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Can Probiotics Cause Nausea? The Side Effects & Benefits of Probiotics

7 minute read


Probiotics have the potential to cause abdominal discomfort, gas, and bloating, but before you shy away from them, know that these symptoms are often short-lived and very minor when compared to the possible benefits.

Probiotics are widely available and come in a huge variety of forms, containing different amounts and strains of probiotic bacteria. They can aid with the alleviation of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and cirrhosis, as well as boost the immune system and aid in weight loss.

What Are Probiotics?

The human body plays host to trillions of microorganisms. In fact, there are so many of them that they collectively weigh about 3.5 pounds. That’s more than what the average human brain weighs.

These “friendly” bacteria play a crucial role in keeping the body healthy, happy, and functioning at its best.

The majority of probiotics that the body plays host to live in the colon and make up the gut flora, or gut biome. They can also be found on the skin, in the mouth, joints, and urinary tract, as well as other parts of the body.

The balance of good bacteria in your gut can be thrown off by things like taking antibiotics (which can kill good bacteria as well as bad) or a poor diet. An imbalance can contribute to health issues like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression.

Hundreds of different kinds of probiotic bacteria exist, and the two types that are most common in supplements and food come from Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains. Different strains of probiotics can have different effects on the body, so it’s important to do research into which strains can help with the health issue that you’d like to address.

The Benefits of Probiotics

There is a lot of research happening in the world of probiotics, but even so, researchers don’t fully understand all of the health benefits of having healthy gut flora. The body and the symbiotic relationship that it has with the microorganisms that call it home are complicated, but there is evidence that probiotics may help alleviate or prevent several health conditions as well as boost our overall health.

Digestion

The most well-known benefit of taking probiotics is to promote a healthy digestive system. This analysis of several studies showed that probiotics are beneficial in the treatment and prevention of gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, and constipation.

Inflammation

This study has shown that probiotics can help reduce inflammation in the body, which is thought to be a cause of various diseases and illnesses.

Immune System

Having a healthy gut biome can also mean that your immune system is healthier and stronger. Studies have shown that probiotics can even help shorten the duration of the common cold.

Cardiovascular Health

Probiotics are also good for your heart. Studies show that they can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which lowers your risk for potentially fatal heart disease.

Clear Skin

Though more research needs to be done in this area, there is evidence that probiotics can help with acne, wound healing, and eczema.

Weight Loss

More research needs to be done concerning probiotics and weight loss, though they may be a factor in reducing belly fat, which is a major heart health risk.

| Related: Can Probiotics Help With Weight Loss? |

The Side Effects of Probiotics

Since probiotic bacteria and yeast already live in and on our bodies, they’re generally safe to use for most people.

Whether you take Probiotics in a supplemental form or you get them from food, they live in your gut and can cause digestive side effects while your body adjusts to the new influx of good microorganisms.

This adjustment period should only last for a few days and can differ depending on if you’re taking a bacteria-based supplement or a yeast-based one.

For bacteria-based supplements, side effects include the aforementioned bloating and gas, and for yeast-based supplements, side effects include increased thirst and constipation.

Probiotics may not be safe for people with weakened or compromised immune systems. If that applies to you, check with your doctor before taking any probiotics. If any of these side effects last for more than a few weeks, consult your doctor.

How to Take Probiotics

So you’ve decided that the possible health benefits greatly outweigh a few days worth of excess gas or nausea, but you’re not sure where to start. The probiotics section can be overwhelming with liquids and capsules galore.

Individual research is key here, as you can determine which strains of bacteria have the most potential to be beneficial to you, and you can narrow down the supplements from there.

The delivery method of a probiotic supplement is also important to consider. Some are packaged in special capsules that protect the probiotics as they travel through your stomach so that they arrive safely in your intestines, and some come with prebiotics, which are things like fiber that feed the bacteria once they get there.

Read labels carefully as some prebiotics or capsule ingredients may cause allergic reactions or increased gastrointestinal issues.

If you’re experiencing a lot of discomfort associated with adjusting to a probiotic, you can ease into it by taking a half dose or, if it’s in a daily capsule form, a capsule every other day.

You can also boost your probiotic intake through your diet. Old standbys like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi are great sources, as well as fermented drinks like kombucha.

Check to see that the label includes the words “live and active cultures” to ensure that you’re getting beneficial bacteria.

The Bottom Line

Probiotics are involved in several intricate functions in the body, and we still don’t know the extent of their benefit to our health. While many people can take probiotics with no issues or side effects, some may experience digestive and abdominal discomfort when they start taking them up until their body adjusts.

After this short adjustment period, the body acclimates to the newcomers and its boosted gut biome.

That being said, probiotics aren’t for everyone, and it’s always best to check with your doctor before taking any supplements.

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