How Long Does It Take for Probiotics to Work?

How long does it take for probiotics to work: probiotics powder, capsules and yogurt on wooden spoons

Any time you consider a new therapy to try, one of your first questions is probably “How long will it take before I see results?” This is especially true when you are trying to resolve frustrating and possibly painful symptoms. 

However, it’s important to give any new therapy time to work and time for your body to adjust. Taking probiotic supplements — adding beneficial bacteria to help balance the microorganisms that make up your gut microbiome — is no different. 

In this article, we’ll review what probiotics are good for, what kinds to take, how long it generally takes for probiotics to work, and how to evaluate your progress.

Reasons to Start Taking Probiotics

There are a lot of documented reasons to take probiotics, from improving your gut microbiome to addressing mental health and regulating the immune system. Probiotics (good bacteria) can be very helpful for: 

  • Bloating 
  • Constipation [1, 2]
  • Diarrhea [3, 4, 5]
  • Gas [6]
  • IBS, Irritable bowel syndrome [1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]
  • IBD: Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease [12, 13, 14]
  • Mood, including anxiety and depression [15]
  • SIBO [16, 17, 18]
  • Candida overgrowth [19]
  • Leaky gut [20, 21, 22]

There is slightly less evidence but still significant promise for the effects of probiotics on: 

  • Thyroid health [23]
  • Sleep [24, 25, 26, 27]
  • Cognition/brain fog [28, 29, 30, 31]
  • Hormone balance [23, 32]
  • Autoimmune conditions [33, 34, 35]
  • Blood pressure [36]

Probiotics can be a core therapy that addresses multiple symptoms at once, even if you are primarily targeting something specific (like a gastrointestinal symptom). The trick is to find the right combination and the right dose for you as an individual. 

How long does it take for probiotics to work: hand holding a timer

How Long Do Probiotics Take to Work? The Answer Is Individual

Everyone reacts to new therapies differently. Some people will notice a difference within a few days. For others, it will take a few weeks. Noticeable health benefits will probably also come on gradually as the probiotics start working. But you should start to see changes within 2-4 weeks. 

Because each person has an individual response, each has the opportunity to tune in to their body, understand how they react to new inputs, and make changes accordingly. 

Fortunately, there’s a step-by-step process to learn whether probiotic supplements are working for you. 

How to Identify Whether Probiotics Are Working for You, Step by Step

To evaluate your progress when taking probiotics, it’s important to methodically track your symptoms at regular intervals but also give your body enough time to adjust to the new therapy. Here is a step-by-step breakdown. 

Step 1: Consider Your Symptoms

What symptoms are you experiencing right now that you want to see improve with probiotics? It may be digestive issues like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, or gas; mental health imbalances like depression or anxiety; or other systemic issues like low thyroid function, autoimmunity, or joint pain. Evaluate your symptoms and what level of severity you’re experiencing. 

Make a written record of these symptoms that you can refer back to later. This step is essential for comparing your symptoms in the future and noting any improvements that occur after you’ve started probiotic therapy.

Step 2: Reevaluate After 3-4 Weeks

Follow the prescribed dose of probiotics as recommended by your healthcare provider for a period of 3-4 weeks. Some people are able to start the full dose right away. Others may need to slowly increase their dose to avoid any side effects like digestive upset or a potential die-off of microbes as the microbiome gut bacteria begin to rebalance. You know your body best, so follow a schedule that works for you. 

After you have taken the full dose for 3-4 weeks, you can reevaluate your symptoms. This is where a written record of your original symptoms may come in handy. You may notice big changes in your previous symptoms or even health benefits you weren’t expecting. Others experience more subtle differences, indicating that they may simply need more time to see further changes. 

At the 3-4 week mark, we are looking for improvement but not necessarily a complete turnaround of all of your symptoms. As long as you notice some improvements, that’s wonderful. Keep going! 

Step 3: Find Your Peak Improvement 

Once you’ve reached a point where you’ve seen as much improvement as possible, celebrate! You’ve reached another milestone in your healing journey, and even if not everything has completely resolved, you’ve still made a lot of progress. Maintain this dose for another four weeks to give your body a chance to integrate the changes and stabilize itself. 

Step 4: Find Your Maintenance Dose

Now your body has adjusted to its new state. Good news! You may be able to reduce your dose or even come off probiotic therapy completely. 

If you are comfortable with your current state and don’t want to rock the boat, you don’t have to make a change. But if you’re curious to see whether you can maintain your health with less external support, you can try cutting your dose in half and reevaluating again after 3-4 weeks. (You’re probably noticing a pattern here.) 

If that goes well, you can try stopping completely. But these are just guidelines. You might find it easier to reduce by half again, or stay at half the original dose. 

If your symptoms return, simply return to the last effective dose. When you get back to where you want to be, you can try reducing again. It can be that simple; don’t stress too much about it. 

