Probiotics: To Take or Not to Take?



Hope you’ve all had a great week. I’m here with a Question of the Week. I’ve been out of the habit of answering these lately, but not intentionally: they’re actually some of my favorite blog posts to write!

This question comes from Jeanette. Recently, she wrote an email saying,

Hi Gena, I love your blog! I’ve read so much about probiotics lately. Do you recommend taking them? Is there a brand you like

Great question, Jeanette! My answer is yes, depending on your circumstances and health situation. If you suffer from IBS or are pronte to getting colds and other seasonal bugs easily, it may be a very wise idea (of course, chat with your health care provider about whether or not probiotics, or any supplement, is right for you).

There’s enough buzz around probiotics lately that I don’t have to define the basics for you: these are the microorganisms that have a healthy effect on our bodies (usually via our digestive tract). Taken properly, probiotics can help to combat bacteria, yeast, and other invaders which are likely to weaken and impair our digestion. Consequently, they can help to heal gas, bloating, constipation, candida (yeast), IBS, colitis, and even deeper conditions, such as high cholesterol and impaired immunity. Gut flora balance has even been implicated in weight management.

There are a ton of probiotics on the market right now. If you suffer from IBS, constipation, or bloating (which seems to be the most common reason that people seek out a probiotic supplement), I recommend an acidophilus and bifidus blend. You also want to seek out a probiotic that is enteric coated (this means it’s coated thickly enough to withstand passage through one’s stomach acid; unfortunately, most probiotics do not have enteric coating).

It can be challenging to find a vegan probiotic; some brands use milk in the manufacturing process, or have gelatin-derived capsules, or use bee products. It is not impossible, however, to find a vegan-friendly formula. Garden of Life RAW makes a dairy, casein, gelatin, and bee product free probiotic, as does Renew Life. And the MegaFoods MegaFlora formula is also dairy, gelatin, casein, and bee product free.

I also highly recommend getting comfortable with cultured foods as a means of boosting your gut flora. You can check out my tutorial on lacto-fermented veggies to get started. Other fermented foods that can help you to obtain probiotics include coconut water kefir, kimchee, and kombucha.

Hope this is helpful!

G xo

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  1. Hi,
    I just wanted to point out that while MegaFood’s MegaFlora does not contain any dairy in the finished product, dairy is used in the manufacture of the product, so it isn’t animal-friendly or vegan.
    Have a nice day.

  2. You may have seen commercials about probiotics for constipation. Usually, however, other constipation treatments, including drugs like laxatives, are almost always mentioned in mainstream sources to provide relief for constipation. Probiotics usually are not considered the first constipation treatments option because probiotics are not meant to treat or cure disease. Only drugs can do that, according to the FDA. In other words, probiotics work best as preventative agents, not as quick “cures”.

  3. Ugh, just found out the Udos Probiotics are NOT vegan, they contain traces of milk. Looking into Now Foods Probiotic-10 which claim to be vegan on the bottle. Also taking Inner-Eco coconut kefir.

  4. I am ordering the Udo’s probiotic and enzyme. Do you take these before *every* meal everyday??

  5. I have been taking the Lady Soma Probiotics for about 1 year now and I can’t belive the difference it makes in my digestive health! My OB/GYM reccomended Lady Soma. I have had stomach/instestinal problems my whole life and I have diagnosed with IBS. since taking the probiotics I have seen alot of improvement.

  6. Hi there! I’m happy I came across your post! I took a look at the Udo’s website and I was wondering if you’ve ever attempted to make raw nut yogurt using those or any probiotics capsules? I’ve had a pack of yogourmet starter in the fridge and just realized there was skim milk powder along with the probiotics in it.

  7. Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics Professional Formula
    has Beeswax.

    Not vegan.

    I am not entirely sure about why they add “formic acid”. However it may be a residual amount left from when the beekeepers treat their hives for mites.

    It does come to mind that a certain artificial sweetner, that I am pretty sure you all dismiss from your diet, decomposes into formic acid. So why include, what you all avoid, into a pre, or probiotic blend?

