Some people complain that probiotics cause headaches. This seems to occur both with probiotic supplements and when consuming fermented food. If probiotics can cause headaches or a migraine, why might this be viewed as a healthy, positive sign?
In addition, some studies indicate that probiotics can prevent headaches and migraine. Seems confusing? Actually, the so-called “probiotics headaches” often have a simple explanation.
Why probiotics cause headachesIf you experience headaches when consuming fermented foods or a probiotic supplement, then the reason can be one or more of the following.
Probiotics can trigger headaches because good bacteria stimulate the body to eliminate toxins and chemicals stored in the body, mostly in fatty tissue. To eliminate waste products the body uses several exit routes like the skin, the colon, and urination. Therefore, symptoms can vary depending on which exit route is used. Headaches are very common. In such cases, headaches can be viewed a body cleansing which is promoted by probiotic bacteria.
- Generally, the more problems in the gut the stronger the reaction from probiotics
It’s known that beneficial bacteria can eliminate bad bacteria and yeast residing in the digestive tract. And when harmful microorganisms die they can release powerful toxins causing symptoms like headaches, muscle aches, rash and many other. In the case of candida overgrowth or a serious infection, the reaction can be stronger.
Bottom line: Headaches or a migraine might occur when probiotic bacteria cause the death of harmful microorganisms. Headaches for this reason usually disappear after a few days or a week, rarely longer. In such cases, symptoms are completely harmless. In the case of candida overgrowth or an infection, headaches might come and go over several weeks or longer.
Avoiding headaches from probiotics
A simple way to avoid probiotic headaches is to lower the probiotic dose or the amount of fermented food consumed. This can minimise or completely remove most symptoms, including a headache. Probiotics slowly improve the gut environment, and after some time the probiotic dose can be increased.
- Consuming probiotics without any side effects a sign that the digestive tract is in balance
However, each person has a unique gut and will have a unique reaction to probiotics. Some people don’t feel a thing while others get a minor reaction. Strong reactions are rare but can occur in the case of candida overgrowth, infections or if the digestive tract is inflamed and in a poor state. In such case try drinking more water and fresh vegetable juice to support the gut cleanse. Bone broths daily are very effective.
Headaches from biogenic amines
Commercially produced fermented foods can contain high levels of a chemical called biogenic amines. Amines are created when certain bacteria types are breaking down amino acids present in vegetables. Some people are sensitive to amines without even knowing about it. They might lack a specific enzyme that metabolises certain biogenic amines, and therefore, they develop migraine headaches after consuming foods containing biogenic amines.
There are two main amines responsible for headaches:
- Tyramine (present in some commercial yoghurt, aged cheese, red wine, sauerkraut, soy sauce and other products)
- Histamine (present in some commercial sauerkraut, vinegar, chocolate and other products)
Besides headaches, other adverse reactions to amines include:
- Stomach problems
- Skin rash
- Many more
How to avoid headaches from amines
- Avoid canned and processed foods
- Buy, cook and consume only fresh food
- Avoid spoiled food (meat older than two days), it can contain high amounts of amines
- Keeping a food diary can help you identify what specific amines causing your symptoms
Probiotic supplements do not contain amines. However, low-quality supplements can contain artificial coating, soy, wheat, gluten and other substances. For someone sensitive to any of these substances, it might be enough to trigger headaches.
Homemade fermented vegetables safer
Interestingly, studies show that homemade fermented vegetables contain very low amounts of amines. Amounts are too low to cause a reaction in most people. The reason is that other kinds of bacteria are involved in the fermentation process at home than used by many commercial companies.
For best results use a good quality starter culture. This ensures that the production of biogenic amines remains very low, too low for most people to trigger headaches.
In short: why probiotics cause headaches
- Probiotics can cause headaches when improving the gut environment and when removing harmful microorganisms. Symptoms are harmless and quickly disappear. Candida overgrowth, serious infections or inflammations can cause symptoms to last longer. However, probiotics in smaller doses can alleviate symptoms and result in recovery.
- Some commercially fermented food containing biogenic amines can trigger headaches and migraine in sensitive persons. Probiotic supplements and homemade fermented food are safer.