While your immune system works hard to keep harmful bacteria out, many species of "friendly" bacteria live in harmony within your digestive system. Known as probiotics, these helpful microorganisms contribute to the health of the "host." Some strains of probiotics are found in fermented foods like yogurt and miso. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG is one of several probiotic strains available as a dietary supplement. Avoid taking it without first consulting with your physician because it may cause mild side effects, and rare but serious adverse effects have been reported.
Lactobacillus GG Benefits
Different species of probiotics have different effects, but they work together to promote health. When taken as an oral supplement, lactobacillus GG sticks to the mucous membrane lining your intestine and may promote balance of microflora, according to the National Cancer Institute. This means it inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria to keep the ratio of good bacteria to bad in check. It may also prevent other bacteria from producing toxic compounds and help your immune system respond and adapt to fight off invading pathogens when infection occurs.
Gastrointestinal Side Effects
The most commonly reported side effects of probiotics like lactobacillus GG are digestive issues such as gas and bloating, according to the American Gastroenterology Association. These are typically mild in nature and go away as your digestive system adjusts. Tolerance varies from person to person, and not everyone will experience these side effects. Reduce your dose briefly if symptoms become too uncomfortable. This give your body a chance to get used to the supplement.
Rare Report of Sepsis
There is a rare case report of sepsis linked to lactobacillus probiotic therapy. Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition where your immune system triggers whole-body inflammation in response to a bacterial infection. This can cause blood clots and deprive your organs of oxygen and nutrients. Older adults, infants, children and people with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of developing sepsis. The report was published in the January 2005 edition of the journal Pediatrics.
Rare Case of Bacteremia
In May 2013, the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology published a report of a rare case of bacteremia in a 17-year-old male due to taking lactobacillus GG for ulcerative colitis. Bacteremia is related to sepsis but is a separate condition. It occurs when bacteria are able to enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body. A healthy immune system typically removes the bacteria on its own. But if your immune system is suppressed, it can progress to infection, sepsis, or both.
- National Cancer Institute: Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG
- American Gastroenterology Association: Probiotics: What They Are and What They Can Do for You
- Pediatrics: Lactobacillus Sepsis Associated With Probiotic Therapy
- MedlinePlus: Sepsis
- Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: Lactobacillus Bacteremia Associated With Probiotic Use in a Pediatric Patient With Ulcerative Colitis
- Merck Manuals: Introduction to Bacteremia, Sepsis, and Septic Shock