The digestive tract naturally contains bacteria, approximately 400 species to be exact. Many of these bacteria promote good health by boosting the immune system, digesting food and counteracting any harmful bacteria that may enter the body. When the balance of bacteria is altered, especially by taking antibiotics, the bacteria may need to be replaced. Probiotics are good bacteria that re-colonize the intestines to help restore health.
Purchase a probiotic supplement that is sold in health food and natural food stores. Serenity Aberdour, a naturopathic physician for Alive.com, explains that healthy adults can take doses of 2 billion to 10 billion bacteria, which come commonly in capsule form. Consult with your doctor if you have questions regarding the dosage.
Take the probiotic supplement after meals on a full stomach. The acid of the stomach can kill the bacteria before it reaches the intestines. Food will raise the pH of the stomach. Alternatively, take a probiotic supplement with an enteric coating to protect the good bacteria from the stomach acid. Probiotics need to reach the intestines for effectiveness and re-colonization of the good bacteria.
Take the probiotic supplement as directed on the bottle, or by your physician. Take it daily, especially when undergoing antibiotic therapy.
Eat yogurt with live, active cultures at least once per day to replace the bacteria in the digestive tract. Not all yogurt contains these cultures, which are essentially live bacteria. Yogurt products that do contain these cultures will be clearly labeled.
Take a probiotic supplement or eat yogurt anytime you take a course of antibiotics, which kill the bad bacteria that cause sickness. Unfortunately, it is not selective and it wipes out the good bacteria as well. Diarrhea, stomach cramps and gas may result from the elimination of this good bacteria.
Probiotics should not be given to children or critically ill patients, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Purchase probiotics from a trusted source, as the NCCAM reports that some products have been found to have fewer probiotics than claimed on the label, and some even have a different strain of bacteria than what is listed.