milk in a jug and mug

Dairy is as ubiquitous as the air we breathe and, for many people, dairy products make up a large part of their diet. As a staple for thousands of years, the dairy industry is showing no signs of slowing down, with the worldwide industry projected to grow to over a trillion dollars by 2024 (per Statista). Aside from the fact that dairy products are cheap, readily available, and delicious (see: cheese), they also easily provide some fundamental nutrients needed by our bodies. "Dairy is a good source of vitamin D (when fortified), protein, and nutrients, including calcium and potassium," says registered dietitian nutritionist Maya Feller to Business Insider.

But, it’s not all rosy. Lactose intolerance — where your body struggles to absorb and digest dairy products, resulting in unpleasant symptoms — is a highly common problem, with roughly one in three people in the U.S. having lactose malabsorption (per the NIH). What’s more, the dairy industry has a huge impact on the environment, with high emissions of greenhouse gases and lack of sustainability associated with dairy farming, according to World Wildlife. This begs the question: do we need dairy? And what happens to our bodies if we give it up? Join us as we find out.

You might find yourself feeling a little less bloated

woman holding stomach

With dairy products long being associated with unpleasant digestive symptoms, it’s little wonder that, if you’re feeling bloated a little too often, giving up dairy may be the solution for you. "Even if you are not lactose intolerant, dairy can sometimes contribute to bloat, gas, and abdominal distention, which no one wants," states registered dietitian and "The Sugar Detox" author Brooke Alpert to Byrdie.

Remember though, while lactose intolerance is pretty common, per the Mayo Clinic, it might not be the root of any symptoms you could have, with casein sensitivity (via Mindd Foundation) also causing tummy upsets in some people. "Sensitivity to casein is not the same thing as lactose intolerance, which is the inability to break down and digest the lactose (milk sugar)," says Alpert. Alpert is quick to point out that dairy is not, in itself, bad for digestion, but rather people’s reactions to it. If you aren’t sure whether lactose intolerance or casein sensitivity is the cause of any digestive issues you might be having, Alpert recommends cutting out dairy for a few weeks and seeing if you notice any change. If there’s a big difference, it could be the milk.

You might have withdrawal symptoms from giving up dairy

person with slice of pizza

Trying to battle cheese cravings after giving up dairy? There’s a reason that extends beyond the sheer deliciousness of the food. When you stop eating dairy, your body can react with tangible withdrawal symptoms, causing you to crave the lost food in your diet. According to naturopathic doctor Serena Goldstein, based in New York, dairy "acts on our opiate receptors that mimic feelings of addiction" (per Bustle). Indeed, a 2015 study demonstrated that cheese is addictive (via Mount Sinai). Although any symptoms you experience will vary, if you’re cutting it out suddenly you could discover that you’re finding it harder to sleep, or conversely more fatigued, according to nutritionist Frida Harju-Westman for Insider.

If you’re cutting out dairy, the most important thing to do so that your body doesn’t react negatively is to replace the nutrients you’re getting from dairy with other food sources, states Livestrong. Fortified soy products can be a great replacement, as well as calcium sources like leafy greens, canned fish, or milk alternatives like almond or rice milk. Keeping an eye on your vitamin B2 intake is also important, as this can suffer if you’re giving up dairy products; mushrooms, seafood, and fortified cereals can be worthy replacements here.

When you stop eating dairy, your immune system might suffer

five milk bottles

There are many reasons why a tall glass of milk has long been considered the picture of health, and one of them is that dairy helps you stay healthy. "When you stop eating dairy, you might find that your immune system becomes considerably weaker," states nutritionist Frida Harju-Westman to Cosmopolitan. "This may be because you are lacking the important vitamin, B12. [Vitamin] B12 is commonly found in dairy products and assists in regulating the immune system and helping the body to fight bacteria."

As such, if you’re finding yourself with the sniffles a bit more often, Harju-Westman suggests trying to prioritize eating foods that are higher or fortified with vitamin B12 to combat any deficiency. This vitamin is pretty abundant in many meat products, but it can be harder to come by if you’re following a vegan lifestyle (or just want to avoid replacing dairy with, you know, loads of meat). Nutritional yeast, fortified cereals, meat substitutes, and fortified milk alternatives can all be great sources of this precious vitamin.

