When should I NOT take probiotics?

Joanna Scott-Lutyens BA (Hons) DipION

Probiotics can be taken in almost any circumstances and by all ages. More information can be found in our frequently asked questions section and by reading the article: Are probiotics safe to take? However, there are a very small number of circumstances when we recommend that they are NOT taken without a discussion with your doctor first, as they may be contraindicated with either a medical condition or another drug.

In this article we look at medical conditions that preclude the use of probiotic supplements, and also medicines and supplements that require special considerations when taken alongside probiotics. 

What is a contraindication?

A contraindication is a specific situation (or medical condition) in which a drug, supplement, procedure, or even surgery should not be used because it may be harmful to the patient.

What medical conditions may be contraindicated with probiotics?

Probiotics are not recommended for those with serious medical conditions, e.g. those who are severely immunosuppressed, have pancreatitis, are in the ICU, have melaena (dark blood in their stool), have a central venous catheter, infants with short bowel syndrome, or to patients with open wounds following major surgery; unless under a doctor's care. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should also consult their doctor before taking certain live cultures.

However, these medical circumstances have only been highlighted as there is limited research on how probiotics react with them, not because of known side effects. It is therefore recommended that probiotic supplements are not taken in these circumstances unless with the advice of a doctor. We also suggest you contact providers directly for guidance on their individual products.

Are there any drugs or supplements with which probiotics may be contraindicated?

There are no known contraindications with medical drugs or supplements, however there are some considerations when taking a probiotic supplement with certain medications or supplements:

  • If taking a probiotic alongside antibiotics you would need to take these 1-2 hours away from your medication, unless taking a probiotic supplement which are specifically formulated for taking with antibiotics. For more information on this please see our blog on taking probiotics with antibiotics. This may also be a consideration when taking a probiotic alongside other natural supplements which have an anti-microbial action.
  • If you are taking anti-fungal medication or natural supplements with anti-fungal properties, then again you would need to take probiotic yeasts at a different time of day.
  • If you are taking immunosuppressant medication, then you should speak to your doctor before taking probiotics. See the following FAQ for more information: I'm severely immunosuppressed: why can't I take probiotics?
For Those On Antibiotics probiotics
Optibac For Those On Antibiotics has been researched to be safely taken alongside antibiotics

Healthcare practitioners may like to visit our sister site, Probiotic Professionals, for further information on the following:

Can I take probiotics if I am taking Warfarin?
Can I take probiotics if I have diabetes?
Can I become addicted to probiotics?