As people have begun to understand and prioritize gut health, probiotics have gained much popularity. Trillions of bacteria and microorganisms live in the human gut, some are beneficial for health and others, not so much. A healthy lifestyle supplemented by regular intake of the right probiotics can help you keep your gut healthy. There are a host of health benefits that you can get from probiotics, which are essentially the friendly kind of live bacteria. (1) However, some people may experience a few side effects within the first few weeks of starting any new probiotic supplements. This is often due to the increase of good bacteria in your system and cleansing of harmful toxins from the body. Bottom line, once your body gets used to the probiotics, the side effects should subside.
Let’s discuss in detail how probiotics work on your digestive health, some side effects that you may experience, and ways to help you push through.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria, microorganisms, or yeast of the ‘friendly’ kind, which naturally live in your gut. These play an important role in your digestive system as well as overall health, making it important for your body to have a healthy population of good bacteria. Eating foods that are rich in probiotics such as miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and yogurt can help you maintain healthy levels of beneficial bacteria in your gut flora. However, Some fermented probiotic foods such as kefir and yogurt are comprised of biogenic amines which excite the nervous system and may cause headaches. Keep a food diary to isolate the potential cause of your headaches. Another excellent way to support your gut health is to take daily probiotic supplements. (2)
Benefits of Probiotics for Digestive Health
Much research has been done on the helpful effects of probiotics on your gut. Here are a few ways in which probiotic use can have a positive impact on digestive health.
Help with Constipation
A study done of randomized controlled trials indicated that probiotic supplements decrease the intestinal transit time in the system and help in relieving constipation. (3) Strains like Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus acidophilus can be particularly useful for constipation.
Help with Diarrhea
Evidence suggests that diarrhea, particularly when caused due to antibiotic consumption, can be eased with the use of probiotics. (4) The increase in healthy bacteria in your body works towards regularizing bowel movements.
An alteration to the side of too many bad bacteria in your gut microbiota can lead to symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), such as abdominal pain, gas, and bloating. Probiotics could have a positive effect on those suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. (5)
Potential Side Effects of Probiotics
When you introduce a probiotic supplement to your body it begins to make adjustments to the change happening in your gut microbiome and works to remove harmful toxins from your body. This is why some people experience a few initial side effects.
These effects are generally mild and tend to disappear in a few days. Give your body time to adjust and try lowering the dosage for some time, if needed. Here are some common probiotic side effects you may experience temporarily and how to find relief.
When you consume foods that are rich in proteins, substances called biogenic amines (including tryptamine and antihistamine) are formed. (6) These substances can cause the central nervous system to get excited, and the decrease or increase in blood flow may cause headaches. Such headaches usually do not last for more than a week.
How to find relief: To find relief from headaches be sure to get plenty of rest and drink extra water. Water can help your body process and break down proteins faster and eliminate headaches.
Gas and Bloating
Gas and bloating are common probiotic side effects when beginning a regimen, particularly if you suffer from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This is known as the Herxheimer Reaction, a condition that occurs when harmful bacteria dies and creates gas.
How to find relief: If you become gassy or experience abdominal pain or cramps try taking smaller doses of the probiotics for some time. Once your body is used to it and there are no side effects, you can gradually increase the dosage to reach your required level. You can also find relief by drinking chamomile or peppermint tea or using a warm compress or heating pad on areas of discomfort.
Acid reflux occurs when the acidic contents of your stomach travel back into the food pipe. This creates a burning sensation in the lower chest region, often after a meal. This, similar to bloating and gas, also happens when probiotics kill off the harmful bacteria in your body and they release toxins.
How to find relief: To find relief from acid reflux dissolve your probiotic tablet in some water and drink it slowly instead of directly swallowing the supplement. This eases the introduction of the probiotic to your body and helps reduce digestion-related side effects. It also helps to avoid laying down after meals and eat slowly to give your body time to digest your food and balance your gut flora.
Nausea usually occurs from stomach acid production once you start taking probiotic supplements.
How to find relief: Taking your probiotics along with a meal, with yogurt, or a smoothie may help you find relief from nausea.
While it may be ironic, some people experience constipation within a few days of starting probiotics. If your body has plenty of toxin-producing harmful bacteria, waste and toxin elimination may not occur as fast as it is produced which can be the cause of constipation. Occasionally, some species of probiotic bacteria such as Lactobacilli can also cause this side effect.
How to find relief: To find relief from constipation, include more fiber in your diet along with your regular probiotic supplements. This may give you relief and regularize your bowel movements.
Probiotics work towards the smooth operation of your digestive system and cleansing of the digestive tract. In fact, one of the most common uses of probiotic supplements is to combat diarrhea. (7) However, when you start taking probiotics, you may experience mild increase in gas, bloating, thirst, and some digestive problems including diarrhea. Diarrhea can be uncomfortable, however, rest assured that your body’s digestive system will regain balance within 14 days.
How to find relief: To find relief from diarrhea, take your supplement on an empty stomach and keep drinking plenty of water. You can also increase your fiber intake and eat more starches such as red potatoes.