    Good article – and please perhaps one of the other bloggers can check the the reviewed products’ ingredients?

    BTW – my vegan son called me out on the milk ingredient of a GNC Super 10 Probiotic Complex I was taking. It is time for a new pair of reading glasses!

  8. Hi Gena! I’m considering taking digestive enzymes on a regular basis. Do you still think they are helpful? And is it ok to take them regularly and indefinitely? Thanks x


  10. I have had lots of problem with my stomach and bowels. After extensive tests and nothing wrong started taking probiotics. This seemed to help my bloating; however, lately I have alot of gas. Can too much of this cause gas?

    • Yes, if you’re taking excessive probiotics, you might get gassy. Make sure only to take the recommended amount.

  11. I have a sip of Olive Leaf Extract in the morning to help get rid of any internal nasties and then some natural yogurt on top of my fruit for breakfast with its millions of good bacteria…lovely stuff!

  12. I’ve tried Udo’s choice probiotic, dairy free Bio K, Natures Way but none of them helped my severe IBS gas, bloast, constipation, cramps sadly.

    • Have you used VSL3? It has 450 billion organisms per packet. It worked for me on diarrhea when nothing else did. I alternate it with Florastor.

  13. Hi Gena,

    As usual, quite an informative post! You always have a knack for addressing questions many people- vegan, omnivore, raw, not raw, etc- are wondering. 🙂

    I wonder, if you jump start probiotics and enzymes in your body by taking a supplement, is it possible to wean yourself off of them, and rely only on whole foods in a vegetable based diet afterwards? Or once on the supplements, are you stuck with them for life? (In order to feel the regularity, anyway.) I started taking the ones from Wholefoods you recommended, but I was hoping it would only be until my body gets used to this much cleaner way of eating- I would say I am 51% raw, 80% vegan right now, working up to a high raw, all vegan diet (with the exception of raw honey). I guess I will have to do some experimenting in the future.

    Thanks for your “food for thought”!

  14. Fantastic info Gena.

    I couldn’t agree with you more when it comes to supplements and everything you have said here.

    I have recently become more interested in probiotics myself, so this post definitely helped to confirm some things for me. Thanks!

  15. You couldn’t be more right about starting a new habit being easier than eliminating bad ones! Sadly, all too true!

  16. thank you so much for this post! i’ve been starting to wonder whether or not i should add a probiotic supplement into my diet after we’ve been experimenting with them while making nut cheese at school.
    since i stopped consuming a lot of dairy, i was beginning to feel concerned about the lack of probiotics in my life– thanks for the info, i’ll definitely be picking some up.
    hope you’re having a wonderful weekend! let me know if plane tix go down and you can come chill in okc!

  17. Thank you for reminding us that supplements are secondary to a clean diet. I have resisted taking anything, instead focusing on my food intake. But still, I get constipated and feel after reading this that probiotics may help.

  18. I’ve always taken my digestive problems for granted as just something I have to deal with. I love that you’re always offering solutions for different ways to work on your digestion, and that you remind me it doesn’t have to be that way!

  19. I’ve been taking Jarro Dophilus on and off for a few months. It definitely does me good when I take it!

  20. Funny that you wrote about this right when I started taking my Probiotics again! I have had major tummy issues and I just keep forgetting (like Heather:) to take my Probiotics because I don’t SEE them!! When is the best time to take them–or did I miss that somewhere in your post?

  21. I used to take a probiotic everyday as I had crazy IBS issues. But after a few month of taking it, I ran out at a time that I couldn’t really afford to shell out $20 on a new bottle. I vowed to wait until payday. Payday came along and I spent my money elsewhere. Eventually a month or so went by, and I realized I wasn’t even having IBS issues anymore…so why buy them, right? For now, I’m still eating soy and coconut yogurt a few days a week. But until the IBS starts back (if it does), I’m not gonna spend the money. I do believe probiotics solved my issues though…at least for now.

  22. Gena, what a great post!!

    I was just wondering of your opinion of probiotics being added to foods. We’ve been seeing probiotic yogurt for a while now, but as with every nutrition trend, companies have picked up on it and started adding it to everything — cereals, wraps…the other day at whole foods I saw probiotic HUMMUS. This seems totally unnatural and weird to me – what are your thoughts?

