Is There a Link Between Bloating and Probiotics?

Hand holding a pill
Probiotics can both cause and alleviate bloating. (Image: Iromaya Images/Iromaya/Getty Images)

Probiotic supplements are made of strains of bacteria that are known to contribute to a healthy gut flora. Gut-friendly bacteria protect your intestines from harmful microbes, synthesize vitamin B-12 and vitamin K, and promote a healthy immune system, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and a 1997 issue of "European Journal of Cancer Prevention." If you often feel bloated, probiotics can help restore your gut flora balance and control bloating, although your bloating may be worsened when you first start taking probiotics.

Choosing the Right Probiotic

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Make sure you choose a probiotic that will be effective for you. (Image: AnnaMariaThor/iStock/Getty Images)

To help get your bloating under control, it is important to choose a probiotic that will be effective for you. Some probiotics contain a single strain of bacteria while others contain multiple strains. Look at the label to determine what strains are present in a particular product. If you are very sensitive, starting with one strain may be best, but some people can tolerate multiple strains right from the beginning. You may need to experiment with different brands until you find the right one for you. A cheap way to include more probiotics into your diet is to ferment dairy to make kefir, yogurt or sour cream or ferment vegetables to make sauerkraut, or other lacto-fermented vegetables. Fermenting your own foods can help you get a large amount of multiple strains of probiotics in each bite, according to a 2007 issue of "Applied and Environmental Microbiology."

Short-Term Side Effects

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In the short term, adding probiotics to your diet may cause gas and flatulence. (Image: Jaykayl/iStock/Getty Images)

In the short-term, adding probiotics to your diet may cause gas, flatulence, belching and bloating. If you have irritable bowel syndrome, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or fructose malabsorption, adding probiotics to your diet is likely to worsen your bloating. These bacteria can feed on unabsorbed nutrients from the foods you eat, producing gas and bloating. Start with small doses of probiotics and gradually increase the amount you take, as suggested by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, nutritionist and author of "Gut and Psychology Syndrome." Start with 1 teaspoon of raw sauerkraut or 1 capsule of probiotic a day for the first week and add one more the following week to prevent excessive bloating and side effects.

Long-Term Benefits

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Long-term, probiotics can restore the balance in your gut. (Image: Alexander Raths/iStock/Getty Images)

Although probiotics may result in some bloating in the short-term, they will help restore the balance in your gut flora in the long-term. A healthy gut flora may help to prevent bloating, especially if you combine your probiotics with a healthy diet. Consume a daily source of probiotics from supplements or fermented foods to prevent bad bacteria and yeast from overgrowing in your intestines and causing bloating.

Eating Right

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Eating right while taking probiotics is important. (Image: Jacob Wackerhausen/iStock/Getty Images)

Bacteria feed on sugar, which can be obtained from the digestion of starches and carbohydrates. If you eat a lot of carbohydrates while taking probiotics, you risk suffering from bloating because the bacteria will eat some of these carbohydrates and produce gas. Bloating is caused by this excess gas, produced by the bacteria in your intestines. Avoid large amounts of carbohydrate-containing foods while beginning a probiotics regimen, in order to minimize bloating. Some people also have trouble tolerating prebiotics. Prebiotic fibers are compounds that serve as food for the bacteria in your gut. Fructo-oligosaccharides, inulin, chicory root or Jerusalem artichoke are sources of prebiotic fiber that can cause bloating in some people.

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