficiency may take weeks – or possibly even months. Once proper nutrient absorption is restored, probiotic users might finally experience improvements in their medical symptoms and/or notice that they finally feel better from probiotic supplementation.
Probiotic offsets: Diet & Exercise
Another reason that you might not notice your probiotic supplement “working” could be due to your diet and lifestyle choices. Consuming a hypercaloric diet that’s loaded with hyperpalatable foods (high-fat, high-sugar) may reduce the survival rates of the healthy bacteria that you’re introducing to your gut via probiotic supplementation.
In other words, simply eating too much (a caloric surplus) and unhealthy foods might prevent your probiotic from working properly. Even if you’re using a super high-quality probiotic at mega-doses, your diet and lifestyle could negate its beneficial effect. Why? Because the foods that you consume determine which bacteria in your gut will get “fed” and survive.
If you’re eating a diet loaded with hyperpalatable (high-fat, high-sugar) foods, this will feed the unhealthy bacteria in your gut – enabling them to survive and proliferate. On the other hand, if you’re consuming a diet loaded with vegetables, complex carbohydrates, fruits, etc. – this will feed the beneficial bacteria being introduced to your gut by probiotics – enabling them to survive and proliferate.
Additionally, it is understood that the amount of exercise that you get could influence whether your probiotic supplement works. Regular exercise is associated with increases in concentrations of healthy gut bacteria, whereas living a sedentary lifestyle is not. If you never exercise – and consume too many calories (and unhealthy foods), your probiotic might not work very well.
Long-term PNS & CNS adaptations
Assuming you’re using a high-quality probiotic at a sufficient dose, the probiotic should “work” or facilitate an effect on the first day of ingestion. That said, it may take some time (e.g. weeks) for some users to reap maximal therapeutic benefit from supplementation and/or consciously detect that the probiotic is “working.”
A delay in the onset of therapeutic action derived from probiotics could be attributable to lack of neurophysiologic adaptation to the bacteria being introduced. In other words, although the bacteria being introduced to your gut by the probiotic will immediately begin altering aspects of your physiology – in order for these alterations to completely peak – you may need to administer the probiotic consistently (i.e. on a daily basis) for several weeks.
Once these physiologic adaptations have peaked (within the PNS and CNS), you might have an easier time noticing that you’re under the influence of a probiotic. Within the peripheral nervous system, shifts in the: densities of receptors; cytokine concentrations; and neurotransmitters may require several weeks of probiotic use to completely manifest.
In the central nervous system adaptations such as: increased BDNF; increased hippocampal neurogenesis; and HPA-axis activity normalization may require 4 to 8 weeks to emerge following the initiation of probiotic supplementation. If you’ve only been using a probiotic supplement for a few days, you may need to continue supplementing for several weeks in order for adaptations to occur within your physiology – that will yield maximal and/or noticeable health benefit.
Variables that influence Probiotics onset of action
There are a variety of variables that may determine how quickly probiotics begin working and/or how long it takes for someone to notice an effect. Variables that might impact the rate at which probiotics exert an effect include: the specific probiotic used; the probiotic dosage; concurrent substance use; and other user-specific factors such as: administration details; lifestyle choices (e.g. diet and exercise); intestinal permeability and self-awareness. If you’re wondering why probiotics “kick in” at different rates among users – consider these variables.
The particular probiotic supplement that you administer could determine how rapidly the probiotic takes effect. Not all probiotics are equal in terms of: bacterial species; formatting; and label accuracy.
Species: The therapeutic and/or physiologic effects facilitated by probiotics may be directly contingent upon microbial constituents. In other words, you shouldn’t expect the exact same physiologic effects from one probiotic (e.g. L. reuteri) as another (e.g. B. animalis). Additionally, you may notice that certain bacterial species take effect or “kick in” at different rates than others.
Format: The formatting of your probiotic supplement could impact the survival rates of its bacterial constituents, as well as the rate at which bacteria are released from the supplement to colonize within the gut. High-quality probiotics should be encapsulated in an enteric coating or “matrix” that protects the bacterial constituents from stomach acid – as the encapsulation travels to the gastrointestinal tract.
