How to Ensure Your Probiotics Are Working For, Not Against You : Exclusive Renegade Health Article by Dr. J.E. Williams

Wednesday Nov 23 | BY |
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Getting enough fiber is necessary for building strong probiotic colonies. Consume at least 20-25 grams daily, and more if you have digestive concerns.

Resident Medical Authority: J. E. Williams, OMD, FAAIM

For the natural health conscious, probiotics factor high on their list of supplements. And, most of these people know that probiotics, or friendly bacteria that live in the gut, play important roles in digestive function, including assimilation of nutrients from foods and supplements. However, the beneficial functions of probiotics do not stop at a happy gut; they also support a health immune response. This is because probiotics inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria by producing organic acids, hydrogen peroxide, and unique natural antibiotic substances. In turn, these process and neutralize toxic compounds.

There are studies that illustrate the effectiveness of probiotics in supporting a healthy immune response. For instance, a Scandinavian study has shown that those who supplement with probiotics before surgery are less likely to have postoperative infections. In fact, the use of antibiotics to treat all hospital-based infections decreased for those taking probiotic supplements. Furthermore, a healthy gut in which there are robust probiotic populations prevents colds and flus. A study in China showed that school-aged children who supplemented with probiotics suffered from upper respiratory infections 34% less than children who did not.

Despite what these studies show, simply adding a probiotic supplement is not enough to stay healthy if you have low levels of probiotic species or imbalances of friendly to potentially harmful bacteria. Normalizing probiotic populations requires time and the right ingredients. First, you need a product that contains active, live probiotic species. If you haven’t had a stool test, where you can find out which species you need to supplement, a broad spectrum of probiotic species is best. Second, you need enough of them. On average, 5 billion active organisms are sufficient. However, if you have low levels (determined by stool testing), you need more – at least 25 billion, twice daily. Thirdly, they have to get past stomach acid and the upper intestinal digestive enzymes, which can destroy bacteria on contact. No one has tested the absolute best time to take probiotics, but my clinical experience suggests that taking them immediately before meals helps move them past the stomach and through the small intestine faster. Others say between meals; but, though I did recommend that approach for many years, I now question whether it makes good sense to have live bacteria sitting in the stomach for hours – exposed to a bath of gastric acid. For practical purposes, taking them with food makes sense, too.

To help build strong probiotic colonies, you also need the right substrate of fiber and prebiotics, a category of nutrients that support the growth of healthy microflora. The most commonly recommended prebiotics are inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS). They can be taken as supplements but are also found in foods like chicory root, garlic, onion, and other fruits and vegetables. Naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and dairy drinks (like kefir) are good sources of prebiotics. Getting enough soluble fiber is also important. You need at least 20-25 grams daily, and more if you have digestive concerns.

Malabsorption of sugar causes the wrong type of fermentation in the gut with symptoms of gas, bloating, pain, diarrhea or constipation. It also disrupts colonization of probiotics and favors potentially pathogenic microorganisms like yeast and fungi. It is well known that lactose can cause this effect, but other sugars, including sucrose and fructose, cause similar problems. When attempting to recolonize the gut, cut back on the simple sugars, or better yet, eliminate them entirely for a few months.


  • Take a probiotic product containing live species.
  • Take enough: 5 billion for general health, up to 50 billion for replacement.
  • Take just before or with meals.
  • Provide enough fiber and prebiotics.
  • Cut back on all sugars.
  • Eat a wide range of fermented foods.
  • Be regular by taking them daily for at least one year.

The probiotic product you take needs to guarantee precise identification of species and number of units. Advanced probiotic manufacturers use DNA-based technology and PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to identify bacteria types. The combination of viable bacteria that adhere to and colonize the gut with a low sugar, high fiber, plant-based diet is necessary in repairing the gut. Getting the right bacteria to recolonize your gut is not easy. It takes time, up to a year or longer to make progress. However, your health depends on it, and it will be worth the time and effort for improved immunity and digestive health.

Your Question of the Day: Do you take probiotics? If so, what kind?