Itching or Rashes on the Skin
When bacteria in the body releases toxins, it is released through the pores of the skin. This is why people who have recently started taking probiotics sometimes complain of skin infections and rashes. At times, this also happens when the probiotic supplement uses poor-quality ingredients for the formulation. (8) Probiotics help support the immune system, so after a period of adjustment, this reaction should settle down, and you may even experience clearer skin if you’ve had skin issues in the past.
How to find relief: To find relief from skin irritations always choose a high-quality probiotic that only uses the best ingredients. You can also apply honey, coconut oil, or another high-oil ointment to the affected area.
More Suggestions to Help with Probiotic Side Effects
Cut Down Sugary and Inflammatory Foods
Reducing your sugar can help you reduce digestive symptoms that often arise soon after starting probiotics. Moreover, reduce your intake of alcohol, coffee, and tea. Instead, increase your water intake. This will help your body get rid of toxins faster.
Take digestive enzymes along with your regular probiotic supplements as these enzymes can help break down foods and thereby aid in digestion. (9)
Look For a Quality Probiotic Supplement
Remember to not skimp when it comes to choosing probiotic supplements for yourself and the people you love. Choose probiotic supplements of good quality that don’t contain any artificial preservatives, dairy, gluten, wheat, or artificial colors and sweeteners, especially if you suffer from lactose intolerance or food sensitivities. This helps you avoid allergic reactions and other unpleasant side effects that these unneeded ingredients/fillers can cause.
Seek Expert Medical Advice
If you are considering adding probiotics to your regular diet, consult a healthcare professional who is familiar with the different strains of bacteria in probiotic products. Various strains have different health benefits, choosing the best strains that meet your needs can help reduce any side effects.
Read Your Probiotic Instructions
Because probiotics can impact your health in many ways, it’s worth taking the time to read all the instructions carefully before you start taking probiotics for the first time or when switching supplements. Do not exceed the maximum dosage unless specified by a doctor. If you have allergies, check the ingredients label for any potential triggers.
In most cases, the side effects of probiotics are a result of the waste and toxic materials leaving your body, and not from a bad reaction to your supplements. If your body has too much toxin build-up, it may take longer to cleanse. Generally, the symptoms tend to disappear within a few days.
Remember to stay well hydrated and give your body enough time to adjust if you have just started taking regular probiotic supplements. In the rare case that you experience persistent and severe effects, consult your doctor at the earliest.
Maintain Good Gut Health with the Right Probiotics
Adding probiotic-rich foods or a high-quality probiotic supplement to your daily diet is a simple but effective way to keep your gut microbiome healthy. LoveBug Probiotics’ supplements are created with a proprietary blend of top-notch and specific probiotic strains designed to aid your digestive functions. Moreover, the patented Bio-tract delivery technology in the tablets ensure that LoveBug’s probiotic supplements have 15 times more survivability in your system compared to standard capsules available in the market.
It is important to keep in mind that all probiotics are not the same. Remember to choose a probiotic that meets your specific needs. Choosing high-quality probiotic supplements with a sufficient number of colony-forming units (CFU) decreases your chances of experiencing any negative side effects.
Here’s the Skinny, from LoveBug Probiotics, is the perfect dietary supplement for improved digestive health, as it is specifically made to repopulate your gut microbiome with healthy bacteria. And since good gut health is the key to overall physical and mental health, this supplement will help you feel better from the inside out.
- “Health benefits of taking probiotics.” Harvard Health Publishing. Last modified August 2018. https://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics.
- Guarner, Francisco and Juan-R. Malagelada. “Gut flora in health and disease.” Lancet 361, no. 9356 (2003): 512-519. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(03)12489-0.
- Miller, Larry E. and Arthur C. Ouwehand. “Probiotic supplementation decreases intestinal transit time: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG 19, no. 29 (2013): 4718-25. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v19.i29.4718.
- Guarino, Alfredo, Stefano Guandalini, and Andrea Lo Vecchio. “Probiotics for prevention and treatment of diarrhea.” Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 49, (2015): S37-S45. doi: 10.1097/MCG.0000000000000349.
- Jia, Kai, Xin Tong, Rong Wang, and Xin Song. “The clinical effects of probiotics for inflammatory bowel disease.” Medicine (Baltimore) 97, no. 51 (2018): e13792. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000013792.
- Suzzi, Giovanna and Sandra Torriani. “Biogenic amines in foods.” Frontiers in Microbiology 6, (2015): 472. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.00472.
- Hempel, S, SJ Newberry, AR Maher, Z Wang, JN Miles, R Shanman, B Johnsen, et al. “Probiotics for the prevention and treatment of antibiotic-associated diarrhea: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” JAMA 307, no. 18 (2012): 1959-69. doi: 10.1001/jama.2012.3507.
- Kyriakidis, Dimitrios A., Marina C. Theodorou, and Ekaterini Tiligada. “Histamine in two component system-mediated bacterial signaling.” Front Biosci 17, (2012): 1108-1119. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22201793.
- Labrador, Maday. “Probiotics AND Digestive Enzymes TOGETHER.” TACA. Accessed June 2019. https://tacanow.org/blog/probiotics-and-digestive-enzymes-together/.
- “How to keep potential probiotic side effects easily under control.” 1MD. Accessed May 2019. https://1md.org/article/probiotics-reduce-side-effects-1md.