Open probiotic capsule

Make Sure to Introduce Probiotics Alone

To determine whether or not you’re getting the benefits of probiotics, it’s best to introduce them alone (without making any other changes). This is a general principle that applies to most new treatments. 

Introducing each new treatment in isolation is the best way to determine how they’re affecting you. If you introduce probiotics at the same time as you introduce a bunch of other supplements and dietary changes, you won’t have any way of knowing what’s actually helping. That’s a big part of why we recommend making changes one at a time. 

Probiotic therapy should be second in an overall diet and lifestyle change process. This is what we recommend at the Ruscio Institute for Functional Medicine to our patients:

  1. Start with finding your ideal diet.
  2. Add probiotics. 
  3. If your symptoms have not resolved, add one new therapy at a time, such as an antimicrobial agent

When you’re experiencing difficult symptoms, it’s tempting to want to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. But ultimately, that method will cost you more stress, money, and likely, confusion. 

This step-by-step method might take a little longer, but ultimately, it pays off to take things one change at a time. 

How Long Probiotics Take for Different Conditions

While everyone’s experience with probiotics is different, we can look to some of the research on probiotics to give us a general idea of how long it takes to see results with different conditions. 

  • One study found that probiotic treatment with S. boulardii in combination with metronidazole was effective for treating giardiasis after four weeks of therapy [37].
  • Similarly, a study of children with the parasitic infection Blastocystis hominis showed significant improvement in gastrointestinal symptoms after one month of treatment with a Saccharomyces boulardii probiotic. Comparing the probiotic therapy to traditional antiparasitic drug therapy (metronidazole), both groups had similar rates of recovery [38]. 
  • Eighty patients experienced improvements in intermittent constipation — including reduced abdominal pain, improved transit time, and more complete bowel movements — after taking a soil-based probiotic (bacillus coagulans) for seven weeks [39].
  • A clinical trial showed that participants improved their sleep quality after six weeks of probiotic therapy [40].
  • In a double-blind study, 60 multiple sclerosis patients were given either a placebo pill or a probiotic supplement. The patients taking the probiotic bacteria experienced improvements in symptoms like lower insulin resistance and lower inflammatory markers after taking a multi-strain probiotic for 12 weeks [34].
  • A study on 250 children with allergies concluded that probiotic treatment combined with conventional drug treatment significantly reduced allergic rhinitis symptoms after three months, reducing the need for the conventional medication (steroids/antihistamines) [41]. 

Something important to note is that just because a study may have evaluated benefits after two months of probiotic use doesn’t mean that it took two months for the benefits to occur. In reality, a participant may have seen benefits much sooner, but the study did not measure results until the two month mark.  

Rachel’s Story

To illustrate the profound effect probiotics can have on gut health, I wanted to share the story of our patient, Rachel. For many years, Rachel struggled with IBS-C, only having a bowel movement every 5-6 days on average. She had implemented a good diet, but that wasn’t enough to resolve her symptoms. After beginning Probiotic Triple Therapy, her constipation improved within just 48 hours. 

Over time, she also began to experience significant improvements in her mental health and wellbeing. Eventually, she was able to reduce her dose to only taking Saccharomyces boulardii, type 2 probiotics. She retained the same benefits. 

Not everyone has this great level of success when they first begin taking probiotics, but it is possible to see improvements in a short period of time. Typically, more benefits also begin to emerge with longer use. Even if you experience only small changes at first, it’s important to stick to the treatment for at least three weeks to evaluate its effects on your symptoms. 

Understanding Probiotic Categories

There are hundreds of probiotic products on the market, each promising a healthy gut, different species or strains of bacteria, and a different number of colony forming units (CFUs) per dose. How do you know which one is the right probiotic for you? 

This is why we developed Probiotic Triple Therapy. Many people experience some benefits from just one category of probiotic, but we have found that combining all three categories is the best approach for most people. 

Even a probiotic supplement with only one category of high-quality strains of probiotics may not be enough to have a significant effect on the microbiota, combat harmful bacteria, or repair severe dysbiosis. But we have found that combining all three types of probiotics creates the best results, and it even works for people where a single type of probiotic has failed. 

These are the three main types of probiotics: 

  1. Lactobacillus-bifidobacteria species (often a blend of many species) 
  2. Saccharomyces boulardii, a beneficial yeast
  3. Bacillus, or soil-based probiotics.

Research has not yet looked at the benefits of this multi-category approach, but it does support the effectiveness of multi-strain probiotics vs. single-strain probiotics [2, 10, 42, 43].

Happy family preparing healthy food

Probiotics Can Have a Profound Impact on Your Health

It’s difficult to say how long it will take for probiotics to work for a specific individual. However, both solid research and clinical observation has shown that probiotics can have a significant impact on your health and wellbeing. 

Probiotics have initiated improvements in a wide range of conditions, from healing microbial infections to promoting digestive health to improving mood. 

Looking for more personalized guidance? Reach out to us to book a consultation at the Ruscio Institute for Functional Medicine.

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