Removing dairy from your diet could affect your bone strength

teen flexing with milk

Remember adults telling you that you had to drink your milk to grow big, strong bones? They weren’t wrong. Giving up dairy products could cause your bones to suffer and lose strength, partly due to the efficiency with which dairy supplies your bones with necessary nutrients. "The reason why dairy products work is that they contain not only calcium and protein but also phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin D, potassium, and other things associated with good bone health," states Dr. Robert Heaney, bone biology specialist and professor of medicine at Creighton University, Omaha, to WebMD. "It’s the logical way to go."

So, if you’re giving up dairy and not actively replacing it with food sources that supply these, your bones could start to weaken. Remember, however, that there are loads of dietary sources of these nutrients; although calcium and vitamin D are often brought up as bone-essential nutrients that come in milk, "there are other sources of food containing both of these," says nutrition and exercise science professor at Central Washington University Kelly Pritchett to The Healthy. With vitamin D, says Pritchett, "our best source of vitamin D is from the sun — food isn’t a great source."

Your skin health could improve when giving up dairy

woman with healthy skin

If you experience frequent skin outbreaks and are struggling to pinpoint why, the answer could lie in your diet. And, if you stop eating or drinking dairy, you could find that your skin benefits. "Cutting dairy improves skin texture, skin tone, and acne," advises Washington, DC-based dermatologist Sarika Snell for Insider. This is partly due to the whey protein present in many dairy products, particularly in skim milk which, according to Snell, "is pro-inflammatory and can lead to inflammation which can manifest as acne and rosacea."

Skim milk contains several other ingredients that can make it problematic for your skin. Snell states that skim milk, and other cow’s milk, can contain hormones, an increase of which can contribute to acne or other skin inflammations, as shown in a review published in Dermato-Endocrinology. To add to this, skim milk also contains a fairly high sugar content, meaning that its glycemic index is higher and that it could contribute to poorer skin health. Although skim milk has all the ingredients necessary to cause your skin potential problems, Snell states that to safeguard your skin, cutting out dairy entirely is the way to go.

Giving up dairy could reduce your protein intake

bodybuilder with milk

There’s a reason why those protein shakes that the bodybuilders slam in the gym are often derived from dairy — it’s an excellent natural source of protein. "An important macronutrient you gain from dairy is protein, which is essential for building muscles and helping your organs and bones to correctly function," states nutritionist Frida Harju-Westman to Cosmopolitan. "If you decide to go dairy-free then you need to pay closer attention to this."

The amount of protein that adults eat daily is often much higher than we need. Our minimum daily recommended intake is roughly 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of body weight each day, according to Harvard Health Publishing. As such, there’s no reason to panic if dairy isn’t a big part of your diet, and finding food sources that replace the protein lost is easily done. Aside from meat, protein sources like beans and certain nuts can not only be great choices but also cover other nutrients lost like calcium, says nutritionist Cynthia Sass for Health. Plant-derived protein, like pea protein, can also be a fine alternative, especially when coming in products that mimic dairy so you don’t miss it too much.

You could be missing out on some probiotics

bowl of yogurt

Certain dairy products are well-known for their probiotic qualities. "The term probiotic literally means ‘for life,’" states registered dietitian Linda Antinoro, member of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Nutrition Consultation Service in Boston, to Today’s Dietitian. "One of the better-known benefits of probiotics is that it helps with gastrointestinal problems like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and gas." These probiotics contribute to the healthy functioning of your microbiome, a collection of live organisms that keep your body functioning healthily, regulating digestive function as well as helping to maintain a healthy immune system (via Cleveland Clinic).

That’s why giving up dairy may mean that you’re missing out on probiotics, as dairy is best-suited to their delivery, "since probiotics have a short shelf life and are easily destroyed by heat and acidic environments" states Georgia-based nutrition and feeding therapist Carol Ann Brannon. Alternatives, however, can be found and may come in fermented form. Sauerkraut and kimchi are two vegan probiotic powerhouses that can help keep your gut in good health (as well as being delicious), says Medical News Today. Elsewhere, miso, pickled vegetables, and sourdough bread can help your gut stay in good probiotic form.

You might find you get fewer headaches

woman with milk holding head

Do you find yourself with a sore head a little too often? The answer could lie in the dairy you eat. There’s a long-standing association between dairy consumption and headaches and, according to nutritionist Frida Harju-Westman, it can come from a natural chemical that’s often found in cheeses, called tyramine, which can, for some people, contribute to the onset of migraines and headaches (via Insider)." Tyramine, an amino acid, can also be found in meat products and fermented foods and is usually more common in aged or smoked products. Reducing dairy and, therefore, reducing tyramine, could help alleviate headaches.

