Signs Probiotics Are Working

When you start taking probiotics it can be hard to know if they are taking effect. Luckily there are some key indications that your probiotics have begun taking effect. Here we explore when you can benefit from taking probiotics and how to tell if probiotics are working for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Probiotics are living organisms that form colonies of beneficial bacteria in your gut, outcompeting harmful bacteria. They come in different strains and can be found in fermented foods and supplements.
  • When probiotics are working, you may notice deeper sleep, fewer illnesses, improved gut health, clearer skin, sharper mind, calmer mood, stabilized weight, increased energy, and fewer yeast infections.
  • To get the most benefits, choose a high-quality probiotic supplement with a good CFU number, shelf stability, and a variety of strains. Also, consider taking prebiotics, which act as fuel for beneficial bacteria.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are living organisms that reach your gut alive. Here, they start to form colonies of beneficial bacteria where they try to out crowd any harmful, pathogenic bacteria that have made your large intestines their home.

They also have a wide range of unique benefits – performing different roles in your body and influencing everything from your mental health to your hormones.

Probiotics come in many different strains – but you might be familiar with well-known species such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria.

You can find probiotics in many fermented foods such as live natural yogurt, kimchi, kefir, and kombucha. Aside from fermented foods, there are now many different probiotic products available on the market.

The trouble is that not all probiotics are equal, and unfortunately, many probiotics will not give you the effects you desire – so it’s really important to choose a well-formulated product.

In order for the probiotics you take to be effective, they need to be alive, and able to withstand the journey to your gut.

This means they need to be stored at the right temperature, and be sufficiently protected from your stomach acid in order to survive until they reach your large intestines.

Luckily, many probiotic powders contain probiotic strains that have been frozen and flash-dried. This puts them into a survivable state without requiring refrigeration – and it also means they can be reactivated easily with the addition of water.

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What Are The Signs That Probiotics Are Working?

It may be hard to tell if your probiotics are working – but there are usually some signs that they may have begun to take effect.

Below are some of the key indications that your probiotics are working well:

1. You Are Sleeping Deeper

It’s easy to think that probiotics would only take effect locally in the gut – but actually, when probiotics are working well, they can affect many areas of your health and well-being – including your sleep.

In fact, studies have shown that both pre and probiotics are capable of enhancing your sleep quality. This may be because certain strains of probiotic bacteria can increase your production of key neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin – both of which play a key regulatory role in your sleep patterns. (Source)

So if you find yourself drifting off easier, and notice fewer nighttime wakings – this may be a good indicator that your probiotic supplements are working well.

2. You’re Getting Less Coughs And Colds

Much of your immune response is situated in your gut. So, when your probiotics are working you can expect to see an improvement in its efficacy.

Studies looking at probiotics have shown that they can stimulate your body’s innate immune system to respond to threats better.  It’s also thought that specific bacterial strains can help to reduce the level of pro-inflammatory cytokines your body reduces which can in turn improve your immune response and may reduce the risk of the harmful cytokine storm as observed during COVID. (Source)(Source)

So, if you notice that you are less susceptible to passing coughs and colds, or that you seem to become less unwell when infected with respiratory infections, there is a good chance that your probiotics are kicking in.

3. Your Gut Health Is Improving

Woman hands making a heart shape on her stomach

It makes sense that improved gut health would be a sign that your probiotics are working because there is a good evidence base for showing that probiotics are able to reduce annoying symptoms of gas and bloating. (Source)

This is the case whether your symptoms are caused by IBS or not. Because many instances of lower GI indigestion occur due to an imbalance of gut bacteria.

So, if you have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), IBS, or other functional gut disorders, the chances are you will start to notice an improvement in your gut-based symptoms when you have been regularly taking probiotics for a while.

But you may also notice that your probiotics are taking effect if you suffer from a form of inflammatory bowel disease too. This is because certain probiotic strains have been shown to reduce the visible inflammation of IBD’s such as colitis. (Source)

So, in general, if you have any kind of gut issues, it’s likely that you will notice a beneficial reduction in symptoms if your probiotics are doing their job.

4. Your Skin Is Clearing

Many skin issues are visible manifestations of an unbalanced gut. In fact, children with food allergies are much more likely to develop skin conditions such as eczema. (Source)

And there’s also an established link between having a gut dysbiosis and a condition such as psoriasis. (Source)

Whilst many people looking for better skin turn to topical applications to try and suppress these annoying conditions, it’s more likely you’ll have better success if you treat these conditions holistically by starting from the inside.

So, if you have noticed a reduction in angry eczema flare-ups, or perhaps your psoriasis has eased off, you can thank your probiotics for their helping hand.

Certain probiotic strains have even been associated with a reduction in acne – again showing the clear link between gut and skin health. (Source)

5. Your Mind Is Sharper

Did you know that one of the possible signs of your probiotics working is an improvement in your cognitive function? (Source)

Amazingly, these tiny microbes can actually affect how well your brain is performing.

Essentially, when your gut is unbalanced microbially, you can experience an increase in inflammation. This inflammation doesn’t just stay locally in the gut – it can also affect your body systemically – even leading to upstream effects on the brain.

So this can result in mild forms of cognitive impairment over time. And having an unbalanced gut microbiome can put you more at risk of a leaky gut as short-chain fatty acids (produced by beneficial microbes) are needed to keep your gut lining tightly closed.

When gut dysbiosis causes gut permeability, small particles of food and other toxins can increase systemic inflammation and may worsen cognitive function.

This is why you can expect to see positive effects on your irritating brain fog symptoms if your probiotics are good enough quality.

