The Potential Side Effects Of Probiotics


Gut health. We’ve all heard about it, and the ever-growing list of research has told us that it affects our overall health. Probiotics have been shown to work with both the good and bad bacteria in our guts, making them healthier and having a number of benefits. There are foods available on the market that are fortified with probiotics (think of Jamie Lee Curtis telling us about her favorite yogurt), giving us a number of ways to add them to our diet naturally. But is that enough, or is it time to add a probiotic to your daily list of supplements? I’ve considered adding a probiotic to my daily routine for a while now, but I’ve been unable to commit fully. While I’ve heard many pros about adding one, I’ve also heard there could be some side effects that might override any potential benefits I would see.

Indeed, the live microorganisms that probiotics introduce might initially cause some of the health issues they’re meant to alleviate. While they tend to go away after your body has acclimated to the probiotic, they can be bothersome. Purchasing a high-quality product can help to reduce any side effects, and before you start taking anything, you should consult with your physician to make sure it’s safe. If you do elect to take on a probiotic, here are six side effects you could experience. 

1. Mild Gas and Bloating

Probiotics can cause gas and bloating as a side effect

When you first start taking a probiotic, you might notice that you start to experience bloating or gas. This can be especially frustrating if you have chronic conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Chrohn’s Disease, and it is oftentimes the result of the inclusion of dairy in probiotics. If you have an allergy or sensitivity to dairy, this will likely be worse for you. Fortunately, this symptom is typically short-lived, but if you find it isn’t resolving after using the product for a while, you should consider trying out a different type of probiotic to see if it is a better fit for you. 

2. Diarrhea

Probiotics are live organisms that help stimulate your digestive tract by working with both the good and bad bacteria in your gut. When you first start taking probiotics, you might experience diarrhea (or a runny stool) for the first few days as your digestive system adjusts. You can help alleviate these symptoms by taking a digestive enzyme with your probiotic (or a probiotic with digestive enzymes already included), which can help you break down hard-to-digest foods and alleviate the gas or diarrhea. 

3. Headaches

Positional Vertigo and headaches

Headaches are a common ailment for many people, but, surprisingly, taking something for gut health can cause our heads to hurt. It’s not so surprising when you think about what makes up probiotics, which in this case, is amines. This is a group of chemicals that includes histamine and tyramine, and they are most likely the cause of your headache. Why you might ask? Amines work by diverting blood flow to the gut to aid in digestion, which can restrict the blood flow to other parts of the body. This process creates a perfect storm for causing headaches or even migraines. Again, fortunately, the majority of people find that their headaches dissipate after a few days to a week. Still, if you find you’re not getting any relief, you should see your doctor to ensure there’s no other issue. 

4. Increased Risk of Infection

Probiotics are typically a safe supplement for most people and are already found in most healthy people’s digestive tracts. However, if you’re immunocompromised, you should use caution before starting the inclusion of a probiotic in your daily routine. This is because the bacteria or yeasts can enter the bloodstream and cause infections in high-risk individuals, though it’s very rare for this to occur. For most healthy people, adding a probiotic will help prevent illness and alleviate a number of common health concerns.

5. Allergies

Because of the inclusion of biogenic amines (histamine), probiotics can cause an allergic reaction for some people. If you have histamine intolerance, you might experience a flare-up of your allergies, including headaches, fatigue, digestive issues, or vomiting. If you aren’t sure if you have histamine sensitivity, you can purchase a home testing kit or try to avoid histamine-rich foods (alcohol, dried fruits, certain vegetables like avocado, eggplant, or spinach, and aged cheese) to see if the symptoms disappear. You should always consult with your doctor if you’re experiencing a severe reaction to get guidance from them. 

6. Acne

benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid

Our body is basically a machine, and all moving parts have an effect on each other. When it comes to gut health, this is especially true. One of the main places poor gut health or issues will appear is on our skin, either in the form of eczema or acne. If you begin taking a probiotic, you might find that skin issues worsen before they get better, often seen in an acne flare-up from the body ridding itself of harmful toxins. While there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to back this assertion, there are many personal reports of worsening acne upon starting a probiotic regimen. 

More Tips for Reducing Probiotic Side Effects

For most people, starting a probiotic might bring on some minor symptoms, but they’ll dissipate over the course of a few days to a week. Typically, the benefits far outweigh the negative aspects. To help reduce the effects of a probiotic, you can follow these helpful tips:

Switch it up. If you’re experiencing a number of side effects, consider trying a different strain to see if your body reacts better to it. 

Consistency is key. As with many medicines and supplements, make sure to take your probiotic every day, preferably at the same time. This will help you to see results faster.

Take it alone. To avoid your probiotic fermenting with other foods or causing an adverse reaction, take it first thing in the morning with a glass of water. Don’t include it with your morning cup of joe, though, because it can speed up your digestive system and potentially cause diarrhea when the two are taken together. 

Don’t skimp on fiber. Probiotics feed off of dietary fiber, so make sure you’re getting enough throughout the day. 

The-Negative-Side-Effects-of-ProbioticsProbiotics are becoming more well-known each day for their ability to treat a variety of problems, including weight problems, digestive issues (IBS, Crohn’s disease), urinary tract infections, and even vaginal issues. While there are a number of benefits, before you begin taking a probiotic, you should consult with your doctor and consider any potential side effects. You can then decide if they’re right for you. 

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