When should I NOT take probiotics?

Joanna Scott-Lutyens BA (Hons) DipION

Probiotics, sometimes referred to as live cultures, can be taken in almost any circumstances and by all ages. More information can be found in our frequently asked questions section. 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 will look at: medical conditions that preclude the use of live cultures and also medicines and natural supplements that require special consideration 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 live cultures?

Live cultures 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 live cultures react with them, not because of known side effects. It is therefore recommended that live cultures 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 live cultures may be contraindicated?

There are no known contraindications with medical drugs or other supplements, however there are some considerations which should be kept in mind when taking live cultures with certain medications or supplements:

  • If taking probiotic bacteria alongside antibiotics you would need to take these 1-2 hours away from your medication, unless taking live cultures supplements which are specifically formulated for taking with antibiotics. For more information on this please see our blog on taking antibiotics with live cultures. This may also be a consideration when taking bacterial live cultures 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. Please refer to the following FAQ: I'm severely immunosuppressed: why can't I take live cultures?

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

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