However, there’s a drawback to stopping eating dairy which could increase your frequency of headaches. As dairy is rich in vitamin B12, reducing intake can cause a B12 deficiency which can be a cause of headaches, according to Harju-Westman. And, although people often cite dairy as the cause of a sore head, a large-scale study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that people who ate more dairy actually had fewer headaches than people who ate less. If you find you suffer from headaches frequently, it could be worth experimenting with your diet to troubleshoot the source.

You might lose some weight after giving up dairy

a stick of butter

Dairy products can be high in saturated fats and, although the effect of these dairy-based fats on health is still debated, for many people dairy isn’t exactly a health food. And, you may find that by giving up dairy, you lose some weight. "I have had clients reduce body fat after giving up dairy," states dietitian Cynthia Sass for Health. However, the impact on body fat is less to do with the actual qualities of dairy as a contributor to body fat, and more "how [Sass’ clients] consumed it [before], how much, and in what form."

So, if you’re replacing a high-dairy diet comprised of less healthy processed foods like pizza and mac and cheese with whole food sources like grains and lean protein, then your diet will naturally get healthier, and any body fat reduction might reflect this: as New York-based nutritionist Keri Gans says, "It’s not dairy itself; it’s the way it’s being consumed." And, there are also positives to dairy if you’re seeking to lose body fat. An analysis of trials published in Clinical Nutrition, for example, found that consumption of dairy products can leave you feeling fuller for longer and can decrease overall food intake.

Giving up dairy could reduce inflammation — but the jury’s still out

woman with toe pain

Joint pain can be a common concern for people of all ages, and for the 54 million American adults that have arthritis, over a quarter of them experience severe joint pain according to the CDC. Both periodic and chronic inflammation can contribute to this, and that’s why it might be good to know that reducing your dairy intake could mean you experience less inflammation throughout your body. "Dairy products such as cheese and full-fat cow’s milk contain saturated fat, and saturated fat can increase inflammation," advises registered dietitian Ashley Kitchens to Eat This. This is particularly noticeable if you have a dairy allergy or sensitivity, which can trigger an inflammatory response, although those with lactose intolerances may experience different symptoms that don’t involve inflammation.

However, the association between dairy and inflammation is far from confirmed. A review of studies published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that dairy products and proteins have "neutral to beneficial effects on biomarkers of inflammation," and that more studies are needed to focus more clearly on the link between the two.

Removing dairy from your diet can lower cholesterol

doctor with heart hands

One of the reasons why dairy products are so darn delicious is due to the high fat content that’s present in a lot of them. This fat, however, can come at a cost. Dairy often contains saturated fats that can increase your cholesterol, the fatty substance that builds up in your arteries and can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease (per the Mayo Clinic). Consuming less saturated fats, such as those found in dairy and meat products, can reduce cholesterol by 5-10%, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

However, although reducing dairy intake could certainly help reduce cholesterol, the link between dairy fats and cardiovascular disease may not be as simple as we think. According to Today’s Dietitian, certain studies have shown a neutral or beneficial link between dairy fats and cardiovascular-disease risk in the long term, raising question marks about whether it’s as bad as we think. "Moving forward, I think we need more research on whole foods rather than nutrients," says vice president of nutrition research for the National Dairy Council Mickey Rubin. "In the end, it is the whole package of a food that contributes to a health effect, and people eat foods, not nutrients."

You could find your sinuses feel clearer

a man using nasal spray

Got a stuffed-up nose or a cough? Giving up dairy could help. According to nutrition coach Amina AlTai, "Dairy sensitivities can often cause respiratory distress, so I’ve seen clients who’ve given up dairy and it’s profoundly impacted their asthma or they finally got rid of a chronic cough." (via Bustle)

So, if you’re noticing that your airways are clearer once giving up dairy, it could be a sign of an undiagnosed dairy sensitivity or allergy. It’s important to note the difference between that and lactose intolerance, and the difference in symptoms that can occur from each. Lactose intolerance affects the digestive system, causing gastric symptoms due to the inability to break down lactose, whereas a dairy allergy involves your immune system and prompts a reaction that can be observed in your breathing system and skin, as well as your digestive system (per WebMD). If you suspect you have either, the best thing to do is to talk with your physician and undergo tests to determine the best course of action. But, noticing that symptoms like a cough clear up with no dairy is a good indicator to give your doctor a call.

