Probiotics Side Effects: Undesirable Things You Might Experience

Heather Campbell
 min read

Probiotics side effects are rare, but they’re worth looking into.

Probiotics Side Effects: Undesirable Things You Might ExperienceA lot of research has been done on probiotics, which are defined as living micro-organisms that are beneficial to our health.

As a general rule, consuming probiotics would allow you to be healthier. Rare side effects may include digestive disorders, infection, and intestinal problems such as bloating or gas. Probiotics are prohibited for those with immunity issues and premature babies and infants unless prescribed.

Most probiotics belong to bacterial species. Even if they are safe for the healthy population, they have some significant contraindications in sick people.

Continue reading to discover what these are and how to avoid them.

Probiotics side effects: Introduction

Consuming probiotics would allow you to have a healthy body. Indeed, they have demonstrated their effectiveness on irritable bowel syndrome, digestion, weight loss, inflammation, immune system, and anxiety.

Some scientific research has even shown that the health of a diverse gut microbiota can give clues to a person’s overall health and well-being.

However, despite the many benefits of probiotics on the balance of your body, it is possible to experience slight side effects even if they are relatively rare.

This article will present you with the possible side effects when taking probiotics.

What are probiotics?

According to the World Health Organization, probiotics are defined as “live micro-organisms that confer a health benefit when ingested in adequate amounts.”

Although the term is not explicitly specified on the packaging, they are found in some medicines, infant formulas, food supplements, and fermented foods.

The name probiotic is often found on yogurt packaging because the micro-organisms allow for better digestion of the lactose.

Other fermented milks are also effective in reducing various digestive disorders or preventing respiratory infections.

For example, the bacteria Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii help prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotic treatments. They are also recommended to infants and young children for this indication.

Apart from the yeast, Saccharomyces boulardii, most probiotics are bacteria of the genus Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium, naturally present in fermented foods and, particularly, fermented milks.

Fermentation is a method of food preservation that causes the formation of compounds within the food that is unfavorable to the survival of dangerous germs, such as lactic acid.

For scientists, fermented foods are considered beneficial to health because they allow:

  • To positively modulate the composition of the intestinal microbiota
  • To reinforce the immune defenses and the barrier effect against toxic microbes.

Fermented milks and yogurts are therefore excellent sources of probiotics. So are sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, carrots, beets, radishes, peppers, sourdough bread, kombucha, and brewer’s yeast.

Probiotic regulations

In general, the marketing of probiotics based on traditional ferments is allowed. However, manufacturers must be able to provide the authorities with any information relating to the product’s safety.

In fact, the strain used must be deposited in an internationally recognized collection of cultures to have a reference concerning a possible evolution.

It is necessary to ensure the safe use of the consumed dose and verify that there is no risk of transmission of an antibiotic resistance factor or, in the case of a fermented product, of the formation of toxic compounds.

Some regulations are implemented within companies with a sanitary control plan, which includes controls throughout the production chain and a traceability system.

And finally, the nature of the strain, the number of micro-organisms present in the product, as well as their viability until the expiration date, must be guaranteed and must be able to be verified during a possible control.

Adverse effects of probiotics

For several years now, certain medical studies have made it possible to specify possible undesirable effects of probiotics. Here are some of them:

Digestive disorders

Probiotics have the property of staying alive in the digestive tract and reaching the colon for the most part.

If consumed in adequate quantities, they can provide numerous benefits and modulate the composition and activity of the intestinal microbiota, also called the intestinal flora.

However, probiotics can induce or amplify certain types of fermentations. As a result, they can cause mild digestive problems such as bloating or gas.

In most cases, these disorders disappear spontaneously within a few days. When concerned, it is recommended to reduce the amount of probiotics ingested. And if the digestive problems persist beyond 3 weeks, simply stop consuming the probiotic in question.

In case of severe digestive disease (such as hemorrhagic rectocolitis or pancreatitis) or following surgery on the digestive tract, probiotics can be of interest to rebalance the intestinal flora or reinforce its barrier effect.

But be careful. In the latter cases, probiotics must be prescribed by a health professional.

Related postCan Fatty Liver Disease Affect Your Bowels? Gut-Liver Connection Explained

The risk of infection

Knowing that probiotics are micro-organisms, the risk of infection was mentioned. However, it has not been observed in healthy populations, whether infants, young children, children over three years of age, adolescents, or adults.

Probiotics are contraindicated for premature babies with immature immune systems. In addition, prescribing an infant milk or a medication containing probiotics to an infant should always be discussed with a physician.

Taking probiotics is also contraindicated for children or adults suffering from an immune deficiency, whether:

  • congenital,
  • linked to a disease (such as lymphoma or leukemia), or
  • medical treatment (immunosuppressant, corticoid, chemotherapy, etc.).

Medicines containing Saccharomyces boulardii are not recommended for children and adults with a central venous catheter.

In addition, a capsule or sachet containing the yeast should not be opened in the environment of these individuals to avoid catheter colonization.

How to use probiotics properly

Generally speaking, there are no contraindications to the consumption of probiotics in healthy children and adults.

When you want to test a fermented milk or a food supplement to activate the transit or reinforce the immune system, it is advisable to try only one product at a time, which avoids overdosing. This also makes it easier to judge its value.

If you take a dietary supplement, you must respect the recommended dose. An “effective” dose is between 1 and 100 billion micro-organisms per day. If you are pregnant, always seek the advice of a physician.

For children under 3 years of age, it is advisable to ask a health care professional for the dosage.

It is essential to wait at least ten days to see the benefits of taking probiotics. If there is no benefit, do not hesitate to try another probiotic, as the effects may depend on the initial microbiota.

If you stop consuming a probiotic, its effects will disappear after about ten days.

Probiotics in the form of food supplements can be taken as a one-month course of treatment that can be repeated several times a year as needed.

At the same time, eat a healthy and diversified diet, which will give you both probiotics and especially prebiotics, which are substances that nourish the probiotics and promote their development.

Probiotics side effects: Conclusion

Probiotics are living micro-organisms that are also considered “good bacteria.” They have a crucial role in many functions of our body, from digestion to immunity, losing weight, or fighting against constipation.

When taking probiotics, it is possible to have some side effects. Indeed, these intestinal problems can be bloating or gas. In this case, it is recommended to start with small doses and then gradually increase.

There are no contraindications for the consumption of probiotics in healthy people.

However, each individual has their own microbiota with their own strains of bacteria. Therefore, it is possible that probiotic supplementation may not always work on an individual or that it may have some undesirable side effects.

Related post: Gut Microbiome and Obesity, Gut Dysbiosis and Metabolic Syndrome: Are They Linked?

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More