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Dr. J. E. Williams


Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

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  1. Rocio says:

    Do you have any suggestions on any particular brand or brands?
    Dr. Williams also would you please give us your input on when to take Betaine(HCL) and digestive enzymes? What about pancreatic enzymes?
    Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving and many blessings to all!

  2. Diane says:

    I have taken PB8, Total Pro, and a Metagenics probiotic product. Have no idea if they are good or not. How can one tell? Some say to buy only refrigerated product, others say it doesn’t matter. I am currently dealing with a bowel prolapse and my pelvic floor has dropped. Surgery is recommended. However my chiropractor warns against the bowel surgery as she says it will affect my para-sympathetic nervous system and cause me problems, including anxiety. I am a fit 62 yrs old. I find little info on bowel prolapse. Does anyone have any ideas? I bought an inversion table hoping that hanging might help.

  3. Anela says:

    I take Udos choice probiotics and have taken dr ohhiras. are either of these good?

  4. Leam says:

    Very interesting observation about when to take probiotics…I was always under the impression that taking them apart from meals was more beneficial. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

  5. Based on my own research, I have found BioK+ to be the best available on the market [ ] the certified organic rice probiotic is organic sprouted brown rice probiotics that contains no wheat, corn, dairy, soy or sugar, and with all the benefits of Bio-K+® ORGINAL formula = 50 billion active bacteria per bottle. Yes please:)

  6. Diana C says:

    I take AST (Advanced Supplemental Therapies) Floracor-GI enzymes. Dr. Fred Bisci recommends them. They have a prebiotic blend in them, and they don’t have to be refrigerated.

  7. Jamie McKeown says:

    I am going to be traveling in India for several months… can anyone recommend a good vegan probiotic that doesn’t need to be refrigerated?

  8. Bryan says:

    Pro and Prebiotics just before or with food makes sense to me. That is what I do. I have been making and consuming my own Sauerkraut for two years now and have recently bumped up with supplementation after yeast and fungus results from live blood testing. I have been using the Garden of Life Raw Probiotics and Raw Enzymes to good effect. I am the only vegetarian (25 years now) in my household. My wife who did not think her digestion was any of my business had not told me about her having BMs every other day as “normal”. Well her lower left side hurt and hurt more with some foods than others, so off to the doctor she goes. After CAT Scan and Colonoscopy to the tune of a couple of thousand bucks the good doctors shrugged and said she might have IBS. She won’t eat the Sauerkraut, but is taking the Enzymes and Probiotics with a Chicken, Fish and Pork along with sugar and processed snack foods diet and having BM’s twice a day. I think a pretty strong testimony to Pre- and Probiotics…..and prayer (mine) LOL

  9. Kris Elig says:

    I take Trivedi Sehat Probiotics; “Scientific studies conducted at Bangalore Genei™, one of the world’s leading biotech research firms have shown that bacteria are excellent receivers and carriers of Mr. Trivedi’s energy – and the 5 billion flora from 7 different bacterial strains in each Trivedi Probiotic capsule has been infused with this life changing energy.”

    If your are not familiar with Mr. Trivedi’s scientifically tested energy transmissions, just take a look at what it has done for my plants by using Trivedi energy infused water:
    Plants don’t have a placebo effect, so the proof is in the pudding as the saying goes. I know I am taking the best probiotics in the world, and would love to challenge anyone to test them in their own lab and see what I mean. ~Kris

  10. Carol says:

    I have done some research on various probiotics since my daughter has Crohn’s and we are trying a natural approach. Many probiotics contain animal bi-products. I found that many are developed with pig and cow hoof. In addition, many people recommend NOT using prebiotics like inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Apparently, they OVER colonize which can be problematic-I don’t understand why. But, perhaps you can find out.

    As Donna Gates’s probiotics don’t seem to be refridgerated, I find the “to fridge or not fridge” question very confusing.

    Please continue researching and sharing information on this very important topic. Thanks

  11. Tara Bianca says:

    I make my own goat keifer, I love it!

