If you’ve kept up with the Humarian Blog for long, you know that we talk about probiotics all the time. Whether they’re improving your digestion, boosting the body’s immune capabilities, helping infants with diarrhea, or reducing the severity of IBD, probiotics offer a wide range of potential benefits. New research promoting these benefits appears almost daily. One aspect we haven’t talked about is the potential side effects of probiotics. Surely with all of these positives, there must some trade-offs, right? Thankfully, researchers haven’t identified anything in the way of long-term negative effects from probiotics, but we do know of a few potential side effects that can arise from probiotic supplements.
Excess bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea are the most common side effects that can occur in people taking probiotics for the first time. These can be alarming to first time probiotic users, especially in cases where these same symptoms are cited as reasons for taking a probiotic in the first place. The good news is that these side effects can often be indicators that the probiotics are working as intended. When you flood your system with healthy bacteria, they work to bring the gut back to a healthy balance. This means either crowding out or killing off large numbers of unhealthy bacteria in the gut that can cause gas, bloating and recalibration of bowel activity until this waste is swept out of the system. These symptoms can often last for a couple of weeks before returning to normal.
Histamines are chemicals made by your immune system to deal with allergens. They encourage your body to flush allergens out of your system through allergic reactions like watery eyes, stuffy noses, minor rashes, and itchy skin. Certain types of probiotic strains naturally produce histamine, but other strains naturally reduce histamine levels. Most probiotic supplements contain a combination of histamine producing, histamine neutral, and histamine reducing bacteria, so they typically do not have a strong effect on overall histamine levels in the body. Nevertheless, allergic reactions are still a possibility in histamine sensitive individuals. If you see one of the common allergic reactions listed above after taking probiotics, it could signify an overload of histamine or gut bacteria imbalance.
Other allergic reactions
The probiotic strains themselves aren’t likely to trigger any sort of allergic reaction in most people – except potentially in individuals with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a topic we’ll cover in a future blog – but some probiotic supplements are packaged with other ingredients that could. Many probiotics contain lactose, so lactose intolerant individuals should read labels carefully. Some probiotics are yeast-based, so those with yeast allergies should steer clear of these. Keep an eye out for guarantees on the packaging that common allergies aren’t included, like dairy, egg, soy, nuts, or shellfish.
Probiotics are hugely beneficial, but they can cause side effects in some individuals. Minor digestive issues are the most common side effects. If these last longer than a couple of weeks, stop using the probiotic until they subside. If you are prone to any of the allergic reactions listed above, be sure to read ingredient labels carefully when selecting a probiotic supplement. If any allergic reactions occur, be sure to stop using the probiotic and consult your doctor immediately.
People who liked this blog also read these:
- B. bifidum – A common probiotic strain
- Video Series – The Six Truths You Need To Know Before Choosing A Probiotic
- Did You Know: Your Body Needs Good Bacteria