Probiotic side effects sometimes happen. They are mostly mild. What are the reasons for such side effects?
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. (There are always exceptions.)
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: higher frequency, strong smell, discoloring
- Bowel movement: diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas
- Sweating: odor, itchy skin, skin rash, eczema, pimples
- Breathing: running nose, coughing, sneezing, sore throat, flue-like feeling
Therefore, many so called “probiotic side effects” are 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.
In many cases, the longer and stronger the reaction, the more the body needs cleansing. In such cases, 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 ones. As for detox symptoms, some specialists recommend adding the following to lessen side effects:
- Chlorella (good gut cleanse, binds many toxins)
- Garlic, broccoli seed extract (great detox aids)
- Cilantro (release metals)
Acid reflux, heartburn
Acid 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 other ways 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 is sharp and mistaken for pain in the appendix, gallbladder or heart. This can be unpleasant and persistent. The explanation below is a bit long, but it might help to see the wider picture with bloating.
There are many causes for bloating—inflammatory conditions, food sensitivities, gastritis, and IBS. In addition, people who overeat or don’t chew food properly often suffer from bloating. In such cases, the problem might be solved just by eating less and chew well. In other cases, bloating is caused by clogging—some foods tend to get stuck in the digestive system and produce gas. Depending on the location, the level of pain can vary. So avoid known gas-producing foods like beans, cabbage, onion, garlic, and others. If the cause is food, gas production does not happen quickly. When having the next meal, gas produced from the previous meal is often the cause of bloating.
What about bloating from probiotics? When introducing probiotics in the form of a supplement or fermented food, the gut environment starts to change and harmful microorganisms die and waste and toxins removed.. This process can clog up parts of the digestive tract, create gas and make the stomach feel like a balloon.
Fungi and yeast (like candida) are known to cause bloating. Causes for candida can be complex. But adding probiotics can cause severe bloating when candida die. Also, sufferers of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue can feel bloated when consuming probiotics. Therefore, in such cases, go very slow with probiotics! It can take weeks or even months before the dose can be increased. For some it might be best to wait with probiotics and first use other strategies.
Try drinking more water during the day as this tend to unclog the pipes. Cut down on sugar as many harmful microorganisms (as candida) thrive on sugar. For some fresh vegetable juice works well for bloating! Oregano oil is also superb!
Blood pressure changes
Studies on probiotics show that for sufferers of high blood pressure, probiotics can lower blood pressure, however, 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. In addition, a high blood sugar level can cause high blood pressure. Again, probiotics help reduce blood sugar levels which in turn can lower blood pressure.
Probiotics are effective for constipation because they support a healthy digestion. However, some people suffer constipation because they consume too little fibre or drink too little water. However, in some cases, consuming probiotics can also cause constipation. Why?
As mentioned earlier, bowel movement is a main exit route to eliminate toxins and waste. But what happens if the body cannot eliminate all waste and toxins quickly enough? The same happens as when trash collectors go on strike and garbage is piling up on the streets. The whole neighbourhood stinks and creates a breeding ground for bugs, rats, and disease.
If the body’s cleansing system is note tuned well, or if the toxic load is too great, waste can start to pile up in the body and can become a breeding ground for inflammation, infection, and disease. Constipation is one sign of this.
What can be done? Support the body’s ability to bring out the garbage! Support the body’s ability to rid itself of harmful substances. Here are a few suggestions:
- Drink fresh vegetable juice
- Take a probiotic supplement
- Consume Chia seeds
- Consume more fiber
- Intermittent fasting
- Physical exercise
- Oregano oil
Probiotics can lessen diarrhea very effectively. However, in some cases probiotics can cause diarrhea, and often the reason is the presence of bad bacteria, yeast, virus or toxins in the gut. Diarrhea from antibiotics is also common. Probiotics improve the gut environment which can cause mild symptoms 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 longer.
Persistent diarrhea for more than two weeks is most common in children. In case of adults, the reason is often stubborn bacterial infections or candida overgrowth. If probiotics cause diarrhea or other symptoms, lower the dose. Some report that drinking fresh vegetable juice, works well, as does oregano oil.
Another way the body rids itself of toxins, waste, and metals is through urination. Because probiotics stimulate the body to cleanse, this sometimes affects urination frequency, smell and color, which is harmless, even beneficial. However, see a doctor if there is blood in the urine. Some suggestions might be helpful:
- Drink more water and fresh vegetable juice
- Cut down on coffee and alcohol
This often occur when harmful microorganisms die and release toxins causing headaches, muscle aches, skin rash and other symptoms. In the case of Candida overgrowth, the reaction can be stronger causing severe headache or a migraine. In this case, some specialists recommend stop taking probiotics.
The violent death of harmful yeast and bacteria often cause unpleasant side effects. A probiotics headache usually disappears after a few days, rarely longer. Even though symptoms are harmless, they are unpleasant. Lower the probiotic dose or the amount of fermented food consumed. This can remove symptoms.
Research reveal that autism, depression and similar conditions are connected to gut problems. Gut inflammations and infections are mentioned as underlying factors affecting the mental state. Probiotics in the gut are able to “communicate” with the brain via the vagus nerve extending from the gut to the brain. Therefore, consuming probiotics can improve 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 protocol called GAPS is used for autism, learning disabilities, neurological disorders, psychiatric disorders, immune disorders, and digestive problems. This protocol includes consuming probiotics. However, caution is needed as the gut is very sensitive. Even small amounts of probiotics can aggravate symptoms before they start to subside. Combining fermented food with bone broths is recommended by some. The recommended GAPS probiotics is Bio-Kult,. But Hyperbiotics and Mercola also work well.
Detox is a common reason for skin rash when consuming probiotics. A 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 in fatty tissue and the liver. Supporting the body’s natural ability to cleanse itself is important to eliminate whatever the body wants out. But a body cleanse can have tremendous long-term health effects.
In rare cases, skin rash is a sign of allergy from additives found in some supplements. Allergic reactions should never be taken lightly! This include facial swelling, lip swelling, tongue swelling or throat swelling, hives or shortness of breath.
Symptoms of cold—sneezing, running nose
Common detox symptoms include symptoms similar to a cold or flu. Most symptoms are mild, harmless and disappear after a few days. However, in the case of candida overgrowth or bacterial infections, symptoms might be stronger. Many harmful microorganisms don’t die peacefully, but they 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 the following reasons.
- Lactose intolerance (supplements can contain small amounts)
- Interaction of other drugs with probiotic supplements (very rare)
- Probiotics combined with anti-fungal medication
- Allergy to soy (supplements can contain small amounts)
- Allergy to yeast (included in some supplements)
- Severe problems with the intestinal lining
- Severe stress can cause many symptoms
- Dietary changes can cause symptoms
In summary, many people have no probiotic side effect, they just feel good. In case of side effects, they are mostly mild and of short duration. However, if the gut is in a poor state, side effects will be more severe. So even though probiotics are beneficial, there’s no need to push the body too far. Be sensible, listen to the body!