Probiotic side effects are common. Perhaps you have experienced it too. How should such side effects be viewed?
You might be familiar with the old motto “no pain, no gain.” Among athletes, muscle aches are viewed as a temporary discomfort bringing good results. Can this be applied to probiotic side effects? In short, in many cases it can.
Symptoms caused by consuming probiotics can be viewed as a temporary discomfort to reach a healing, cleansing or health improvement. However, this does not mean that you must put up with unpleasant side effects. Quite the contrary.
Why side effects?
When probiotics enter the digestive tract, harmful microorganisms like bacteria and yeast are killed off. This process can produce a number of symptoms. Why? When harmful microorganisms die they can release powerful toxins causing many symptoms. Thus the term “die-off” symptoms. Side effects can differ depending on the kind and amount of microorganisms present in the gut. However, inflammatory conditions can also cause symptoms.
In addition, some probiotic bacteria promote the removal of toxins and heavy metals. The body naturally uses several exit routes for eliminating toxins, heavy metals, and waste. Therefore, some probiotic side effects are believed to be associated with this elimination process.
- Urination: Might cause higher frequency, stronger smell, discoloring
- Bowel movement: Diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas
- Sweating: Odor, itchy skin, skin rash, eczema, pimples
- Breathing: Running nose, coughing, sneezing, sore throat; a flue-like feeling
Therefore, many so called “probiotic side effects” are in fact signs that the body’s exit routes are being activated to remove unwanted substances. Symptoms can be more severe if several exit routes are highly active at the same time. However, in the great majority of cases symptoms are mild, completely harmless and disappear after a few days or a week. Seldom longer.
Generally, the longer and stronger the reaction, the more the body needs cleansing. In such casses, lower the probiotic dose to ease symptoms.
Probiotic side effects
This is not a comprehensive collection of all possible side effects of probiotics, but it lists common symptoms.
Acid reflux, heartburnAcid reflux is a possible detox symptom. Probiotics promote cleansing of the digestive tract and this process often produces gas and bloating that can trigger acid reflux as a side effect. Many harmful microorganisms die violently, releasing toxins that can cause symptoms like gas, constipation, bloating.
- If there is much to clean up in the digestive tract, symptoms can be uncomfortable
Therefore, start off by consuming small amounts of probiotics. Some people dissolve a probiotic capsule in a glass of water of juice and drink a little now and then until the glass is empty at the end of the day. Increase the dose gradually at a pace that feels comfortable. If probiotic supplements cause too many side effects, try consuming probiotic yogurt or kefir as this seems to work better for some people. Best is homemade yogurt of kefir.
Allergic reactions from fermented foods prepared at home are rare. However, some commercially fermented foods contain biogenic amines that can cause a headache, migraine, depression, mental confusion, stomach problems, rash, itching, fever and others symptoms. The most common biogenic amines causing reactions are tyramine and histamine. They are present in red wine, some fermented cheese, pickles, chocolate, beer and many other products. Spoiled food can also contain large amounts of amines causing food poisoning. (For a complete list, see this post.)
If you are sensitive to amines, then food freshness is the key. Eat only fresh vegetables and fresh meat, avoid most processed food and drinks containing aspartame. Homemade fermented foods contain too low amounts to cause a reaction unless the person is very sensitive.
Burping is very common when consuming probiotics, especially in the beginning. When the probiotic bacteria enter the gut they encounter waste, toxins, and harmful microorganisms. Gas is produced as a side effect when the friendly bacteria improve the gut environment. Symptoms usually go away after a few days. Try lowering the probiotic dose or take a capsule every second day.
As a general rule: the more harmful microorganisms present in the digestive tract, the more symptoms there will be when consuming probiotics. Serious infection can also cause a reaction when probiotics enter the gut. In severe cases, it might be best to avoid probiotics and try to improve the digestive tract before introducing probiotics.
Bloating refers to a feeling that your stomach is swollen, full or tight. Bloating might be accompanied by a pain that sometimes can be sharp and mistaken for pain in the appendix, gallbladder or heart. Bloating can be unpleasant and persistent.
There can be many causes for bloating including inflammatory conditions, food sensitivity, gastritis or irritable bowel syndrome. However, in most cases bloating is caused by clogging—food can get stuck. The production of gas is also common. Depending on the location the level of pain can vary.
When someone introduces probiotics in the form of a supplement or fermented food, harmful microorganisms will start to die. This die-off process can clog up parts of the digestive tract, create gas and a feeling of being bloated. Fungi is known to create much gas in the gut. However, gas production does not happen quickly. When you have your next meal, gas produced from the previous meal is often the cause of feeling bloated.
Yeast (like Candida) is also a common cause of bloating. For example, people with many amalgam (silver) fillings in their teeth sometimes have yeast overgrowth in their gut. Sufferers of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue can also feel bloated when consuming probiotics. Therefore, such ones need to go very slow with probiotics, only consuming a teaspoon or so. It can take several weeks or even months before the dose can be increased.
Try drinking more water during the day as this tend to unclog the pipes. Cut down on sugar as many harmful microorganisms thrive on sugar. Fresh vegetable juice is great for bloating!
Blood pressure changes
Studies on probiotics show that for those suffering from high blood pressure probiotics can lower blood pressure, but not raising it. High levels of blood cholesterol strain the cardiovascular system and this can increase blood pressure. Probiotics can reduce cholesterol levels by “consuming” the cholesterol in your intestine and this can lower blood cholesterol and blood pressure. Also, a high blood sugar level can cause high blood pressure. Again, probiotics can help reduce blood sugar levels which in turn can lower blood pressure.
