Our gut contains both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics are living bacteria a.k.a the good guys, that provide health benefits when consumed in large amounts. They can be taken as a dietary supplement or consumed through fermented foods that are naturally rich in probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc.
The health benefits of probiotics have been well documented, including an improved digestive system, lower risk of infections and even a reduced risk for some chronic diseases. However, while probiotics are generally linked to many health benefits, some people may experience side effects, no matter how minor may they be. It should be noted that, although a small percentage of people do get some minor side effects from probiotics, other people who suffer from serious illnesses or have a weakened immune system, may experience more complications.
As said earlier, while most of the people do not experience side effects from probiotics, those who do usually experience an increase in gas and bloating. It is not yet known why people experience such side effects from probiotics, but they typically subside after a few weeks of continuous use.
If you want to decrease the likelihood of experiencing such side effects, start by taking a lower dose of probiotics and slowly increase it over a few weeks. This way your body will get well-adjusted to probiotics.
Although rarely, some side effects might even include:
Frequent urination – This happens because probiotics speed up the detox and cleansing process of your body. To help contain this, try drinking less coffee, black tea, and alcohol. Simultaneously, increase your daily water intake to help your body get rid of toxins.
Diarrhea – Probiotics will also speed up your digestive processes and clean out the digestive tract. Therefore, try to load more on vegetable juice or lower the dosage of your probiotics until your system regulates itself.
Although side effects might occur, they usually disappear after a few days once they get rid of the harmful bacteria and yeast in your body. Therefore, the side effects of probiotics should not be scary, as they only mean that they are doing their job and will soon clean up your gut which will improve your overall health and well-being.
What triggers side effects?
Although there needs more research in this field, since some people are still not totally convinced over the health benefits that probiotics provide, while other people swear by them, there is not one answer on what causes those side effects. However, there are some guesses as to what might trigger them.
Amines in probiotic foods
One possible side effect of probiotics is a headache, and recently it is thought that the biogenic amines in probiotic foods such as yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut trigger that. Those biogenic amines are substances that form when protein-containing foods age or are fermented by bacteria. Such amines excite the nervous system that might result in the increase or decrease of the blood flow, thus, triggering headaches.
Some ingredients might cause adverse reactions
People that are prone to allergic reactions, should first read the label of probiotics since they might contain ingredients they might be allergic to. Some probiotics might contain allergens such as dairy, egg or soy. Such ingredients must be avoided by anyone who is allergic, as they might trigger an allergic reaction that is manifested differently. Probiotic supplements might also contain milk, sugar, or lactose.
Additionally, some probiotics might also contain prebiotics, which are plant fibers that our bodies cannot digest, but our bodies’ bacteria consume it as food. When a supplement contains both probiotics and prebiotics, it is called a synbiotic. When consuming synbiotics, some people may experience gas and bloating. Such people who experience those side effects should opt for supplements that don’t contain prebiotics.
How to reduce the side effects of probiotics?
If you are taking probiotics, and experience one or many side effects, don’t give up on your probiotic intake. Instead, you could start by:
Lowering the dosage – Start by cutting down the dose in half, and gradually increasing it to a higher level.
Take on an empty stomach – If you experience side effects, or want to reduce the likelihood of having them, try taking probiotics 30 minutes before you eat.
Stay hydrated – As said earlier, your body is detoxifying, therefore, by drinking a lot of water, you will only help your body during the process and prevent it from becoming dehydrated.
Be patient – Give your body at least 1-2 weeks to adjust to the good bacteria that will eventually regain control of your digestive system. It will be worth it.
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* This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances.
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