When we invest in supplements, vitamins, or any medication at our local drugstore or pharmacy, it’s typical to want to know how long it takes to see results. With some medications, such as an over the counter pain reliever, we can be confident we’ll see results in thirty minutes or so.
However, some supplements, such as a probiotic supplement, aren’t so straightforward. Rather than seeing results right away, consistency and daily use is key. Probiotics build in their effect over time, and when taken daily, these dietary probiotic supplementations can result in a host of whole-body benefits, ranging from gut -health, immunity, skin, and more.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotic supplements and probiotic-rich foods contain live good bacteria that, when administered in proper dosages, produce positive health benefits (1). Overall, probiotics increase the number of healthy microbes in your gut, stimulate immune system function and response, compete with pathogenic bacterium for nutrients, secrete antibacterial molecules, and block adhesion sites for pathogenic bacterium.
While the benefits of probiotics are vast, probiotics contain a variety of microorganisms each with their own unique benefits (2). Research has shown that certain probiotics can help in alleviating issues ranging from diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, Crohn’s disease, and even urinary tract infections.
How Long Does It Take for Probiotics to Work?
This question is not as easy as it seems. A 2018 study found that the type of probiotic strain, health condition, product formula, product quality, and dose are all important for effectiveness as well as timeliness (3).
At their fastest, probiotics may take less than a few days to kick in, but in other situations, it may take weeks or even months. On the bright side, no matter what factors are affecting your probiotic experience, once ingested, probiotics immediately start working (4).
Quickly after they are ingested, probiotics begin to feed on a tangle of food fibers and fight your native gut bacteria for space to settle and reproduce. The length of time it takes to see benefits varies and different aspects can affect the effectiveness and timeliness of probiotics.
1) Existing Circumstances or Environments In Your Body
If there is one thing we can agree on, it’s that everyone’s body is very different; these differences are based on how you were born but also your lifestyle, your diet, and so much more.
Since every individual’s body is so unique, each body’s reaction to probiotics is naturally going to be different. For example, it can take more time for probiotics to find their footing in certain gut microbiomes due to a weak immune system or long-entrenched disturbances like colitis (4).
It is important to not set a hard expectation with probiotics because there is still much to learn about how fast one can see results based on their pre-existing bodily conditions.
2) What Kind of Results Are Expected
A major factor in the timeliness of probiotic performance is based on the results that you are trying to achieve. If the issue is minor, like a case of mild diarrhea, individuals may see digestive symptoms go away in just a few days. In other cases where individuals hope to see a shift toward complete digestive health, results may not come as quickly and could take weeks of consistent use to notice results. Just like Rome, a beautifully refurbished digestive system can’t be built in a day.
Improvements in chronic conditions can also have a longer timeline of multiple weeks to see the effects of probiotics. In the critically acclaimed book, The Probiotics Revolution, immunologist Gary Huffnagle supports our findings saying that, “Minor bowel problems tend to be alleviated pretty quickly...if you use probiotics to counter antibiotic-associated diarrhea, you might see a difference in a day or two.”
However, if you are looking to treat more serious digestive issues or disorders, you should see improvements within two weeks. (3).
3) How You're Ingesting Your Probiotics
Another aspect that affects the timing of your probiotics is the probiotic strain as well as how you are taking those probiotics and in what dosage. Just like no two humans are alike, no two strains of probiotics are alike. Different strains perform different functions and can be taken for different reasons.
The two most common groups of probiotics that harbor a multitude of different strains are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. In the same way that strains can differ in function, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium can also differ in effectiveness and timeliness.
Strain type isn’t the only way probiotics timeline can differ. The amount of probiotics you take can greatly alter how fast or effective they are. While probiotic supplementation is a simple way to get large amounts of healthy microbes into the body, there is an optimal dosage of probiotics. Look for a multi-strain probiotic with at least 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) and a capsule that is pH resistant.
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, there isn’t a single answer to how quickly probiotics will bring results. However, with the correct strain and consistent daily use, probiotics are a safe and effective way to heal your gut and promote whole-body health.