Most people who are taking a quality probiotic supplement only notice the positive effects, such as improved digestive functions, a stronger immune system and a higher level of energy. However, if the good and bad bacteria in your digestive tract is unbalanced, then you may notice a few mild side effects while your gut is transitioning to a healthier state. Unfortunately, this aspect of taking a probiotic supplement is seldom discussed, which leads some people to conclude that their supplement is not working as it should. As a result, they stop taking the supplement before they’ve had a chance to reap the benefits.
Common Probiotic Side Effects
Side effects of taking probiotics, if they do occur, are usually very mild. You may experience bloating, gas, or mild abdominal pain. It is because the probiotics are doing their job. The pH of a healthy stomach is 1-3.5. The main benefit of this high level of acidity is that it helps prevent the buildup of bad bacteria in your digestive tract. If your gut bacteria have been out of balance for some time, the pH of your stomach is probably too high, up to 4 or even 5, which is a good environment for pathogenicn or bad bacteria to thrive. The healthy pH for the colon is 6-7. When you begin taking a probiotic supplement, the beneficial bacteria will begin to restore a healthy pH level in your gut and colon so they can flourish, and any bad bacteria will be eliminated or reduced. It is during this transition period that you may notice some minor side effects. How long they will last depends on the probiotics you are taking, and how long it takes your system to rebalance.
Ways to Reduce the Side Effects of Probiotics
Don’t give up on your probiotic supplement; there are things you can do to reduce these minor side effects.
- Decrease the dosage: If you’re having some discomfort, try reducing the dosage by half. Once the symptoms have disappeared, you can gradually increase the dosage to a higher level.
- Take on an empty stomach: Not only will taking your probiotic supplement about 30 minutes before you eat help to ease your symptoms, it will also ensure that the bacteria in the supplements survive better.
- Stay hydrated: The side effects, such as bloating, gas, and mild abdominal cramps, are all happening as your body is detoxifying. Drinking plenty of water will help with the process while preventing you from becoming dehydrated.
- Be patient: You should give your body at least a week or two to adjust to the beneficial bacteria regaining control of your digestive system. It will be worth it in the end.
Contraindications for Probiotics
Probiotics should not be taken if you suffer from an immune-compromising disorder or a serious medical condition, you are being treated for cancer, you have pancreatitis, you have recently had surgery, you have short bowel syndrome, or you have a central venous catheter. You should also not take a probiotic supplement if you are taking immunosuppressant drugs such as corticosteroids.
You should consult your physician if you are considering taking a probiotic supplement. If you're experiencing mild probiotic side effects, remember that while they may be inconvenient, the probiotics are helping to rebalance your digestive system, and the discomfort is temporary. It’s important to make sure you are taking a high-quality probiotic supplement to help you fully absorb nutrients from food. You can read about our “Three D’s” for how to choose probiotics, and continue to check back for more health-related articles so you can work on your health from inside out.