Can probiotics cause headaches? Some people report headaches after taking a probiotic supplement or consuming fermented food. What is the reason for this? And can headaches from probiotics be prevented?
- Big difference between commercially prepared and homemade fermented food
Several studies indicate that probiotics often help prevent headaches and migraine and that the so-called “probiotic headaches” often have a simple explanation.
Why probiotics cause headaches
Headaches after consuming fermented foods or a probiotic supplement can be caused by one or more of the following.
First, probiotics can trigger a headache 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 common during a cleansing mode.
- Gut problems can trigger a reaction from probiotics
It’s known that beneficial bacteria help eliminate bad bacteria and yeast residing in the digestive tract (and elsewhere). And when harmful microorganisms die, they can release powerful toxins causing symptoms like headaches, muscle aches, skin rash and many other. In the case of candida overgrowth or a serious infection, the reaction can be strong.
Bottom line: probiotics cause headaches or a migraine when harmful microorganisms are destroyed and waste removed. Headaches for this reason usually disappear after a few days, rarely longer. Symptoms are harmless. In the case of candida overgrowth or an infection, headaches might come and go over several weeks, until the infection is under control.
Avoiding headaches from probiotics
Try lowering the probiotic dose or the amount of fermented food consumed. This can minimise or completely remove symptoms. Probiotics help improve the gut environment, but this can take some time.
- No side effects is a good sign that the digestive tract is well
Each person has a unique gut and a unique reaction to probiotics. Most people don’t feel a thing while others get minor reactions. Strong reactions are rare but can occur in the case of candida overgrowth, infections or if the digestive tract is in a poor state. For some, drinking more water and fresh vegetable juice help cleanse the gut. Bone broths are very effective.
Headaches from biogenic amines
Another reason why probiotics cause headaches is because commercially produced fermented foods can contain high levels of a chemical called biogenic amines.
Amines are created when certain bacteria types break down amino acids in vegetables. Some people are sensitive to amines because they lack a specific enzyme that metabolizes biogenic amines. Therefore, they develop headaches after consuming foods containing specific amines. In such cases, it’s not entirely correct to say that probiotics cause headaches. Rather, amines trigger headaches.
There are two main amines causing headaches:
- Tyramine: present in some commercial yoghurt, aged cheese, red wine, sauerkraut, soy sauce and many other commercially fermented 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
Avoiding headaches from amines
- Don’t eat 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
- Keep a food diary to identify the 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, which for sensitive ones might trigger headaches.
Homemade fermented food safer
Interestingly, studies show that homemade fermented vegetables contain very low amounts of amines, 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 low, too low to trigger headaches.
Summary: two possible reasons why probiotics cause headaches
- Probiotics cause headaches when improving the gut environment and removing harmful microorganisms. Side effects are harmless and quickly disappear. Candida overgrowth, serious infections or inflammations can cause symptoms to last longer.
- Some commercially fermented food containing biogenic amines trigger headaches and migraine in sensitive persons. Probiotic supplements and homemade fermented food are safer.