  12. Dan Hegerich says:

    The best oral probiotics are homemade grass fed dairy-Bulgarian Yogurt to cleanse the colon and then raw hoomemade kefir to colonize the gut. Even Donna Gates of Body Ecology says that kefir colonizes the colon best. The FOS polysacharide prebotics can be potentially useless to problematic with individuals who are experiencing Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth. This is because that individual can not properly digest and absorp disacharides and polysacharides causing bacterial fermentation and yeast overgrowth. A good probiotic brand is the Garden of Life Ultra Defense for oral consumption and a home rectal implant by My Real Health (Victoria Bauman, PhD-Gut to Have Guts Author). Additionally to ensure recolonization one must consider pancreatic or protolytic enzymes to help clean out the gut and make way for good bacteria. Like scraping the old paint off the walls to ensure the new paint will stick. I also like to hyperimplant orally at around 500 billion or more at one time for 2-3 days in a row. then stay on as much probiotics as you can afford. An interesting statistic is that properly fermented Bulgarian Yogurt and Kefir contain up to 700 billion live cultures per 1 cup! Now that’s a probiotic.

  13. just sit there says:

    I used to take the best dairy probiotic BIO-K. Now I am sensitive to dairy. So the best probiotic out there along with SYSTEMIC ENZYMES + prebiotics. is Dr. Bisci’s TRULY AMAZING PROBIOTIC. –

    – bile resistant
    – stomach acid resistant
    – refrigeration free
    – lactose free
    – 1 TRILLION ORGANISMS (CFU capability)

    Now please tell me, where will you find another probiotic this amazing? Check it out. He shares in a video about this probiotic. Clearly. Go to Dr. Bisci’s website and watch the video on probiotics. This guy is 82 years old and super healthy. There is proof in the puddin’ so to speak he he.

    It is not cheap but it all depends on where you are with your health, are you trying to heal – get the best – do you want a chevy or a ferrari of a probiotic? Just sharing info here. Sharing is caring. PEACE.

  14. bikegata says:

    Been taking 1-2 caps of Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra for several months, but wondering if it’s helping. Right now, I’m recovering from surgery, and got an infection in the wound, so am on Keflex now. I was craving sauerkraut since the surgery, something I never usually like. Looking at the label of the Primal Defense, I see no pre biotics or FOS listed. Can’t really stomach the sauerkraut every day, and I’m not a big garlic/onion eater. I guess I’ll double or triple the Primal Defense caps, but I would like to take some pre biotic capsules. Any recommendations of brand for just pre biotics?

  15. Hopand skip says:

    I take Young Living’s Life 5 Probiotic. Now, of course because I am a wholesaler of their product, you may want to disregard my opinion as bias. :0) I did however have Lyme disease 13 years ago and a host of other problems like systemic candida and a toxic liver. I took tons of supplements and many of them it was impossible to tell if they were working or not.

    I probably spent thousands of dollars that would have done me just as much good as flushing that money down the potty.

    There are some products I say…you know, you can get such and such here or here and that is just fine. Probiotics are not one of those however.

    Just to give you an example, I have a good friend who was having some issues recently, here is her story:

    “My 3-year old and I both had a yeast infection recently that was very miserable. We had been using the expensive (Health food store) brand pro-biotic that they tout is the best when someone has been on antibiotics or has been very sick. It’s about $35/bottle for 240, and the instructions say to only use one a day. They say there are “5 billion viable cells per capsule” and are shelf stable (no refrigeration needed). The problem is, I was taking 6 a day, and my little one was taking 2 a day – and we still had our problem! After a week of this, I broke down and used the “expensive” Life 5 probiotics from Young Living…both of our symptoms were relieved after 1 capsule! So, it seems like the YL product isn’t “worth it” because there are not nearly as many in a bottle (30 capsules, $24.75), but as I found out, 1 pill does what 6 of the other expensive ones couldn’t even do!”

    Nuff said. :0)

    It has no animal products, the bacteria are specially chosen for their resistance to stomach acid AND designed to implant (stick) to the colon wall. (Sounds gross but that is important)

    So, what I am seeing in these posts is that many people do not know if their probiotics are working. When you are taking an effective probiotic, you DO generally notice an effect in your bowel structure, the feeling of gas/bloating subsiding etc.