Cutting out dairy could give you improved energy levels

healthy couple running

If you feel sluggish throughout the day, dairy could be the culprit, and giving it up could give you the energy boost you need. However, this may not be because of the dairy itself, but rather the choices that you’re making that contain dairy, says nutritionist Frida Harju-Westman. "It’s easy to fall into a habit of regularly eating unhealthy, dairy-rich foods such as creamy pasta, cheese, and pizza. When you give up dairy, you may find that you begin to think more carefully about the foods you eat," she says to Cosmopolitan.

These foods, according to Harju-Westman, might then be replaced by choices that are richer in vitamins, partly as a way to find food sources that are replacing lost nutrients from the dairy, like calcium, which is abundant in kale, white beans, and spinach. As Harju-Westman states, "Eating vitamin-rich foods such as this may well lead to having more energy as your diet becomes packed with more nutrients." It’s worth pointing out that this rule applies to not only diets rich in dairy, but any diet. The more moves you make towards nutrient-dense food sources, the more alert and energized you may feel.

probiotics

Probiotics, as you may have heard, are beneficial for your gut microbiome, which line the entire digestive tract and have a big impact on your health. Basically, the gut microbiome refers to the total of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi present in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Some types of gut microbiome can protect you from illnesses while others raise your risk for a variety of diseases. Gut microbiome is sometimes referred to as simply "gut bacteria."

Probiotics, which are found in some foods and supplements, are useful because they’re a good type of bacteria. However, your body doesn’t require probiotics to function because you already have healthy gut bacteria. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to consume them and add them to your diet.

Several species of probiotics, including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei, have actually been found to cause immune system changes and promote gut barrier functions. There is also significant research confirming that probiotics can treat symptoms of various conditions. Keep reading to learn more about the unexpected effects of taking probiotics on the body and mind and how you can safely incorporate probiotics into your diet.

Probiotics can balance out the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract

digestive health - probiotics

The research on probiotics shows they are promising for treating a variety of digestive-related diseases and balancing out gut health. A 2016 review of studies by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) found probiotics were helpful in managing diarrhea in young and middle-aged people. Other research suggests probiotics can prevent traveler’s diarrhea — a common travel-related illness resulting from eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water.

Research on probiotic use for managing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has shown beneficial improvements on global IBS systems like diarrhea and abdominal pain, NCCIH explained. Additionally, probiotics also seem to be helpful in inducing or maintaining remission (absence of the disease) of ulcerative colitis.

It should be noted that most studies on probiotic use are small and don’t really explain how probiotics improve digestive health or offer any information on dosing and side effects. Therefore, it is a good idea to always seek your doctor’s advice when it comes to the specifics of managing a chronic digestive condition.

Probiotics can reduce vaginal and urinary tract infections

Probiotics may be useful in managing vaginal and bladder health, according to Harvard Medical School. This is because, much like the intestinal tract, the vagina and bladder can be thrown off balance because of things like antibiotics, birth control pills, hormones, and stress. Probiotic treatment can restore the balance of the vagina and bladder and reduce your risk for yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and bacterial vaginosis.

Probiotics are generally considered safe because they are already part of a normal digestive tract, as the Harvard report explained. It is a good idea, however, to read labels and make sure ingredients in probiotic foods and supplements are familiar to you and your doctor.

Additionally, there isn’t enough conclusive evidence showing that probiotics are effective as conventional treatments. Therefore, it is important to get in touch with your doctor if you experience unusual vaginal odor, itching or burning, or painful urination. These symptoms can mean you have an infection that might require antibiotic treatment.

Probiotics might help you lose weight

Some researchers think probiotic supplements can be helpful in helping you to shed pounds. This is based on the idea that certain gut bacteria can affect weight, as explained by the Cleveland Clinic.

As part of a study cited by the clinic, researchers implanted gut-friendly human bacteria from people of different body sizes in mice. They found no weight changes for the mice that received gut bacteria from people of average weight, and weight gain in the mice that received gut bacteria from people who were overweight.

These findings suggest that probiotic supplements, along with a balanced and nutritious diet, may affect gut bacteria, and that a better balance could potentially lead to weight loss. Of course, because connections between weight loss and probiotics are still not well understood, you should talk to your doctor to find out what might work best for your unique health situation.

Probiotics can reduce inflammation and other arthritis symptoms

For people with different types of inflammatory arthritis — like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis — probiotics might be helpful in managing painful joint and skin inflammation. Probiotics appear to affect inflammation processes by reducing certain proinflammatory proteins, including C-reactive proteins, a 2015 report in Current Opinion in Rheumatology explained.

