Before you load up on high doses of probiotics, consider the possible negative side effects of these supplements. While these supplements can have several health benefits, you may also notice some unpleasant symptoms.
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Safety and Efficacy of Probiotics
When you think of bacteria, your first thought may be of infections and diseases. While harmful bacteria can cause these issues, probiotics are "good" bacteria that may create health benefits for you. Harvard Health reports that probiotics may help in several different ways, including improving:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- H. pylori (an infection that causes ulcers)
- Chron's disease and ulcerative colitis
- Childhood eczema
- Infections in the vagina
- Urinary tract infections
You can get probiotics from pills or in foods, including yogurt. If you choose capsules, be sure to choose supplements from reputable brands. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health warns that the Federal Food and Drug Administration does not tightly regulate these supplements.
As such, companies can make untested claims about the health benefits of probiotics and what is in them. This means that you could experience what you believe are probiotic overdose symptoms, but the issues could be due to untested or unreported ingredients in the supplement.
Read more: How Long Should Probiotics Be Taken?
The potential benefits may make you want to mega-dose probiotics with a reputable brand. However, large doses of probiotics may cause gastrointestinal issues for some people, and can even be life-threatening for others.
Common Side Effects of Probiotics
If probiotics work in your system, they cause changes to the microbiome in your gut. While this is the intention, and may bestow several health benefits, the changes may also cause some discomfort at first. The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) warns that you may experience side effects like abdominal bloating and gas.
High-dose probiotic side effects often pass quickly and are mild. However, some other side effects can be more severe. The AGA also warns of allergic reactions and intolerances to probiotic foods and supplements. For example, someone who is lactose intolerant should not consume regular yogurt to get probiotics.
You should always consult your doctor before starting new supplements. Furthermore, make sure you take probiotic supplements as prescribed, or according to the label. For example, if a supplement recommends two pills daily, do not start megadosing probiotics by taking four of those capsules per day.
Read more: Probiotics on an Empty Stomach
Probiotics in At-Risk People
While probiotics produce minimal side effects for most people, these microorganisms could have serious consequences for others. The Cleveland Clinic suggests avoiding probiotics if you:
- Have a weakened immune system
- Are on chemotherapy
- Are critically ill
- Are recovering from surgery
In some cases, people with any of these conditions develop infections while on probiotics. If you have a weakened immune system, you may benefit from focusing on foods that strengthen your immune system instead. Garlic, carrots, black tea and cashews are all possible immune-boosting foods. Furthermore, caretakers should avoid giving probiotics to infants with serious illnesses.
As with any supplement, it's important to talk to your healthcare team before starting probiotics. Your doctor may recommend a specific type of probiotic or warn your against using them based on your unique medical circumstances. Always read the label of any probiotics you choose, as you may be allergic to other ingredients in the pills.
- National Institutes of Health: "Probiotics"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Health Benefits of Taking Probiotics"
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Probiotics: What You Need To Know"
- American Gastroenterological Association: "What Are Probiotics and Can They Aid GI Health?"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Probiotics"