Bloating and probiotics often go together. I get many questions about the reasons why some people experience bloating when taking probiotics or consuming fermented foods. Others suffer from bloating and hope that taking probiotics might help solve this.
So does probiotics cause bloating or help lessen it? Though it sounds contradictory, the truth is that probiotics can both cause bloating but also alleviate problems with gas. Please read on! I hope to bring some clarity to the matter.
What is bloating?
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 are many causes of bloating or gas. This includes inflammatory conditions, food sensitivity, gastritis or irritable bowel syndrome. In most cases bloating is caused by the production of gas in the gut. Depending on the location of the gas, the level of pain can vary.
Why bloated after consuming probiotics?
Probiotic bacteria are active against yeast, harmful bacteria, and fungi. When someone introduces probiotics in the form of a supplement or fermented food, harmful microorganisms will start to die. This die-off can create gas and a feeling of being bloated. Especially fungi can 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 most often the cause of feeling bloated.
Yeast (like candida) is also a common cause of bloating. Sufferers of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome can also feel bloated when consuming probiotics. Therefore, it’s best to start off slowly with probiotics. Try a capsule every second day, or dissolve a capsule in a glass of juice and drink slowly during the day. It can take weeks or even months before some people can increase the dose to one capsule every day.
In any case, bloating or gas is for the great majority of people completely harmless. It might even be a positive sign. Why?
Bloating from probiotics good?
As stated, bloating means that the gut is filling up with gas. With no immediate way to escape gas creates pressure and this causes a sensation that your stomach is swelling up. For most people, this is completely harmless and very common when consuming probiotics.
Therefore, as unpleasant as bloating might be, it often a sign that beneficial bacteria are cleaning up the gut from unwanted microorganisms and toxins.
Many studies have confirmed that consuming live and active friendly bacteria regularly can have a profound effect on your health and should not be underestimated. Probiotic bacteria are essential for a well-functioning intestine and consuming fermented foods should be a regular habit.
Bloating after consuming probiotics is, therefore, a symptom of an improved gut environment, a cleansing of the gut from harmful substances. How much gas is produced and how long someone will feel bloated can vary a lot. Much depends on which shape your gut is in.
Your gut is unique
Each person is unique and, therefore, will also have a unique response to probiotics. There are many factors involved as the state of the gut, genetic make-up, the level of stress, eating habits, the presence of yeast and bad bacteria in the gut and so on.
Sometimes bloating can start several weeks after consuming probiotics. Why?
This seems to occur because it takes probiotics some time to transform the environment in your gut to become friendlier and healthier. Many probiotic bacteria lower the pH in your stomach and this is something bad microorganisms don’t like. When this happen harmful microorganisms will start to die off. And bad bacteria often die a violent death which can cause bloating.
For example, for many years, I had severe gut problems. And when I started using probiotics I felt bloated often, and this came and went for a long time. However, I continued taking small amounts of fermented foods until the symptoms gradually disappeared. I engaged in the GAPS diet with bone broths daily and fresh vegetable juice. Finally, the bloating completely disappeared. Today I very rarely feel bloated no matter how much probiotics I consume. This is a common scenario for people with gut problems.
The violent death of bad bacteria
One reason for bloating is the violent death of harmful microorganisms releasing powerful toxins. It seems that many harmful microorganisms colonize the gut in groups scattered in different places. When one group is reached by probiotics you consume, they start to die. This seems to be a reason why many symptoms come and go for some time until they subside. Therefore, much will depend on how much bad bacteria you have and how long you’ve had them.
For sufferers of candida overgrowth, the reaction to probiotics can be strong. They need to follow a stricter protocol.
Even if you stop taking probiotics, the effect will continue for some time. This is because probiotics create a healthy environment in your digestive tract where good bacteria can thrive. If you have “pockets of resistance” in the gut, several symptoms can come and go until most of the harmful bacteria are gone.
NOTE: Some probiotic supplements contain milk products and can also cause bloating for someone who is intolerant or sensitive. Same with biogenic amines contained in some commercially fermented food.
In any case, if you get bloated, try lowering the probiotic dose to a level that’s comfortable for you. Once your gut adapts you can gradually increase the dose. Remember too that if you consume much sugar and grains it will feed harmful organisms in your gut as they thrive on carbs. Many who lower their intake of sugar and grains feels that the intestine responds positively. After some weeks, you can try reintroducing grains slowly.