Probiotics are very effective to treat constipation because friendly bacteria support a healthy digestion. However, some people suffer constipation because they consume too little fiber or drink too little water. However, a side effect of consuming probiotics can also be constipation. Why?
If you body’s cleansing system is note tuned well, or if the toxic load is too great, waste will start piling up in the body and it can become a breeding ground for inflammation, infection, and disease.
What can you do? Support your body’s ability to bring the garbage out, help it to rid itself of harmful substances.
- Drink fresh vegetable juice
- Take a probiotic supplement
- Consume Chia seeds in water
- Consume more fiber
- Intermittant fasting
Probiotics can treat diarrhea very effectively. However, probiotics can also cause diarrhea. Most often the reason for diarrhea is the presence of bad bacteria, yeast, virus or toxins in the gut. However, diarrhea from antibiotics is also common. Probiotics stimulate the digestive tract to clean out harmful substances from the digestive tract. Usually, symptoms are mild and only last for a day or two. In one study 63 out of 100 people who took probiotics no longer had diarrhea after three days. However, in the case of a bacterial infection diarrhea might continue for a week.
Persistent diarrhea for more than two weeks is common in children, even though a few adults can have it too. The reason is often stubborn bacterial infections or Candida overgrowth. Probiotics kill off the bacteria and this process causes diarrhea and other symptoms. Lower the probiotic dose to lessen symptoms. Try fresh vegetable juice.
Another way the body rids itself of toxins, waste and metals is through urination. Because probiotics stimulate the body to cleanse or detox, this sometimes affects urination frequency which is completely harmless, even beneficial. However, you should see a doctor if there is blood in the urine.
- Drink more water and fresh vegetable juice helps
- Drink less coffee, black tea and alcohol
HeadacheThis often seems to occur when harmful microorganisms die and release toxins causing headaches, muscle aches, rash and other symptoms. In the case of Candida overgrowth, the reaction can be stronger causing severe headache or a migraine. In this case it might be best to wait with probiotics.
The violent death of harmful yeast and bacteria cause unpleasant side effects. A headache usually disappears after a few days or a week, rarely longer. Even though symptoms for most people are harmless, they can be unpleasant. Lowering the probiotic dose or the amount of fermented food consumed will minimize or remove symptoms.
Research has revealed that autism, depression and many other conditions are often connected to problems in the gut. Inflammations in the gut and brain are mentioned as underlying factors. Probiotic bacteria in the gut are able to “communicate” with the brain via the vagus nerve going from the gut to the head. Therefore, consuming probiotics can improve the mood. However, probiotics can also temporarily worsen a condition before improvement is seen. Treating serious conditions requires the supervision of a professional health practitioner.
A natural and successful protocol called GAPS is used to treat autism, learning disabilities, neurological disorders, psychiatric disorders, immune disorders, and digestive problems. This protocol includes consuming probiotics daily. However, caution is needed; start off with only a very small amount or probiotics. Probiotics can aggravate symptoms before they start to subside. Combining fermented food with bone broths is a fantastic remedy. The recommended GAPS supplement is Bio-Kult, but Now Foods and Dr. Mercola also make very good ones.
A common reason for skin rash when consuming probiotics is that the body is detoxifying. A detox or cleanse here refers to the process of eliminating harmful microorganisms, toxins, heavy metals and waste from the body. Sometimes eczema affecting hands and feet and can be related to detox. If the toxic load is too great for the body to handle, toxins will be stored in different places; often fatty tissue is used as storage. Supporting the body’s natural ability to detox is a great way to clean those toxins out and this can have tremendous long-term health effects.
In rare cases, skin rash is a sign of allergy from additives or milk products found in some supplements. Be very careful if you suspect an allergic reaction; this should never be taken lightly. Serious allergic reactions include facial swelling, lip swelling, tongue swelling or throat swelling, hives or shortness of breath.
Symptoms of cold, sneezing and running noseCommon symptoms of detox include symptoms similar to a cold or the flu. Most symptoms are mild, harmless and disappear after a few days. However, in the case of Candida overgrowth or some nasty bacterial infection symptoms might be stronger. In those cases, symptoms are often referred to as “die-off” symptoms. Harmful microorganisms don’t die peacefully but release powerful toxins as they die. These toxins can cause symptoms in all parts of the body. Try lowering the probiotic dose to ease symptoms.
There are some reports about women who experience how periods return after consuming probiotics. Other women have reported healthier periods when adding probiotics to their diet and some have had periods starting again after an early menopause.
It is unclear why this occurs. However, it is considered a healthy sign and not in any way an adverse effect. Recent research has revealed that probiotic bacteria affect the body much deeper than previously thought. Friendly bacteria work on a cellular level and promote many body functions, including the reproductive organs. This might be a reason why probiotics can affect women’s periods.
In some cases probiotic side effects are triggered by other reasons.
- Lactose intolerant (some probiotic supplements contain lactose)
- Other drugs may interact with probiotic supplements (very rare)
- If probiotics are combined with any anti-fungal medication
- Allergy to soy (some supplements contain small amounts)
- Allergy to yeast included in the probiotic supplement
- Severe problems with the intestinal lining
- Severe stress can cause many symptoms
- Dietary changes can cause symptoms
In summary, probiotic side effects are in most cases mild and last only for a few days to a week. However, if the gut is in a poor state, then the side effects will be more severe. Even though probiotics might be beneficial, there’s no need to push the body and suffer. Listen to the body and be sensible.