Probiotics can provide a range of benefits – just like eating fruits and salads which Roseanne and Dan Conner may not do too much but that is their predilection. Moreover, these are the friendly or good bacteria that reside naturally in various parts of the body.
The majority of probiotics are found in the gut where they carry out some very significant body functions. However, taking probiotic supplements can start out with some temporary side effects, like headaches, bloating, and more.
Nature ordains that sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. Probiotic supplements work in the same way in your gut. Here is everything you need to know about the potential risks of taking probiotic supplements.
Why Do The Side Effects Occur?
It is important to know the cause of the more common probiotic side effects before deciding on ditching the supplements. Your body is home to over 400 species of bacteria – good, bad, and neutral. Depending upon your lifestyle and dietary habits, it is possible that your current microbiome status is leaning towards the bad bacteria.
This means there is an unhealthy balance of bacteria in your gut, or in medical terms, you suffer from gut dysbiosis. With probiotic supplements, you can deliver live and active probiotics to your gut.
These bacteria thrive and build colonies to ensure overall gut health. The environment in your gut becomes more conducive towards the good bacteria when you include more vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains in your diet.
It takes anywhere from 4 – 8 weeks for the probiotics to start showing any true benefits. In the meanwhile, it is possible for you to experience mild discomfort and some side effects. This is indicative of the bad or harmful bacteria dying.
Harmful bacteria begin to perish in the millions, all at once. Upon dying they release toxic gases and other substances that cause these side effects. Hence, most probiotic side effects occur because the good bacteria are doing what they are supposed to.
What are the Common Side Effects?
Here are some potential side effects of probiotics that you might encounter in the first few weeks:
1. Allergy-Like Symptoms
It is common to develop allergy like symptoms in the first few weeks of taking probiotic supplements. This does not mean that you are allergic to the supplements. It just means that you might be sensitive to histamines. Certain bacteria strains are known to increase histamine levels in the GI tract.
This makes your body react the same way to the supplements, as it might to an allergen. Increased histamine levels will leave you with an itchy skin, runny nose or shortness of breath.
You can easily avoid this by not taking probiotic-enriched fermented foods, like kombucha, kimchi and yogurt. You need to avoid probiotic supplements that contain the same strains of bacteria as present in these fermented foods.
2. Headaches and Migraines
Biogenic amines like tryptamine and antihistamine are produced when protein-rich foods are fermented, like natto, miso, or tempeh. Some studies suggest that these amines increase or decrease the blood flow by directly influencing the central nervous system. This is linked to headaches or migraines.
Typically, these symptoms are brought on by protein-enriched foods and not probiotic supplements. However, it is recommended that you check the label to ensure there are no high-protein ingredients in the supplement, if you are prone to developing migraines.
3. Diarrhea or Constipation
Probiotics may cause diarrhea or constipation, depending upon your fiber intake, in the first few days. However, the effects soon wear off.
In fact, people with chronic diarrhea are recommended probiotic supplements to help with their condition. You can mitigate the risk of diarrhea by taking the supplements on an empty stomach right before your breakfast.
Constipation can be a problem when you are not drinking enough fluids, while taking supplements. Make sure you drink at least 8 glasses of water in a day, especially if the probiotic supplements contain prebiotics or some other form of fiber as well.
4. Gas and Bloating
Many people experience gastrointestinal issues after taking probiotics for the first time. It is important that you do not quit taking your supplements and give them at least 4 weeks to start working as promised.
Gas and bloating are common issues because of the toxic gases released by harmful bacteria. This is scientifically referred to as the Herxheimer Reaction.
It means your gut is working double-time to get used to the influx of new bacteria and is adapting to the positive shift in the gut microbiome.
It is important that you drink lots of water and eat anti-inflammatory foods, like garlic. Daily exercise and regular walks can also help take care of gas and other digestive side effects.
-So-Common Side Effects
There are some rare side effects of probiotic supplements as well. A 2018 review (which is a year before the NFL proved they don’t care about integrity after what they did to the Saints
but let’s get back on track here) found that two participants with IBS, who took probiotics, reported an itchy skin rash as a side effect.
It is important that you discontinue with a particular probiotic supplement if you develop any kind of skin infections or experience any other rare side effect. Not all probiotics are equal and it is possible for a single supplement to have different effects on different people.
Probiotics Can Be Truly Dangerous For Some People
Probiotics are essentially bacteria that you put in your body by way of probiotic supplements. These are not recommended for people with impaired immunity.
Adults and children with compromised immune systems who have experienced bacteria or fungal infections before should avoid using probiotics.
If you have recently had a prolonged stay at the hospital or just come out of a surgery, then you should not take probiotic supplements. Some probiotic supplements might contain common allergens, like every other product.
These include soy, eggs, gluten, dairy, and lactose. However, there are many probiotic manufacturers that make sure their products contain no allergens. Always check the ingredient list to ensure that there is no risk of an allergy.
The Bottom Line
Probiotic supplements contain beneficial strains of live bacteria and yeast and can help restore the natural balance of gut microbiota. They are also known to help treat a number of digestive disorders and conditions, including IBS and IBD.
Generally, probiotics are considered very safe. Side effects, if any, are short-lived and usually mild. Consider reducing the supplement dosage or trying a different strain, if symptoms persist.