I think they can be taken "as needed," especially if you are a yogurt-eater or kefir-drinker (basically, you get active cultures somewhere else on a regular basis). But I also think it's individual. For example, if you are someone who has taken a lot of antibiotics for one reason or another, you should probably take probiotics consistently to establish a more normal level. In terms of evaluating normal, I'd use your own body as a guide, but if you are picky, there are many labs that will do stool sample analysis to evaluate the levels of your various intestinal flora. I've not done that, but I know people who have and have used that as a guide and it's made a big difference for them. I believe there are some pretty standard guidelines out there for replenishing intestinal flora. Jill has used a protocol developed by a man named Paul Chek that he calls the "4R Plan." Each phase of "R" is ~3-months:
1. Remove: This entails eliminating anything in their life that may create parasites, bacteria, fungus, etc. As well, any environmental derived toxic substances, including conventional foods, plastic, microwaves, hygiene and cleaning products. There is always organic!
2. Replace: This entails replenishing enzymes and other digestive factors which may be limiting healing. The key ingredients are pancreatic, digestive and liver enzymes.
3. Reinocculate: This entails reintroducing good microflora back into the gut. This means pre and probiotics. Prebiotics are synergistic flora and mucosal cell regeneration.
4. Repair: This entails providing nutritional support for regeneration and healing of the GI mucosa. You can also add in glutamine, fish oils, zinc and pantothenic acid. This will reduce inflammation and regenerate the mucosa of the gut.
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