    Of course cultured vegi’s and homemade yogurt from raw milk, and other cultured foods are all a good addition as well. Lou Corona has a wonderful vegan almond/coconut yogurt (vegan) that is the basis of many of his smoothies and he cultures it beforehand. I very much respect Lou and I’m sure whatever probiotic he is using is probably top of line as well. I have not been able to find it online. Here is the link on how to make that:

    I do like Donna Gates cultures, the kind that need to be kept in the freezer, for homemade cultured products.

    But for supplements IMO Life 5 rocks! :0)

    Here are just a few testimonies:

    Blessings to you all!


    For more information about Life 5 you my contact me through my webiste:
    Or order from
    If you are interested in finding out more about Life 5, you can go to the above site and click on “proucts” and then type in Life 5. You can click on the product name and read the product info sheet.

  16. Marilyn says:

    These articles are great!…. I also find the comments and questions from people very interesting and am wondering if you respond to them? Seeing answers to these would be very helpful. Thanks…..p.s. I don’t do Facebook/ twitter/ etc.

  17. viola says:

    to bikegata (post#9)
    Drinking green smoothies (no fruits except lime) will eventually help to repopulate good flora, but there are some products can help to speed up the process FiberSMART or IntestiNew by

  18. viola says:

    Cooked beans also very good to keep healthy flora and prevent colon cancer. It contains RS (resistant starch). If you don’t want to eat cooked food, then try green bananas, also high in RS.

  19. kit says:

    reply to Diane above – you might look into the book: “Saving the whole woman – natural alternatives to surgery for pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence” by Christine Ann Kent 2006– her website is It addresses your concerns quite well and might provide additional options.

  20. LynnCS says:

    Kevin and Annmarie. I am so thankful that you are willing to research all these issues and really care about getting it to us and getting our feedback.

    I have taken Nature’s Way Primadophilus Original for many years with a change for about a year to the same brand with bifidus. The second one gave me diarrhea so I went back to the first, but couldn’t use that as often anymore either. I finally sent for Dr. Mercola’s Complete Probiotics. It’s ok, but again, can give me diarrhea. I am older and have had a lifetime of trying to balance my digestion from Spastic Colon (IBS). Because of the struggle with this and not knowing what I should eat, I have never got it absolutely right. Now I have lots of diverticula and have suffered a lot from digestive pains, gas, bloating etc. Long story short. I found the Raw Food Diet. After the initial learning curve, and knowing what to buy and how to prepare it, I don’t suffer….At all! Now I grind up some soaked almonds and water and, I have yogurt. I added one probiotic cap and never will need to again, because I now have the starter. Is it the same as taking a pill,? I don’t know, but no diarrhea. I only have a couple tablespoons a couple times each day. One of the most important things for me is drinking a lot of water and eating all plant based diet and getting to know what bothers me. I have found that now that I am eating only Organic, Vegan, Plant foods, I get enough fiber things work without a lot of supplements. I stay away from grains, commercial, and prepared (vegetarian) foods. If I get a little constipated, I take one. I might take an extra Magnesium also to move things along. It’s no joke to live with all this, but I could have done less damage through the years if I understood the value of fiber and water. And understood food allergies (sensitivities.) OMG…wrote too much, and there’s more, but suffice it to say Fruit,Vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, may just cure everything, or at least let your body create the health we are meant to have. Lynn

  21. Doreen Delgaty says:

    What would you recommend for rectal cancer? Any and all comments are appreciated. Thanks!

  22. Sharon says:

    For the past seven years I have been using and recommending Inliven:

    Each generation of all 13 bacteria are stressed against all the things that kill off good bacteria and only the strongest ones are reproduced for the next batch. This has been done for over 20 years now. It is packaged with the food it eats and needs to stay alive. All vegan foods. The formula contains all the needed amino acids so it not only corrects yeast/fungus/candida imbalances but it feeds the brain and muscles.

