You may have heard about the benefits of probiotics, or maybe your doctor recommended you try them to help with digestion. But with so many varieties and so many billions of bacteria among them, you may wonder if it's possible to, at worst, overdose on probiotics or, at least, suffer side effects.
Here's everything you need to know on probiotic dosage.
Video of the Day
Can You Overdose on Probiotics?
If you're worried about overdosing on probiotics, rest assured this probably won't happen, says Los Angeles, California-based Kien Vuu, MD, board-certified radiologist and assistant clinical professor of health sciences at UCLA.
"In an otherwise healthy adult, it is unlikely one can overdose on probiotics to the degree that one suffers dangerous side effects or death," Dr. Vuu says.
But, while overdosing on probiotics likely isn't possible, if you do choose to take a probiotic supplement, Dr. Vuu says it's still important to ensure you're taking the amount specified on the label.
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), probiotic supplements often contain 1 to 10 billion colony forming units (the units used to measure probiotics, aka CFUs) in each dose. And some products contain around 50 billion CFUs or more, per the ODS. Higher counts of CFUs in a probiotic are not necessarily associated with more health benefits.
Probiotic Safety Is Largely Unregulated
But claims about whether or not you can overdose on probiotics need much more research.
On the one hand, per the Cleveland Clinic, because the good bacteria used in probiotics occur naturally in your body, probiotics are typically considered safe to use.
But, even though probiotics are generally considered safe and well-tolerated in healthy people, formal clinical trials looking into the safety of probiotics are currently lacking, Dr. Vuu says.
A May 2015 review article in Clinical Infectious Diseases echoes this, finding that although probiotics have been used safely for many years, current evidence cannot definitively demonstrate their safety, especially as interest grows in their potential to alleviate, prevent or treat certain health conditions.
It's also important to keep in mind that supplements belong to a market that is relatively unregulated, Dr. Vuu says.
Probiotics aren't considered drugs and therefore don't need to undergo approval by the Food & Drug Administration. With that in mind, you should be sure to discuss probiotics with your doctor before taking them, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Probiotic Side Effects
Beyond safety, it's also important to consider side effects of probiotics.
"When someone first starts taking probiotics, they may experience some gas, as their gut may experience some changes in bacteria levels. These side effects should wear off soon, once the body adjusts," Dr. Vuu says.
And while probiotics can offer a number of potential health benefits, they're not always the best option for everyone, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
People who should likely steer clear of probiotics include anyone with a weakened immune system or serious illness or who has recently undergone surgery, per the Cleveland Clinic.
If you fall into any of those categories, you're more likely to "experience more adverse side effects such as systemic infection, severe allergic reactions or unwanted alteration in metabolism or the immune system," Dr. Vuu says. "For these individuals, it's important to consult your doctor before taking probiotics."