It is also not unusual for people with inflammatory diseases to have digestive problems like nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. Digestive symptoms are often due to the same inflammatory disease processes and medications used to treat these conditions.

The 2015 report went on to explain how gut microbiome contributes to the development of RA and other types of inflammatory arthritis. Here, researchers think unbalanced gut bacteria incite local inflammatory responses leading to a surge of negative cellular changes that negatively affect the harmony of a microbial community. But it might be possible to balance out gut microbiome to reduce inflammation and overactive immune system responses. According to a study published in Nutrients, probiotics may improve immune system and inflammatory responses. What was missing from this research, however, was specific dosing that could potentially help with inflammation.

Probiotics may improve anxiety and depression

One of the most interesting things researchers have found about the benefits of probiotics is the role they play when it comes to gut-brain connections. These connections show how a troubled gut can send signals to the brain, and how a troubled brain can send signals to the gut.

Probiotics have actually been found to improve anxiety and depression and have been involved in the treatment of both conditions, according to a 2020 meta-analysis published in Frontiers in Neurology. They seem to do this by eliminating inflammation in the GI tract. This, in turn, will regulate the stress hormones responsible for activating sympathetic nervous systems functions.

The 2020 meta-analysis aimed to understand the effectiveness of probiotics on anxious and depressive symptoms in people experiencing stressful conditions or living with anxiety and/or depression. What they found was consistent probiotic use could be helpful in reducing depressive and anxious symptoms in study participants with anxiety and/or depression, and in the healthy participants who were experiencing stress. The researchers suggested probiotic therapy could potentially be used as an adjunct therapy in the treatment of mood and emotional disorders, though more research is needed.

Probiotics can help level out blood cholesterol and keep your heart healthy

A number of studies have found that some probiotics can help to lower blood cholesterol in people with high levels, Healthline revealed. This is important because low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol levels are a risk factor of cardiovascular disease. The higher your LDL, the greater your risk for heart disease will be. Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or "good" cholesterol can also increase your risk.

Probiotic strains Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is a mixture of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis, or Lactobacillus plantarum might help to reduce your total cholesterol and LDL levels, the National Institutes of Health revealed (NIH). According to the NIH, probiotics work because they bind cholesterol in the intestines and stop it from being absorbed. They can also produce specific bile acids to metabolize fat and cholesterol. Additionally, some probiotic strains can produce short-term fatty acids to prevent cholesterol from forming in the liver.

Probiotics can help your immune system function better

Probiotics might give your immune system a boost and inhibit the growth of some types of bad bacteria. Good gut bacteria, according to the Cleveland Clinic, can in turn support immune system function and control inflammation throughout the body.

This good bacteria can also keep bad bacteria from making you sick as well as create vitamins and natural antibodies, help support the cells lining your gut and keep them from creating bad bacteria, and better break down and absorb medications, the Cleveland Clinic explained.

Additionally, probiotics may be helpful after taking antibiotics to fight off an infection. This is because antibiotics can kill both bad and good bacteria in your body, which is why people can develop diarrhea after antibiotic use. "The thought behind adding probiotics back into your body after taking an antibiotic is that it can repopulate the good bacteria that was destroyed by the antibiotics and re-boot your system," the clinic detailed.

Probiotics improve allergy symptoms

Probiotics can help balance good bacteria and produce better, more robust immune system responses to common allergens. That means probiotics may be helpful for managing hay fever and in preventing allergies, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

Some studies suggest probiotics can be helpful in improving symptoms of hay fever to a level where quality of life was also improved. The studies also showed only a few mild side effects from probiotic use for managing hay fever, this in comparison to the harsh side effects that come from allergy medications (via NCCIH).

Studies on the prevention of allergies looked at the use of probiotics in pregnant women and infants and have found exposure to probiotics could mean a lowered risk for developing atopic dermatitis, especially if there has been exposure to a variety of probiotic strains. However, the studies did not find any effect on hay fever, asthma, or wheezing.

Probiotics could mean a better night’s sleep

Unfortunately, not much attention is usually given to the potential benefits probiotics may offer in improving sleep quality. Nevertheless, studies do show negative gut health leads to poor sleep and suggest probiotics might effect sleep quality by helping you to fall asleep quicker and even encourage restful sleep cycles because they influence mood and other aspects of mood regulation.

One 2019 study published Frontiers in Psychiatry found that sleep quality could improve after six weeks of probiotic intake. The study’s authors noted that this is because probiotics can positively influence both mood and overall well-being.