    We tried dozens of probiotics over a course of about 10 years to heal my daughter and this one noticeably worked within 24 hours when the others didn’t. Long story but it was a permanent effect, not just temporary.

    Inliven recolonizes the gut. I don’t think that a formula with just a few strains can work long-term. A person may be missing some vital bacteria. If I didn’t have access to Inliven I would use kefir or rely on fermented foods.

    Using Inliven daily means you will have odorless stools too. I wish I could post ads in public bathrooms about that!

    If anyone has questions you can email me via my website.

  23. Janet says:

    check out for probiotics named Super Shield and proper food combining, very helpful for IBS and other digestive issues.

  24. CmdrSoCal says:

    Garden of Life Raw probiotics are the best I have ever used. I use them as a starter culture in my fermented vegetables. I reuse the juices so I will never have to buy another jar. The fermented vegetables with a little fruit added multiplies the probiotics . The best probiotics for life and the best fermented vegetables. Can be used for raw yogurt as well.

  25. Sherri says:

    Will a person need to take a probiotic forever? If one takes it for a year, and keeps on a good diet with enough fruits and vegetables will there be a forever need for probiotics? Can a person take too many? I had a colonoscopy last year and thought I should do something more than what I am doing. Also, my daughter had her appendix removed…will she need a probiotic for life?

  26. Tina says:

    This response is directed at #2’s question regarding “pelvic floor failure”. Look up Gary Gray, PT. and find yourself a “Gift Fellow” from Gary’s program. It takes work but you can turn on your pelvic floor again with the help of this program. And find a good nutritionist to help evaluate whether your diet is working for you or not. Best wishes.


  28. Emily says:

    To Diane–another idea: Teresa Tapp’s T-Tapp exercise program is partly about getting one’s organs in proper position. Something to check out, anyway. Kit’s suggestion sounds great, of course.

    To all: I’ve encountered the idea (on the internet 🙂 that taking colostrum prepares the surface of the gut for probiotics to “stick”. I started doing this with Megaflora brand. Also taking fish oil. These three supplements seem to have healed a long standing heartburn issue of mine.

  29. Gail says:

    I had heard much about Garden of Life Primal Defense and ordered it earlier this year. After several months of using it, I still felt absolutely nothing.
    I have not had any ‘luck’ with Garden of Life products whatsoever, so it just shows how our bodies are all different.
    I’ve had much better luck with PB8.
    On my list to try were the Sedona iFlora but think I will check out Fred Bisci’s based on the recommendations here.
    Would love to make my own (raw milk) yogurt or learn how to make kefir/yogurts as that seems to be the best.


  30. Gail says:

    I’ve also had better results with the Enzymatic Therapy “Pearls” and at a fraction of the cost.

  31. Hopand skip says:

    To: Doreen Delgaty, I am not a doctor of course, but I can tell you some very encouraging stories and get you some information that has been helpful for others. 🙂

    Just had a 72 year old woman get rid of a breast cancer tumor in 30 days. Pretty neat. :0)

    You can contact me through my website

    Blessings and Hope!

  32. Brenda says:

    I have Wegener’s Disease and am prone to infections in my airway. Last year I had a bacteria infection called Proteus Mirabilis ESBL a nasty one. My infectious Disease Dr, Mr Germbuster recommends Natren’s Healthy Trinity. I have to live on anti-biotic called Bactrim whether I like it or not. Healthy Trinity really helps and keeps me balanced. I can feel the difference.

  33. Bev says:

    Please tell Diane # 2 to email me, about the bowel prolapse….I have had a simular experience and I am repairing if she would like to corespond

  34. Adrienne says:

    Many researchers are actually calling probiotics the missing link in our health these days! If you want to prevent nasty colds and flus, boost your energy and have GREAT skin, probiotic foods are the cornerstone. I completely kicked my sugar cravings once and for all- not with restrictive diet or an expensive detox but by ADDING probiotic rich foods and drinks (like kombucha and homemade krauts).