Additionally, if your probiotic contains an extra thick enteric coating – there may be a delay in its onset of action due to the fact that the enteric coating needs time to dissolve after entering the gastrointestinal tract. On the other hand, lower-quality probiotics may lack adequate enteric protection to safeguard bacterial constituents from stomach acid en route to the gastrointestinal tract which may result in most bacteria dying – ultimately minimizing the efficacy of the probiotic and/or delaying its onset of action.
Label accuracy: Unless an independent third-party has verified the label accuracy of the probiotic supplement that you use – there’s a chance that the label could be inaccurate. In other words, the ingredients that are marketed as being within your probiotic supplement – might not actually be found within the supplement – or might not be found in the quantities (e.g. dosages) that are listed.
If the label of your probiotic doesn’t reflect its actual: bacterial constituents, CFU count, and/or formatting – there’s a chance that you may not notice much of an effect from supplementation and/or that you may experience a delayed onset of effect. Look for probiotic supplements that have undergone independent testing via third-party laboratories to ensure that what’s listed on the probiotic label is actually what’s contained within each tablet, pill, bead, etc.
Probiotic dosage (CFU count) & bioavailability
The dosage and bioavailability of your probiotic supplement could determine how quickly you derive therapeutic or noticeable benefit from supplementation. Probiotic dosage generally refers to the number of colony forming units (CFUs) per tablet, capsule, bead, etc. A majority of probiotic supplements created for adults contain between 10 and 20 billion colony forming units per capsule.
Nevertheless, someone who takes a probiotic supplement with 20 billion CFUs per dose may report a noticeably a quicker onset of action than someone who takes a probiotic with just 5 billion CFUs per dose. The person using a probiotic with 20 billion CFUs per dose should end up with a greater number of healthy microbes that survive delivery to the gastrointestinal tract – and that colonize within the gastrointestinal tract – compared to the individual using a probiotic with just 5 billion CFUs per dose.
That said, CFUs per dose don’t always determine the efficacy of probiotics and/or the rate at which they take effect. The bioavailability of the probiotic supplement, or the percentage of bacterial constituents that actually survive transport to the gut and exert an effect – can also impact how long probiotics take to work.
Highly bioavailable probiotic supplements (associated with an enteric layer protective against stomach acid) should yield more substantial physiologic effects and a faster onset of action than probiotics with lower bioavailabilities. Even if your probiotic promises 50+ billion CFUs per dose, if the engineering is poor and bioavailability is low, you may not reap much benefit because most of the bacteria won’t actually survive.
Using substances with probiotics
As was already mentioned, a reason that some individuals may not notice much of an effect from their probiotic could be due to concurrent substance use. The use of other substances such as medications (prescription or OTC); supplements; and/or illicit drugs – could impact the efficacy of probiotics. Some substances that are used with probiotics may modify: probiotic absorption; gut bacteria; and/or modulate downstream effects of probiotics.
Stomach acid: If you’re using a medication or substance that increases acidity within the gastrointestinal tract, this may decrease survivability of bacteria in your probiotic supplement and/or interfere with absorption. As a result, your probiotic may not work properly or may require longer-term treatment to take effect.
Alternatively, if you’re using a medication or substance that reduces acidity within the gastrointestinal tract, this may increase survivability of bacteria in your probiotic and/or enhance absorption. In this case, you may be more likely to notice your probiotic working rapidly – or exerting a potent effect.
Gut bacteria: Certain medications and/or substances are known to exert an antimicrobial effect and/or alter concentrations of gut bacteria. The most obvious example would be a broad-spectrum antibiotic. Broad-spectrum antibiotics are understood to kill gut bacteria – both healthy and pathogenic.
If you’re using a broad-spectrum antibiotic, this might explain why your probiotic doesn’t seem to be working – or providing a beneficial effect; it’s killing off all of the bacteria that the probiotic is attempting to introduce. The European Molecular Biology Laboratory reports that non-antibiotic drugs like: antivirals, antipsychotics, acid-reducers, chemotherapy medications, and blood pressure medications – can directly inhibit the proliferation of healthy gut bacteria.
On the other hand, it’s possible that various substances may augment favorable gut bacteria changes induced by probiotics. For example, if you’re using a narrow spectrum antibiotic to deliberately eradicate pathogenic bacteria – while simultaneously using a probiotic that upregulates healthy bacteria, this may yield a synergistic positive effect.
