3 Probiotics & Prebiotic Side Effects that Aren’t Well-Known
By Ali Kuoppala | Last reviewed Tue 25 September 2018
Medical Review by Gerardo Sison, PharmD
If you search online, people seem to be praising probiotics for being the next best thing right after sliced bread.
And even though quality probiotic supplements and fermented foods are actually pretty great for the majority of people...
...There are still some - although extremely rare - side effects associated with certain strains and/or people who have some underlying or known medical conditions that change the bodily response to the bacterial intake.
Here's the three that can rarely occur:
#1. Bloating, Gas, Lower Abdominal Pain
Many strains of probiotics are associated with reduced rate of constipation, leaky gut, and overall improved gut health and flora.
Still, the most prominent - albeit fairly rare - side effect of many probiotic strains is increased gas production, some degree of bloating, and sometimes even full-blown lower abdominal pain and aches.
Why? How can they work ass-backwards?
- The recolonization of bacteria - (in with the good, out with the bad) that takes place after people introduce more probiotics to their life, can cause increased bowel movements and some rapid changes within the gut flora, which can result in gas, bloats, and sometimes stomach aches. This is rare and has been shown to pass within a week as seen in this study.
- Poor-quality or old supplement - Like with all supplements, some brands don't really control their production that well and end up selling probiotics with unknown strains, tainted bacteria, or simply use bacterial cultures that aren't even "good" for the gastrointestinal tract health.
Bottom line: High-quality probiotic supplementation is generally known to reduce the occurence of gas, bloating, and stomach aches, but in some rare cases, they can work completely backwards as proclaimed. This is rare and often caused by good kind of recolonization of the gut flora, but can also be caused by poor-quality strains of probiotics.
#2. Possible Worsening of Certain Diseases
Many claim that "everyone should be taking a probiotic supplement".
This might be true for healthy individuals, but it doesn't mean that everyone does well with a probiotic.
Certain disease states, like Chron's disease, HIV, AIDS, and Lyme disease can actually worsen with probiotic supplementation, due to the autoimmune response treating the so called "good bacteria" in an unexpected way.
This doesn't mean that people with these diseases could not take probiotics - in fact I've seen many anecdotal reports and even studies suggesting that probiotics had positive effects for the conditions - it simply means that they are to be more cautious about probiotic intake and discuss with their doctor before starting supplementation.
#3. Inflammation and Growth of Bad Bacteria
This side effect is in 95+% of the cases caused by expired or low quality supplements that have been contaminated with unhealthy strains, pathogens, or fungi.
If your body is in an inflammatory state, and you introduce a supplement into your gut environment that contains unhealthy bacteria, yeast, or fungi, you may actually end up aggravating the inflammatory response.
Wrong type of strains and contamination can also feed the growth of the "bad bacteria", which usually worsens the symptoms the supplementation was supposed to help with.