    Making cultured foods is kind of a lost skill (that’s prob why Kevin and AnnaMarie put together their great cookbook ‘Cultured’). At, we have a step-by step video e-course available as well. We’ve married the why and the how and have included everything from grocery lists to recipes to nutrition advice and monthly Q and A calls. Once you get started, you won’t believe how easy it is, or how good you feel!

  35. Carisa says:

    I believe wholeheartedly in the use of probiotics in the form of fermented beverages and cultured foods. In fact, the best way to test if your brand of probiotics is a “good” one is to try an at-home culture test. The test works equally well for kefir based products as well as lacto bacteria based ones. Here’s the scoop:

    Pour about 6 ounces of organic lemonade (I use Santa Cruz) into a mason jar or other glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Add a few capsules of your probiotic/packet of starter, shake well, and sit in a warm place (at least 95 degrees) for 2 days.

    If there is no carbonation after 2 days, it is likely that the bacteria were dead. If you’ve got bubbles, you can be assured that the bacteria came out of dormancy and began to multiply, consuming the sugar in the lemonade. If you taste the lemonade, you will see that it is no longer as sweet.

    You can then use this as a “starter” to make a full quart of lemonade, or to start some sauerkraut or other cultured veggies.

    I have used a number of brands with success, such as Body Ecology, Primal Defense, Source Naturals, etc., but it is important to note that you can get a non-viable batch from even the most reputable companies. Probiotics are living things, and sometimes they don’t survive all the challenges we put them through to get them from lab to shelf to your body. It is wise to test your probiotics

  36. Angela says:

    I have been taking a multi strain probiotic for couple months from the first time I took them I felt a strange heaviness or coating in my stomach- well little by little I have been getting this slime thing when I eat certain foods like nuts or dairy or butter or yogurt and I feel like I’m choking and I feel a lot of mucus and it comes out my eyes my mouth my nose my vagina my rectum and it scares me but I keep thinking is this a die off or is this pathogenic bacterias taking over my Drs who are wholistic say its an allergic reaction but it seems like it happens with everything I eat its so disconcerting – is my gut healing or are these things coming in and taking over in a bad way??
    Thanks A

  37. I recommend Heathy Trinity by Natren and Dr.Mercola’s Probiotics.

  38. Cheryl says:

    Hi dr Williams, I am in great need of help. I am 44 with 2 amazing twin girls. Except in the past 8 months I haven’t been able to be such a good mommy to them. I have been diagnosed with first celiac and then sibo. The celiac diet was a breeze and I was adamant abt it. But this sibo, well I’m afraid for my life. Literally.

    I have many terrible effects of sibo already like a constant gnawing/burning in upper stomach, migraines, joint pain, now unable to digest fats or eggs because that causes D immediately. I read somewhere that if you have the sibo that creates constipation, things are even scarier and that is the one I have. I just started doxycycline for 10 days and will then go to xifaxin in for 10 days.

    Question is, when and what kind of probiotic can I take? I hear conflicting info abt sibo and probiotics. I have to get this right b/c if I don’t I’m afraid of the consequences when I go off the antibiotics.

    Also, do you see patients?

    I appreciate any advice you could give

    Tank you, Cheryl.

  39. Roberta says:

    I have a question. I have been making (growing) my own kifir for years and my entire family has been having it in smoothies for years. I just read the article and was surprised to read that kifir is a prebiotic. I was under the assumption from all that i have read that it was a probiotic.

    If this is correct that it is a prebiotic, do we still need probiotics? My son has ulcerative colitis and we have been controlling it with no medication for years. I have thought it was in large because of the kifir, and of course his great diet of no sugar, wheat or dairy. Grass fed beef, healthy chicken and fish.

    Should I be looking at adding a probiotic? Is there a food supplement like fermented foods I can do because we don’t have the money to buy the expensive probiotic supplements.

    Any information is helpful,

  40. Mia says:

    My probiotics were working great at first, but after one month my problems returned even worse.
    I am puzzled. They are not the kind that is stored in the fridge, so I don’t think that is a problem.
    Maybe I need a higher dose or different type of bacteria?

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