Probiotics are not just another popular fad. They are here to stay. More and more people are discovering and taking advantage of the benefits probiotics have to offer. But, with all of their incredible benefits, you may be thinking these little miracle workers must be too good to be true.
So, could there be side effects of taking probiotics? The short answer, Yes. Nobody’s perfect. Do the advantages outweigh the possible side effects? In our opinion, in most cases, yes. But, we will let you decide that for yourself with this comprehensive guide to the side effects of probiotics.
What are Probiotics?
Your body is home to trillions of microorganisms. There are so many, they outnumber the body’s cells 10 to 1. These microorganisms consist of both “bad” bacteria and “good” bacteria. The ecosystem these little guys make up is called the body’s microbiome.
When the microbiome is in balance, the body is happy and healthy. However, when there are more of the bad bacteria than good, problems begin to arise. Keeping the bacteria in balance is essential to your overall health.
The balance of good and bad bacteria in the body is very easily disrupted. Sugar, processed foods, alcohol, and more can throw off this delicate ecosystem. Even things we can’t escape like stress, environmental factors, and antibiotics can destroy the good bacteria.
Probiotics are the good guys. They are live microorganisms that help to replenish, restore, and maintain a healthy microbiome.
While you can get probiotics from some fermented foods and cultured dairy, it can be difficult to include enough of these foods in your diet to benefit from them. Probiotic supplements are the easy way to make sure you are getting enough of the probiotic strains you need.
What are the Benefits of Probiotics?
Restoring good bacteria and keeping the balance maintained, has direct benefits for the entire body. Even the name probiotics mean “for life.”
There are over 500 different species of bacteria, all with unique benefits. When looking for a quality probiotic, you should find a supplement with at least four different strains. When the strains are combined into one supplement, they become even more effective. Men, women, and children can all benefit from probiotics—there is something for everyone.
Here is a list of a few of the many potential benefits of Probiotics:
What are the Possible Negative Side Effects of Probiotics?
The side effects of probiotics in most cases are rare and mild. They may also only appear when you first begin using probiotics and then will subside as your body gets used to them. Probiotics are considered generally safe for healthy people. However, if your immune system has been compromised or you have another serious illness, you should avoid probiotics unless your doctor gives you the okay.
Here is a list of the potential side effects of probiotics. There are also simple things you can do to prevent or manage these side effects which we will go over.
Tempeh is a popular fermented food that contains probiotics. However, when protein-rich foods like tempeh are fermented, they may produce biogenic amines like antihistamine and tryptamine.
There are studies that suggest that these amines can affect your central nervous system causing increased or decreased blood flow which can cause migraines or headaches.
What You Can Do: Instead of eating fermented foods to get probiotics, take a probiotic supplement.
If you start feeling allergy symptoms come on after taking probiotics, don’t worry. It does not mean you are necessarily allergic to probiotics.
Some people are especially sensitive to histamine which can be produced in some fermented foods. This causes the body to react the same way as it would to an allergen and you might end up getting itchy eyes or a runny nose.
What You Can Do: If you are a person who is sensitive to histamines, try avoiding fermented foods like kombucha and yogurt. Try taking a probiotic supplement instead.
It might seem ironic that probiotics can help improve the digestive system and help with diarrhea while also possibly causing diarrhea.
If this happens, your body should sort itself out on its own after some time. After about a week or two, everything should be back to normal or even better.
What You Can Do: If you find this happening, try taking a probiotic supplement on an empty stomach—maybe first thing in the morning. Remember to drink lots of water with it.
Gas and Bloating
If you experience some gastrointestinal issues like gas or bloating after taking probiotics, you shouldn’t be alarmed. This is one of the more common side effects and may be due to the Herxheimer Reaction.
The Herxheimer Reaction just means your gut is working extra hard as it gets used to the new bacteria it’s getting.
What You Can Do: Avoid alcohol, drink lots of water, and try exercising. You should also try eating more anti-inflammatory foods like broccoli, blueberries, and avocado.
Can You Have too Much Probiotics?
It is difficult to have too much probiotics. But is there a limit? Can you take too much probiotics? And, how much probiotics is too much?
Healthy adults with a normal functioning immune system can take probiotics that contain anywhere up to 50 billion CFUs daily. Each individual’s microbiome is different, so you may have to experiment to find what works best for you. However, for adults, anything less than 10 billion CFUs may not be effective.
What happens if you take too much probiotics? Well, in some cases too much of a good thing can be bad. Taking too much probiotics can result in an unstable intestinal environment causing many of the side effects described above.
Good bacteria in the body is essential to a person’s overall health. If you find yourself dealing with one of these potential side effects try:
• Decreasing dosage
• Make sure you are getting a diverse range of friendly bacteria
• Take on an empty stomach
• Stay hydrated
• Be patient