Can probiotics cause headaches? Some report headaches after taking a probiotic supplement or consuming fermented food. What is the reason for this? How can it be prevented?
Several studies indicate that probiotics often help prevent headaches and that headaches from probiotics therefore may have a another explanation.
1. Probiotics cause headaches when body eliminates waste
First, probiotics can trigger a headache when the body eliminates toxins and chemicals. To eliminate waste, the body uses several exit routes like the skin, the colon, and urination. Therefore, symptoms vary depending on which exit route is activated. Headaches are common.
Probiotics help eliminate harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract (and elsewhere). The problem is that when harmful microorganisms die, they often release toxins causing headaches, muscle aches, skin rash, and other symptoms.
Headaches from probiotics unpleasant but harmless.
How to avoid headaches from probiotics
Lower the probiotic dose or the amount of fermented food consumed. Try emptying a probiotic capsule in glass of water or juice and drink this slowly during the day. This can remove headaches until the gut environment has improved.
2. Headaches from biogenic amines
This is more common than people know and a reason why some probiotics can trigger headaches. This is mainly because commercially produced fermented foods may contain a substance called biogenic amines.
Amines are formed when certain bacteria break down amino acids in vegetables (and other foods). If a person is sensitive to amines he or she might develop headaches after consuming fermented foods. However, in such cases, it’s not the probiotics that trigger headaches but amines.
Two amines are mainly responsible for headaches:
- Tyramine: present in commercial yogurt, aged cheese, red wine, commercial sauerkraut, soy sauce, and other products.
- Histamine: present in commercial sauerkraut, vinegar, chocolate, and other products.
Other adverse reactions to amines include:
- Stomach problems
- Skin rash
- Many more
Avoiding headaches from amines
- Avoid canned, processed foods
- Buy, cook, and consume fresh food
- Spoiled food can contain high amounts of amines
- Keep a food diary to identify causing of headaches
Probiotic supplements do not contain amines. However, they can contain artificial coating, soy, wheat, gluten, and other substances that can trigger headaches.
Fermented food prepared at home safer
Interestingly, studies show that homemade fermented vegetables contain very low amounts of amines, too low to cause headaches in most people. The reason for this is that other kinds of bacteria are involved when fermenting at home compared to commercially fermented foods. A good starter culture also prevents amines from developing.
Summary: two reasons why probiotics cause headaches
- Probiotics can trigger headaches when bacteria improve the gut environment, destroy harmful microorganisms, and cleanse the body.
- Commercially fermented foods often contain biogenic amines that can trigger headaches in sensitive persons. Fermented food prepared at home is safer.