Downstream effects: It is known that certain probiotics can exert downstream effects from the gut such as altering activity within the brain and central nervous system. If you’re using other substances with probiotics, you should realize that these agents could: enhance the downstream effects of probiotics; decrease the downstream effects of probiotics; or enhance specific downstream effects while decreasing other downstream effects – of probiotics.
For example, let’s say you’re taking a probiotic supplement that manages to increase serotonin levels in the brain – along with an SSRI antidepressant. The combination of the probiotic-induced serotonin increase and the serotonergic antidepressant may yield complementary downstream effects – possibly resulting in a quicker onset of noticeable probiotic action.
On the other hand, let’s say you’re taking a probiotic that downregulates activation of the HPA axis – along with a psychostimulant medication. In this case, the psychostimulant medication will counteract and/or override the effect of the probiotic upon HPA axis activation. As a result, you may not end up with the effect you were hoping to attain (e.g. lower anxiety).
Probiotic user-specific factors
User-specific factors may influence how quickly a probiotic supplement facilitates a noticeable and/or therapeutic effect. User-specific factors to consider include: administration details; body weight; lifestyle (diet and exercise); gene expression; preexisting gut bacteria; intestinal permeability; and medical conditions. Moreover, the self-awareness of a probiotic user may influence whether he/she is able to consciously detect the probiotic’s effect.
Administration details: The specific administration details associated with your probiotic supplementation could influence how quickly it begins working. Administration details that may influence the effectiveness of probiotics include: timing (e.g. time of day); stomach fullness; administration frequency (e.g. once per day); and administration consistency (e.g. every day vs. missed days).
It’s possible that, for some individuals, administration of probiotics in the morning on an empty stomach may yield more substantial effects than administration of probiotics in the evening on a full stomach; or vice-versa. It’s also possible that certain probiotic users may report a faster onset of action and more substantial benefit as a result of frequent administration (e.g. 3 doses per day) and/or consistent use (e.g. no missed doses) – compared to infrequent administration (e.g. 1 dose per day) and/or inconsistent use (e.g. forgetting doses).
Body fat: The body fat percentage of a preexisting probiotic user may impact how quickly the probiotic starts working and/or whether it provides benefit. High body fat is associated with being overweight and/or obese – which is correlated with leaky gut syndrome (intestinal permeability) and dysbiosis.
If you have a high body fat percentage and are considered overweight and/or obese – the combination of preexisting intestinal permeability and dysbiosis might interfere with the effectiveness of a probiotic and/or delay its onset of action. If you have healthy amounts of body fat and don’t have leaky gut syndrome or dysbiosis – your probiotic may take effect at a faster rate.
Diet & exercise: The number of calories you consume each day, the specific foods that you eat, and whether you exercise – could impact the rate at which a probiotic starts working. A hypercaloric diet comprised of high-fat, high-sugar foods with minimal amounts of fiber may counteract the beneficial effects of probiotics and/or delay their onsets of action.
Conversely, a hypocaloric diet comprised of low-fat, fibrous vegetables and fruits may augment the beneficial effects of probiotics and/or expedite their onsets of action. Furthermore, it is known that regular exercise can increase healthy gut bacteria concentrations. If you exercise, you might notice a quicker and/or more pronounced effect from your probiotic.
Genetics: It is thought that a user’s gene expression may impact the effects of bacterial constituents within probiotics. For example, if you’re trying to reduce depression or anxiety with a probiotic supplement that increases serotonin, and you express the 5-HTTPLR short allele, the speed of your response may differ from that of an individual who expresses the 5-HTTPLR long allele.
Genes that impact preexisting gut bacteria composition and/or gut-mediated physiologic activation (within the peripheral and central nervous system) – could influence how quickly a person responds to probiotic supplementation – and the significance of the probiotic’s effect. More research is needed to elucidate the specific genes that might influence onset rates of probiotic action.
Preexisting gut bacteria: The composition of bacteria in your gut prior to using probiotics may determine how quickly you respond to supplementation. If your gut already contains several of the bacterial species being delivered by the probiotic, it may be easier to further increase colonies of these bacteria – and you may notice a quick onset of effect from probiotic supplementation.
On the other hand, if your gut contains mostly pathogenic bacteria (and is in a state of dysbiosis), the probiotic may not work right away. It may take time for the beneficial microbes to overtake the pathogenic microbes – and restore gut health.