Improvements noted by the study’s authors included positive changes to depressive and angry feelings, less fatigue, and, of course, better sleep quality. The researchers confirmed their observations were consistent with previous studies that applied to healthy populations, and they further extended on those, noting they believed these improvements could apply to everyone.

Probiotics can improve acne and other skin conditions

When gut health is imbalanced, the immune system suffers, resulting in skin inflammation, like acne. Additionally, harsh skin products can disrupt microbiome living on top of skin, leading to skin breakdown. If you want to correct skin problems, focusing on gut health might be a good place to start.

A review of studies on adults with atopic dermatitis — a chronic skin disease associated with allergies — found that some probiotic strains can improve symptoms of the skin condition (via The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health). Some studies have also identified links between probiotics — either taken in supplement form or used topically (applied to skin) — and acne reduction. But there hasn’t been enough research to confirm probiotics can effectively treat acne, and the American Academy of Dermatology stated that there isn’t strong enough to suggest probiotics can be a viable treatment (via NCCIH).

Still, including probiotics in your diet or adding to your skin routine might be a promising way to reduce the number of acne breakouts you experience. It may even reduce the number of harsh skin products you’d have to use otherwise to manage acne.

Probiotics might improve your recovery from viral illnesses

Probiotics may just help improve the body’s recovery from viral illnesses. One animal study published in The Journal of Immunology found that probiotic supplements can protect the body from viral pathogens. In this case, it was found probiotic supplementation could improve survival from the pneumonia virus.

Here, researchers determined the mice were protected with live or heat-inactivated Lactobacillus plantarum or Lactobacillus reuteri against the lethal pneumonia strain. There was a 60 percent survival rate that continued for at least 13 weeks. The researchers concluded that by identifying these bacteria strains, they could potentially serve as critical, long-term protections against infection in the absence of a vaccine.

While probiotics can be helpful in improving recovery from viral illnesses, you should always seek your doctor’s advice if you develop symptoms of a viral illness, such as coughing, sneezing, fever, inflammation, fatigue, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Getting your probiotics from food and supplements

The best ways to increase the amount of good microbes in your body is through diet and with supplements. Fortunately, you are probably already consuming foods that contain probiotics and adding a supplement to your daily routine is very easy.

Fermented foods, like pickles and yogurt, contain a host of good bacteria. Fermented drinks like kombucha (a fermented tea) or kefir (a fermented milk beverage) both contain high amounts of probiotics, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Most cheeses are fermented, and some like Gouda, cheddar, and cottage cheese contain probiotics. Check food labels for live and active cultures to determine whether a food or drink is a good probiotic source.

You can also add supplemental probiotics to your diet. Probiotic supplements are available in various forms, including drinks, capsules or pills, powders, and liquids, the Cleveland Clinic explained. Because supplements aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration, you should check with your doctor about the right type of supplement to help you target a specific health concern and improve your health and overall quality of life.

You should consider the safety of probiotic supplements

Probiotics are considered safe for most healthy people to take. However, there isn’t a lot of research on how these supplements should be taken and the severity and frequency of side effects. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, harmful side effects are more frequently seen in people with severe diseases and who have compromised immune systems.

Adverse reactions associated with probiotic use are infections, resistance to antibiotics, and development of harmful byproducts from probiotic supplements, the NCCIH continued. For some people, probiotic supplements can trigger an allergic reaction that causes mild stomach troubles like upset stomach, gas, bloating, and diarrhea , according to the Cleveland Clinic. This will go away after the body gets used to the supplement. If side effects persistent after a few weeks of use, stop using the probiotic and talk to your doctor.

Severe allergic reactions are rare. But if you experience a reaction that involves dizziness, swelling, or difficulty breathing, you should stop using the product and contact your doctor right away.

Improvement and benefits will take time and require correct and safe use

Most probiotics take time to do what you need them to do. If you’re interested in adding probiotics to your diet, consult your doctor about the many supplements out there. If you don’t see any digestive or other health improvements within a few weeks, the product you are taking likely isn’t the best choice for you. If the product works, you should, at the least, notice digestive changes within a few weeks of use, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

To ensure a probiotic supplement is working, make sure you are following the recommended use instructions on the label and packaging. Some supplements need to be taken on an empty stomach, others with food, and some need to be dissolved in a liquid.

You should also check the product label for storage information. Some probiotic strains need protection from heat, oxygen, light, and humidity and can breakdown and lose effectiveness if exposed to these elements (via Cleveland Clinic). You may need to refrigerate these products. Finally, always use probiotics by their expiration dates and throw out an expired probiotic.