This is because the beneficial gut bugs will help to lower systemic inflammation as well as ensure your gut lining doesn’t let anything through it shouldn’t. 

6. You Feel Calmer

Gut brain connection

Have you noticed you’ve had less butterflies in the stomach during stressful situations? Well, this is yet another sign that your probiotics are kicking in.

There is such a well-established link between your gut and your brain through something called the gut-brain axis. Here, the gut can ‘speak’ directly to the brain, and the quality of this communication depends on the health of your gut.

So when you have an overgrowth of bad bacteria – this can result in poor communication with the outcomes including anxiety and low mood. (Source)

One of the reasons for this is that your gut microbes are partly responsible for your production of key feel-good neurotransmitters such as serotonin.

So, if you have a lack of key microbes you can experience issues with sufficient serotonin production which can lead you to feel anxious or low.

But conversely, when you take beneficial probiotic strains you can equip your gut with the tools it needs to generate serotonin, leading to better gut-brain communication and improved mental wellbeing.

Remember that even if your probiotics are working and your anxiety is reducing, you’ll still need to stick to helpful lifestyle interventions such as yoga and exercise for the best results.

7. Your Weight Is Stabilizing

A bonus benefit of taking good quality probiotic strains is that you can sometimes find it easier to maintain a stable and healthy weight. In particular, you might find that you feel less like overeating than before.

This is because there is some evidence to show that certain probiotics can trigger your satiety response, leading you to produce less of a hunger hormone called ghrelin. This means you can find it easier to stick to smaller portions which can help you with weight maintenance. (Source)

Also, some other studies suggest that there is such a thing as an obesogenic microbiome. This means that certain types of dysbiosis can make it more likely you’ll put on weight. (Source)

This is thought to be because some microbes promote inflammation in the body and excess inflammation is linked to weight gain and obesity.

8. You Have Increased Energy

Boost Energy Levels in Your Body

Your gut microbiome can affect your energy levels in two main ways. Firstly, you need a healthy range of microbes in order to digest your food properly and get the nutrients you need from the food you eat.

So, when you take probiotics and they start to work, you can expect to absorb more key nutrients involved with energy production such as B vitamins and Iron. This can help you to feel more vitalized during the day as you are less likely to have any nutrient deficiencies contributing to low energy. (Source)

Secondly, probiotics can also help to improve your glucose regulation which is again connected to your energy levels. When you have poor blood glucose balance you can expect to have energy highs and lows during the day, but when your insulin sensitivity improves and your blood glucose levels are kept on a more even keel you can then start to feel more consistently energized. (Source)

9. You Have Less Yeast Infections

Yeast infections can be really annoying.  And for some women, they are a common affair. Whilst yeast infections occur in the vagina – they actually result from a poor gut environment.

When you have an unhealthy level of harmful gut bacteria, this can lead to an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina – causing distracting and embarrassing symptoms. But instead of resorting to anti yeast preparations which do nothing to treat the root cause – probiotics can help instead. 

In fact, you can tell that your probiotics are working when you notice a reduced incidence of yeast infections. This is because your probiotics should work to outnumber the pathogenic gut microbes – which in turn affects other microbiomes in your body including that of your vagina.

Whilst it might be an old wives tale that putting yogurt in your vagina can reduce yeast infections, there is a much better rationale to taking probiotics internally to improve your gut microbiome – therefore addressing the root cause of your yeast infections.

Remember that in order to get these kinds of benefits from your probiotics you need to take them consistently for a number of weeks.

Also, to get the most out of your probiotics, you must take sufficient prebiotics as these beneficial fibers act as fuel for your beneficial bacteria – helping them to thrive in your gut.

So either choose a probiotic that contains prebiotics or add in extra onions, garlic, and green bananas to your daily diet.

Studying gut microflora

What Are The Signs You Need Probiotics?

The signs that you might need probiotics can be obvious, or more subtle.

For example, if you have recently taken a course of antibiotics then it’s clear your gut will be depleted in beneficial bacteria and you’ll need to repopulate them by taking a course of probiotics.

But sometimes, there are other indications that you might need to consider boosting your gut health. These could include skin issues such as psoriasis and eczema, anxiety, frequent coughs, and colds, or trouble sleeping. All of these general health concerns can arise from a state of dysbiosis (imbalance) in your gut microbiome.

And of course, any gut-based symptoms such as bloating, excess gas, and irregular bowel habits all point to a need for probiotics too.

So if you’ve been feeling run down, or experiencing annoying health niggles it can be a good idea to top up on some probiotics once you’ve had the all-clear from your doctor.

How To Tell If Your Probiotic Isn’t Working?

woman holding white probiotic container and pills in hands

If you’re not noticing any benefits at all, whether locally in the gut or systematically throughout your body, then the chances are your probiotics probably aren’t doing their job. This is especially true if it’s been three months or more since you started taking your probiotics regularly.

The reasons why your probiotics aren’t working well can vary but tend to include things such as choosing poor quality products where the probiotic strains don’t make it alive to your gut.

This could happen when the probiotic strains are not stored at the correct temperature, are not provided in sufficient quantities, or are subject to extreme temperature changes.

There’s also the possibility that you have taken an inert and inactive form of probiotics which have been added in small quantities to a blend of other ingredients. For example, many greens powders combining probiotics with multiple other compounds are unlikely to survive and thrive unfortunately.

Therefore your best bet is to take a high-quality probiotic supplement with a good CFU number, good shelf stability, and which combines a variety of probiotic strains. This can then be taken separately to a greens powder in order to provide you with comprehensive health support.

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