Intestinal permeability: A probiotic user’s intestinal permeability could influence how long it takes for the probiotic to start working. High intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut,” means that tight gap junctions remain open – and absorption of the probiotic might be reduced. If you don’t have leaky gut, and tight gap junctions appear normal, this may enable them to work at a quicker rate (than in persons with leaky gut).
Medical conditions: Preexisting medical conditions could determine whether you notice a probiotic “working” – as well as the significance of its effect. Someone with preexisting neurodegeneration and/or brain damage may be unable to perceive changes in physiology resulting from probiotic supplementation.
In this case, even if the probiotic is working, the user may not notice any effect due to poor self-awareness (related to brain damage and degeneration). On the other hand, someone with high-anxiety may exhibit heightened internal focus and quickly detect the effect of probiotic supplementation.
In addition to certain medical conditions influencing one’s ability to perceive the effect of probiotics, medical conditions might also dictate how quickly probiotics take effect. For example, someone attempting to treat diarrhea with a probiotic may respond quicker than an individual attempting to treat acne with a probiotic.
Self-awareness: Although self-awareness doesn’t influence whether a probiotic will work, it could certainly influence how quickly a user notices it working. Someone with low self-awareness may require long-term treatment and/or dosage increases to notice an effect of probiotic supplementation. On the other hand, someone with high self-awareness may immediately notice changes in physiology resulting from probiotic supplementation.
How long does it take for me to notice probiotics working?
Within 30 to 60 minutes. Assuming that I administer a high-quality probiotic supplement that’s properly formatted in a way that allows its microbial constituents to survive my stomach acidity – and colonize within my gut, I generally notice an effect within 30 to 60 minutes of administration. How do I know that the probiotic supplement is working?
A combination of gastrointestinal “gurgling” noises (that I never usually experience) and a distinct change in consciousness. The gurgling noises usually occur before the change in consciousness – which typically emerges within 45 minutes to 60 minutes after administration. So for me, probiotics worked on the very first day of administration.
That said, I wasn’t using them to treat any particular medical condition. Had I been attempting to treat a condition like IBS – there’s no telling whether probiotics would’ve helped, and if they would’ve helped, how long it would’ve taken for them to “work” or alleviate symptoms.
Although the change in consciousness that I experience on probiotics could be a placebo and/or nocebo effect, I’m doubtful of this. I use plenty of other supplements and experience zero change in consciousness following administration.
Additionally, I wasn’t expecting probiotics to have any effect upon my consciousness perception – yet they did. (So I had zero preexisting expectation that this would occur) – I was only expecting them to improve my gut health. Furthermore, there’s convincing evidence that the administration of probiotics can alter brain activity via the gut-brain-axis.
Lastly, I wouldn’t perceive the change in consciousness that I experience while using probiotics as being therapeutic or beneficial – I feel somewhat less anxious and more relaxed, but my clarity of thought (and cognitive function) is compromised. I should note that I use the probiotic called “PRO-15” based on its formatting and microbial diversity – and consistently notice an effect from its administration.
I should also mention that I have used a standalone L. acidophilus probiotics and noticed zero change in consciousness following administration – but I did have the “gurgling” sounds within my gut. In any regard, perhaps because I have a normal “BMI,” don’t have a history of leaky gut or dysbiosis, and my diet is relatively healthy – I notice a seemingly immediate effect from probiotic supplementation.
How long did it take for you to notice Probiotics working?
If you have a history of regularly using probiotics, comment below and share how long it generally takes for you to notice your probiotics working or exerting an effect after ingestion. Additionally, if you use probiotics to help manage symptoms of a medical condition, share how long it took before you derived therapeutic benefit from supplementation (this assuming you benefitted).
To help others get a better understanding of your probiotic use, provide additional details such as: the brand and/or strain of probiotic you take; your dosing (CFU count); and how long you’ve been using probiotics. Did you notice an effect from your probiotic on the very first day of administration – or did you need to use it for a longer-term to notice the probiotic working?
Also note things like: whether you use other substances with probiotics; how you administer probiotics (e.g. morning on an empty stomach); and/or whether you have medical conditions that might decrease the effectiveness of probiotics. If you’ve tried many probiotics, but have never noticed an effect, do you have any idea as to why probiotics aren’t working well for you?