By Amanda Capritto
The Internet is awash with information on probiotics — which strains are best, what they do for your body, etc. — so you know why you should take a probiotic supplement. But once you add probiotics to your wellness regimen, how do you know if they’re actually working?
The benefits of probiotics can take a while to manifest, and they come on gradually, so it can be tough to notice the difference. But if you make an effort to take note of a few key changes, you’ll know if your supplement is working.
To determine whether your probiotics are working, look out for these five hallmarks of a healthy gut.
1. Your digestion has changed.
This can mean one of two things, depending on what stage of probiotic supplementation you’re in. If you just started taking your probiotic, look out for temporary digestive discomforts. You might feel experience bloating, constipation, gas, or cramping for a few days as your body adjusts to the new microorganisms in your digestive tract.
After a couple of weeks, look out for good changes: calmer, smoother digestion, regular bowel movements, less gas, reduced bloating. If any of your usual digestive complaints start to dissipate, there’s a good chance it’s due to your probiotic.
2. You’ve been sleeping better.
It might sound off-the-wall, but a healthy gut is actually a key driver behind quality sleep. Your gut helps to regulate hormone production, digestion, immune function, appetite, mood, stress responses, and metabolism — all of which impact the quality of your sleep.
On top of that, sleep and gut health actually work as a two-way street: Poor sleep negatively impacts your gut and falling out of your usual sleep schedule can alter the composition of your microbiome.
So if you’ve happily welcomed better sleep in the weeks since you started taking your probiotic, it probably means that it’s doing its job.
Read more: 5 Ways Gut Health Affects Your Sleep
3. You feel happier.
This may seem subjective (mood swings, am I right?), but the proof is in the pudding: Your brain and your gut communicate through a pathway called the “gut-brain axis.” When things are out of whack in your gut, it can cause an upset in your brain as well.
Plus, your gut is home to roughly 90 percent of your body’s serotonin receptors. An important feel-good chemical, serotonin is well-known for its positive impact on mood. If your probiotic is working, it has hopefully started to restore balance in your microbiome, leading to improved communication between your brain and gut, and improved serotonin production.
4. You have more energy.
If your gut contains more harmful bacteria than beneficial bacteria, it can take a toll on your energy levels, mental clarity, and productivity. A healthy microbiome keeps your hormone levels in check, including the stress hormone cortisol, and helps your body function at an optimal level.
If you’re feeling calmer, more alert, and more focused, you can bet your probiotic is doing its job by flushing out bad bacteria and replacing it with healthy colonies.
5. Your immune system is stronger.
This is definitely the hardest sign to monitor, because it’s difficult to know if your immune system is stronger without getting sick. And of course, we hope you do everything you can to fight off illnesses.
However, if you do come down with a cold, pay attention to how quickly your body returns to normal. If it usually takes you 10 days to totally shake off a cold, but you now feel better in a week or less, that’s a good sign your probiotic is hard at work.