Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms such as yeasts and bacteria that populate your intestines. They neutralize disease-causing agents to keep you in good health. Besides occurring naturally inside your body, probiotics also appear in certain foods and are available as dietary supplements. Sellers promote them as digestive aides and infection fighters. Although manufacturers provide general guidelines for taking probiotics, get your doctor's advice before using them for bloating, constipation or any other condition.
Constipation and Bloating Dosage
Probiotics doses are usually based on how many billions of bacteria one teaspoon or capsule provides. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends five to 10 billion bacteria -- as a blend of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium -- daily to relieve constipation, gas and abdominal pain related to irritable bowel syndrome. To maintain general digestive health, the medical center suggests one to 15 billion bacteria daily in the form of Lactobacillus acidophilus.
Potential Side Effects
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine warns that science has not studied the safety of probiotics extensively. The agency suggests being particularly cautious when giving the supplements to young children, the elderly and adults with autoimmune deficiencies. Although known side effects are not usually serious, consisting of mild digestive discomforts, good bacteria can cause infections if you have an impaired immune system. It is also worth noting that probiotics may backfire and cause the bloating you are trying to eliminate.
Lactobacillus acidophilus, the most widely used probiotic according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, speeds up the rate of absorption of sulfasalazine. The drug treats an inflammation of the lining of the colon called ulcerative colitis. Scientists, however, have not determined whether the faster assimilation of the medicine affects your health in any manner. Taken concurrently with probiotics, antibiotics can also kill the supplemental bacteria, since the drugs cannot differentiate between friendly and disease-causing organisms. If you take an immunosuppressant, a drug that weakens your immune system to prevent it from attacking your own body's tissues, you may be at risk for developing a bacterial infection from supplementing probiotics.
Additional Probiotic Sources
If probiotics relieve your bloating and constipation, you may be able to keep the conditions from recurring without dietary supplements. Juices, yogurts, soy drinks, fermented dairy drinks, miso and sauerkraut often provide good bacteria. Verify with your doctor that, based on your health history and current status, these foods are not contraindicated for you.
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Irritable Bowel Syndrome; Steven D. Ehrlich, N.M.D.; December 14, 2009
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine; An Introduction to Probiotics; Carol Wells, Ph.D., et al.; August 2008
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Lactobacillus Acidophilus; Steven D. Ehrlich, N.M.D.; June 22, 2009
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Possible Interactions With Lactobacillus Acidophilus; Ernest B. Hawkins, M.S., et al.; June 7, 2007
- MedlinePlus: Lactobacillus
- Cleveland Clinic: Eat Right -- Probiotics