The market for probiotics is worth over $49.4 billion and could reach $69.3 billion by 2023. These helpful bacteria exploded in popularity due to their various potential health benefits. These living, positive bacteria are present throughout the human body. When taken through food or as a supplement, they can help our digestive system, and other systems in the body run better than ever. Scientists have studied these popular products and found that they’re generally safe and effective. There are still questions that need to be answered about their effectiveness and what impact they have on each patient. One of the most important questions is, what are the side effects of probiotics?
Taking any supplement or medication presents some level of risk, and this is true of probiotics as well. They can affect the digestive system, brain cells, and more.
Knowing both the positive and negative impacts that a supplement can have on your body lets you know if it’s right for you. Read on for five potential probiotic side effects you need to know before taking them.
1. Gas and Bloating
60-70 million Americans have digestive conditions. Probiotics may be the first treatment recommendation a medical professional gives to provide relief.
One of the first questions you have for your doctor might be, what are the positive effects of probiotics? They’ll give you a range of options depending on the conditions and symptoms that brought you to their office.
Probiotics have a variety of health benefits, one of the primary ones being aided digestion. They help the digestive system absorb the nutrients from the food you eat and move each piece along.
Another question you may have is what are the common side effects of probiotics, and it has a surprisingly similar answer. They cause short-term gastrointestinal upsets.
While taking probiotics, you may have gas, bloating, or constipation. The fermentation process that probiotic bacteria use to break down nutrients can also release gas and create other disturbances.
These symptoms should go away after a few days or weeks and are most common when you first begin taking probiotics. You should see your doctor if they continue long-term because this suggests a more serious condition.
2. Brain Fog
The connection between the digestive system and the brain is often overlooked. Proper use of probiotics can help you think clearly and gain energy, but they also present a risk of neurological side effects.
In a recent study, 22 of 30 patients that regularly took probiotics had neurological symptoms such as confusion and loss of concentration. These symptoms could be more simply described as “brain fog.”
Probiotics release D-lactic acid as a byproduct of fermentation. The levels present in our bodies at any given time are usually harmless but can be temporarily toxic to our brain cells if they build up in the small intestine.
This study was performed with a limited base and requires larger, related studies to support its claims. If you take probiotics and notice brain fog, talk to your doctor.
Before starting a new regimen, patients should always ask, what are the negative side effects of probiotics I may experience? The answer depends on their individual microbiome and health history.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that rarely cause illnesses or infections like more dangerous strains. This doesn’t mean the possibility is non-existent.
Severe infections, including sepsis, may be possible for certain patients. Pre-existing conditions or lifestyle factors may put them at an increased risk. These risk factors include:
- Compromised immune systems
- Leaky gut
- IBS or inflammatory bowel syndrome
Patients at an increased risk can reduce their risk or treat infections with antibiotics. The best way to avoid the issue, especially for cases of extreme risk, is not to take probiotics.
4. Allergic Reactions
Probiotics aren’t regulated by the FDA and may contain a variety of extra ingredients. These include three common allergens: eggs, soy, and dairy.
You should always check the labels of every probiotic you purchase, but this may not protect you from all potential side effects. Providers aren’t always honest about what’s in their products.
A 2015 examination of 16 probiotic products found that only one had the listed bacterial strains in every sample. A lack of regulation could lead to patients ingesting ingredients they’re allergic to without even knowing it.
If you notice an allergic reaction to a specific brand or strand of probiotic, try switching to another variety or stopping it. Talk to your doctor to see where the symptoms are coming from and if probiotics are causing them.
5. Probiotic Resistance
All medications present the possibility of not being able to be absorbed properly. This is true of probiotics because the body may reject them.
A recent study found that probiotics only colonized in the digestive tracts of 6 out of 15 participants. The rest were resistant and passed the bacteria through their stool without receiving any of the benefits.
This was another study with limited participants, and more research is needed to support it. It does present the idea that patients may be unable to benefit from probiotics.
Probiotic resistance is unlikely to cause you harm unless it’s severe or you develop an allergy to the strain you’re taking. This could lead to reactions such as rashes or breathing problems.
Finding the right strains is one way to avoid probiotic resistance. It’s unlikely for anyone to be resistant to all of the thousands of available probiotics.
What Are the Side Effects of Probiotics and Where Can I Find Them?
What are the side effects of probiotics? While more research is required, there are risks to keep in mind that we do know of. Talk to your doctor or a dietician about any concerns.
Probiotics help the digestive system but can also cause related symptoms such as gas or bloating. They also present the risk of brain fog, infection, resistance, or allergic reactions.
Choose the right probiotic supplement for your individual microbiome to get the best results. Talk to your doctor to see what bacterial strains you need and how and where to get them.
Weighing the major probiotic pros and cons helps you determine if they’re worth adding to your health routine. Learn about living probiotics to find out the benefits they can provide today.