    Ever heard of probiotics going bad, as well? My best friend ate an overdue probiotic wrap and lets just say she has had NO problem “taking a crap”…but in the worst way possible :S

    • Hey Kristen!

      I personally have not much respect for those “ehanced” foods. As LovIn Sarah says, who cares if probiotics are present, if they’re stuffed into sugary cereals or snack bars or yogurts? Ew. Just take a pill, or, if you do eat cow’s dairy, have some plain Greek yogurt. But don’t rely on processed foods!


  23. I totally agree with you on vitamins and supplements. I think that by not taking them, you are forced to make sure that your daily diet is balanced and full of nutrients – which is what we should all be doing anyway really! Thanks for this post – very informative.

  24. Thank you so much for addressing this! I have been thinking about probiotics for a while..I have IBS with almost constant constipation and bloating and even with eating more raw and whole foods, the legumes and many vegetables have really been making me feel bloated! I may give these a try, along withe the enzymes to see if it helps. It definately beats going to the bathroom only twice a week or the opposite diarrhea with laxatives!

    • Tammy, I know your frustration as I have been battling IBS with constipation and diarrhea for the past 18 months. I will attest that the digestive enzymes along with probiotics DO work! I take a DE 10-15 minutes before each meal and the bloating and gassiness has all but gone; then the probiotics after my meal to keep things happy and balanced in my colon. I will share with you other things that I have done. Up your intake of magnesium oxide supplements. I take 250 mg with each of my 3 main meals. This will aid your digestive system in making sure things travel quickly in the colon. If you find 250 mg x 3 doesn’t work much, go to 250 mg x 4. I also alternate between an 8 oz glass of organic aloe vera juice and PlumSmart plum juice everyday about 30 minutes after breakfast – remember, do NOT drink fluids with your meal as it dilutes your stomach acid’s ability to digest food. Drink fluids 30 minutes AFTER eating, but not with meals. You can also use the magnesium as a natural helper if you find that a day has gone by and you have not had a bowel movement. You take 2000 – 4000 mg of magnesium with a full 8 oz of water just before going to bed (must be on an empty stomach with at least 3 hours after the last thing you ate). Usually by the next morning, you should be quite ready to use the bathroom. Try to include some fiber drinks in your 64 ounces of water intake a day. At Wal-mart, Crystal Light Hunger Satisfaction offers 5 g of fiber per drink. High fiber oatmeal and 1 tablespoon of freshly ground flax seed twice a day (mix with your yogurt) will help your colon be effective at doing its job.

    • Tammy — laxatives are NO GOOD! Please don’t take them. Definitely try probiotics and enzymes, and you can also try enemas if need be. Colonics should also help quite a lot.

  25. Gena, thanks for the info on probiotics and enzymes. I am still eating yogurt daily. I make certain that the yogurt I eat has active cultures. I do notice a difference when I do not eat it. I didn’t know there were supplements containing probiotics and enzymes. Time to check in with my local health food store.

  26. Thank you so much for this post–it couldn’t have come at a better time (for me). I went and picked up a bottle of Udo’s Choice Hi-Potency today–it’s my first time trying a probiotic supplement, and I’m glad to have read your advice.
    I’ve been thinking about making my own kombucha, but just haven’t gotten around to it…

  27. Great post Gena! You are such a great writer! Thanks for doing this post. I am a firm believer in probiotics and digestive system pills! I have gotten majority of my family on them. My sisters and I are suffer from food allergies and from all the years of stress put on our organs these magic pills have certainly helped! I use the brands – Dr. Ohhira and MegaFoods which I love. But I have seen Udos before and now I will give it a try. I have just started taking an EFA oil blend from Vega and seem to like it. It is so nice to know there are options out there and such great quality companies and products!

