Is there a risk of addiction or dependency when taking probiotics?
There is no known risk of addiction or dependency when taking probiotics. It is safe to take probiotics on a long-term basis without causing dependency or addiction.
Dependency refers to the state of relying on a substance. In terms of natural supplements some people worry that when taking food supplements the body will get used to supplementation and will stop producing its own vitamins and minerals, thereby becoming dependent on the food supplements and needing more in order to properly function. With certain vitamins and digestive enzymes there is an argument that the body will stop producing its own if supplementation continues for a long time. However, the adult body does not produce its own probiotics (rather we form our gut bacteria at a very young age), and hence cannot become dependent on probiotic supplementation. This is why many people (especially those of older generations) find it so important to top up the body's good bacteria with a reliable probiotic supplement.
Addiction refers to the state of being physiologically dependent on a substance; addictive substances change the brain's chemistry. Probiotics are natural food supplements and not medicines or drugs. People may feel better when they take probiotics, but they are not chemically addictive!
For further information, see the Probiotics Learning Lab: Is it possible to overdose on probiotics?
This FAQ has been answered by Joanna Scott-Lutyens, BA (hons), DipION, Nutritional Therapist.