probiotics side effects

Probiotics Side Effects: The Good, the Bad, and How to Handle Them

Let’s take some time to talk about something not often discussed in the world of good bacteria: probiotics side effects.

Because as great as probiotics are for aiding your gut microbiome, the truth is that if you’ve decided to supplement your diet with probiotics for gut health, you could run into some side effects that may have you puzzled.

You thought you were doing something good for your body, so you’re probably disappointed when you run into a side effect, thinking that maybe probiotics won’t help you, after all.

Relax…pretty much every food and supplement has potential side effects, and probiotics are no different. You may not be taking the right strain of probiotics for your health issues, or the symptoms you are experiencing could be just signs of the cleansing that is going on in your gut.

The probiotics side effects that you’re experiencing may also simply indicate that the probiotics are doing their job.

Read on and find out if the side effects you’re experiencing are temporary, and how you can adjust your strain or dosage, if you need to.

Probiotics Side Effects Can Mean the Probiotics are Working

Most people don’t experience any side effects from probiotics, other than the positive effects of improved digestive health and relief from digestive and skin conditions. But perhaps your gut has not been in proper balance for years.

If that’s the case, you can expect something like a transition period, while your system adjusts to the proper balance. In some cases, the symptoms you experienced before starting probiotics, like bloating or gas, can even get worse.

The time needed for probiotics to “do their thing” isn’t discussed enough online. You may see worsening symptoms and decide that probiotics are not working, or that they are even making your former situation worse. Don’t stop taking probiotics before you give them a chance to help you.

If you’re having side effects, even though the symptoms are inconvenient, and sometimes even embarrassing, they are probably just temporary. Don’t expect miracles to happen overnight.

Common Probiotic Side Effects

Some of the side effects that may actually indicate that a probiotic is working include:

  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps
  • Bloating
  • Acne
  • Rashes

If your adverse effects are fairly mild and don’t persist for any longer than a couple weeks, welcome those side effects! Or, at least, trudge through them.

It means your gut is using the probiotics to help normalize the balance of good and bad flora in the gut. Sometimes, it needs to get worse before it gets better.

Balancing Good and Bad Bacteria

The normal level of pH (the acidity and alkalinity) of your colon should be somewhere between 6.7 and 6.9. In order to inhibit the growth of bad (disease causing) bacteria, your colon pH needs to be a bit more acidic than it probably was before you started taking probiotics.

This is easier said than done. Left to its own devices, your colon probably has an alkaline balance, rather than acidic. Contributing to this are over the counter and prescription medications, chlorine in your water and other issues.

The Probiotics Start Their Work

When you first started taking your probiotics, the new good bacteria went to work to change the pH level to one that is healthier. This makes the gut more hospitable for good bacteria. But there may initially be a struggle, since the bad bacteria are already entrenched in the gut.

As your colon pH changes to acidic from alkaline, and bad and good bacteria engage in a tug of war, you might experience stomach grumblings, loose stools, gas or other symptoms of the bowels. Minor constipating or laxative effects and minor bloating are positive signs!

They mean that your probiotics are detoxifying, improving and remodeling the environment of your gut.

Medications that Limit the Effectiveness of Probiotics

The length of time it takes for these side effects to pass varies from one person to the next. If you are taking antibiotics, they kill off good bacteria as well as bad, so the transition may be longer. If you take a long-term medication affecting your digestive tract that you can’t discontinue, the transition to a proper level of good and bacteria may be much more difficult.

Some of the medications that affect the way probiotics work in the body include vaccines, antacids, birth control pills, sleeping pills, steroids, analgesics and painkillers. You’ll be helping yourself if you can eliminate or at least limit the amount of these drugs you use, if you want to achieve a normal bowel flora balance.

You can also consume more fermented foods for their probiotics. They include buttermilk, kefir, sourdough, fermented sauerkraut and yogurt.

If you discontinue a probiotic before it has a chance to boost the growth of good flora in the digestive system, you’ll never experience the positive effects of a healthy colon.

How to Reduce Unwanted Probiotics Side Effects

As mentioned, many people taking probiotics don’t experience any side effects. But if you’re one of the few that do, here are some tips to carry you through the transition period as inconvenience-free as possible!

Stay hydrated

Water is such a simple but effective solution and it will help with many side effects. Stomach acid is low in the morning and the water will help in hyper-diluting the acid in the stomach, and in doing so, it helps in protecting the good bacteria.

Be sure you don’t take probiotics during or after a meal with spices or herbs, since these are antiseptic. They can kill off good bacteria.

Decrease your dosage

This is one way to quickly reduce your side effects. If you started out taking two probiotic pills a day, reduce that to one a day and see what happens. Your body will become more quickly accustomed to that lower dosage, and then you can increase your daily dose to higher levels.

Don’t take too many probiotics too quickly, though, or you could end up with probiotic overdose. This generally isn’t serious, but it creates an imbalance between good and bad bacteria that is higher than you need.

Keep it simple with probiotic strains

Most healthy adults can benefit from combining a diverse range of various probiotic strains since they work synergistically with each other. That being said, if you have certain medical conditions or sensitivities, starting out with multiple probiotic strains can be unnecessarily problematic.

If you’re taking a multiple strain of probiotics, but have one or more specific issues, it may be best to choose a formula with fewer strains in it that specifically help that condition. That way, you can choose the good bacteria that will be best armed to defeat your health problems.

Give your body some time to adjust

Taking probiotic bacteria will help to kill many bad bacteria. This can shock your body initially. Give it a couple weeks or more to let the side effects wear off. If you still have side effects after three weeks or so, consult with your physician to see if there are specific probiotics that might target your particular medical issues.

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