  28. Great post! I take the megaFoods enzymes and that DHA from Udos! 🙂 I wish they would send me some probiotics to sample!!! 🙂

  29. Thank you for this post! I need to amp up my probiotic, I’ve tried all different kinds. Think I will give the WF generic a whirl. As for digestive enzyme, I’d love your opinion — I take a prescription called Viokase. It consists of 8,000 USP units of Lipase, 30,000 of Protease and 30,000 of Amylase. And it is cheaper (with insurance) than the ones your recommended — is it similar? Is it OK for me to take? Thanks!

  30. I’m always curious about probiotics! This post has answered so many questions I’ve had, thanks again! You always have the greatest info!

  31. Hi Gena!

    Great post as always. I have a question though. Can fermented foods such as coconut kefir, or a product like Donna Gate’s ‘CocoBiotic’ work for one’s probiotic needs? Have you ever tried kefir? I’m just not 100% sure which route to go with – kefir style products, or a probiotic like UDO’s.

    Thanks very much! xx

    • Hi Kaylee,

      Well, I certainly don’t drink cow’s or goat’s milk kefir, as I’m a vegan. I’ve never tried coconut kefir, but I do know some raw foodies who love it. For me, I prefer the supplements.


  32. I’ve been on the probiotics bandwagon for years. I attribute healing my overall health with healing my gut. I think everyone’s gut is a little beat up from environmental pollutants, antibiotic usage in the past, alcohol, other drugs, hormone-laced food, stress, the list goes on and on. I think that EVERYONE could benefit from probiotics. 70% of your immune system is in your gut. Healthy gut = healthy person. Since I have been taking a daily probiotic for the last 4 yrs, I have rarely gotten sick, despite having a germy little toddler who totes germs home with her no doubt, and the illnesses I have had are milder. Anyway, I cannot sing the praises of probiotics enough. I also do fermented foods and make my own countertop coconut milk kefir. And enzymes, also excellent. Papaya enzymes rock. If have any pregnant ladies you ever work with, papaya enzymes are so helpful when the baby is making your stomach contents feel like the never go down, just up…papaya to the rescue. Anyway lady, great post. Hope to talk to you soon 🙂 Til then, enjoy your weekend!


  33. I am lovIN the tummy 😉

    Great post, as always. I’d also like to point out that throwing “probiotics” into a HFCS laden granola bar or artificially colored and flavored yogurt is not going to do jack for your health, digestive or otherwise.

    I’m also pretty excited that you said “take a crap.” I may have reread that sentence several times.

  34. thanks for this super informative post! i have been looking into probiotics and this helped me out. i am still debating taking one!

  35. Gena,

    You are such a fantastic writer, and so in touch with your readers. You have a way of informing, not judging, and suggesting not guilting. I also feel smarter after your posts, and I love that you always offer the subject of interest as a possibility rather than a must. It’s so true that all of us have different bodies and require different health regimens. I cannot tell you how guilt ridden I was during one long period of my life, and how much i appreciate your attitude. It eases me so much with less rules and rigidity on my “diet.” And with the wealth of information your posts have provided me, I feel so much better when people bombard me with “but how do you get your ______, and don’t you need to supplement with _______ as a vegan?” So for that I thank you. And I thank you again.

    No more getting caught up in powders, supplements, vitamins, super foods, etc! I’m going to use what I want to use! I’m excited to learn about probiotics tho- what great info. Although I eat a mostly raw (and all vegan) diet, I do occasionally eat the SoDelicious coconut yogurts specifically for the bacteria and probiotics. I just hate the added sugars, which is why I always opt for the lowest sugar plain and original flavors. So I’m going to do some more research and definitely look into Udo’s choice Oils. If only I could get insurance and see a doctor to do blood tests to check all my levels- but alas I’m always rejected by EVERY insurance company.

    • That is so frustrating! Most health insurance covers yearly bloodwork, or so I have found. I hope you find a way.

  36. I’ve been taking Udo’s Choice Adult’s Probiotic and I’ve been really happy with it. I’m curious about the Enzyme and Oil Blend. . .Will check them out. Thanks!

  37. Lots of great information here (as always!)

    I’ve been taking a probiotic upon the recommendation of my naturopath for quite awhile now and I think it’s really made a difference for me. This post reminds me that I need to pick up a new bottle!!

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