At the pharmacy I sometimes get asked by patients, “how many probiotics can I take?” The question is a bit more complicated than taking a drug or other supplements – probiotics are living organisms, different manufacturers have different amounts in them and different strains may have different impacts on different people. Let’s dive into the things to consider trying to figure out how many probiotics you can take – and don’t forget to ask your doctor or pharmacist before you begin a supplement routine!
The Power of CFUs
Let’s begin by understanding the concept of CFUs, or colony-forming units. CFUs measure the concentration of live, viable microorganisms present in a probiotic supplement. At least when the manufacturer packages them – they may not all survive transit and storage, and many need to be kept refrigerated after opening to try to help keep as many of them alive as possible.
So CFUs are a good indicator of the potency of the probiotic. Yet, more CFUs don’t always translate to better results. Too many CFUs can sometimes overburden the digestive system, leading to adverse effects. I advise patients to start at a lower end and work their way up, giving their digestive system some time to get used to the new bacteria. As I’ve written in a different article on how long it takes probiotics to work, it takes some time for you to see results – up to several weeks. So be patient.
The Number of Probiotics to Take
For general gut health, daily probiotic consumption in the range of 1 billion to 10 billion CFUs is often recommended. This may be only a single dose, or several, depending on the specific brand you are using. Look at the label to see how many CFUs there are per pill/dose. Hence, consulting a healthcare professional is always a wise choice, and read the dosage instructions on the package of the brand you choose.
Side Note: Probiotic Label Accuracy: A Concern?
The accuracy of CFU counts on probiotic labels can be dubious. I’ve read research that showed that many brands may not be accurately labeled due to factors such as manufacturing and shipping conditions. While some companies maintain rigorous quality control, others might fall short. My biggest suggestion is to pick a well known brand. A few brands that are easily available are Florastor and Culturelle; I’ve seen them at pretty much every retail pharmacy where I’ve worked.
Just as importantly, you need to sort them correctly. Many probiotics require refrigeration to keep the microorganisms active. Read the label and make sure you keep them in the fridge if it says that you need to do that.
How Many Different Probiotics Can You Take?
You can take several different probiotics at once; I get asked this a lot at the pharmacy. The answer is a resounding yes for most healthy individuals. Different probiotic strains offer varied health benefits.
By using diverse strains, you might maximize gut coverage, broaden health benefits, and enhance the resilience of their digestive system. However, the golden rule remains: always ensure the total CFU count remains within the recommended daily range and always consult with a healthcare professional before you start a supplementation program.
Probiotics: The Natural Way
Probiotics, often hailed as “friendly bacteria”, might offer potential health benefits. While they are available as supplements, they can also be consumed through foods like yogurt, fermented vegetables, and kimchi. So, the next time you think of probiotics, remember there’s a natural way to incorporate them into your diet without spending on supplements.
In the quest to maintain a healthy gut, probiotics can be a valuable ally. Remember that while they might offer potential health benefits, they are just a piece of the holistic health puzzle. Along with probiotics, a balanced diet, consistent exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management play crucial roles in nurturing a healthy lifestyle.
And as always, before diving into the world of probiotics, begin with a conversation at your pharmacy counter or with a trusted healthcare provider. Your gut will thank you!