Probiotic Supplements: Avoiding and Managing Possible Side-Effects

Probiotic Supplements: Avoiding and Managing Possible Side-Effects

Apr 30, 2024 · Sarah Rights

Probiotic Supplements: Avoiding and Managing Possible Side-Effects

Many people take probiotics to improve their gut health. Probiotics are good germs that help our stomachs. But sometimes, they can cause side effects like upset stomach or headaches.

Learn how to deal with these issues and who should avoid probiotics

a spread of probiotic foods

Key Takeaways

  • Probiotics are tiny helpers for our gut, fighting bad bacteria and improving digestion. But for some people, they might cause stomach upset or headaches.
  • If probiotics bother you, start with a small dose and drink lots of water. Also, pick strains that are known to be gentle on the stomach.
  • People with weak immune systems or serious health conditions should talk to their doctor before taking probiotics. They could get sick from them.
  • Always check what's in your probiotic supplement to avoid allergic reactions. Some have soy or dairy in them.
  • To use probiotics safely, choose quality products and take the right amount for your body. Talk to a healthcare pro if you're not sure what to do.

Understanding Probiotic Bacteria for Digestive Health


Probiotics are tiny living things that help your gut health. They work by balancing the good and bad bacteria in your tummy.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are tiny living organisms like bacteria and yeasts that help keep your body healthy. These useful microbes are often found in foods or taken as diet supplements. They aim to boost the "good" bacteria in your body, which is key for a strong immune system and a happy gut microbiome.

You can find them in yogurt, kefir, and other fermented foods.

These friendly microbes work hard to improve digestion and fight off harmful bacteria. By doing so, they play a big role in maintaining the balance of gut flora. This balance is crucial for digesting food properly, protecting against illnesses, and even helping with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

What do probiotics do?


Probiotics fight off bad bacteria and boost our body's defense against infections. They work in the gut to keep it healthy. These good bacteria balance the gut microbiota, which is key for digestion and absorbing nutrients from food.

By doing this, they help prevent stomach pain and constipation.

These helpful microbes also play a role in making the immune system stronger. Because of probiotics, our bodies can better handle allergens that cause reactions like hay fever. Plus, they are involved in fighting inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, by keeping inflammation under control.

This action helps maintain overall health beyond just the digestive system.

Health Benefits of Probiotics 

a woman lying in a hammock and smiling

Probiotics fight off harmful bacteria and boost your body's defense against infections. These good bacteria, found in certain foods and dietary supplements, keep your gut healthy. They play a big role in lowering the risk of catching infections.

Eating probiotics can also make digestion better by helping break down food more efficiently.

Having probiotics regularly can improve your overall wellness by keeping the balance of gut flora. This balance is key for absorbing nutrients from food and maintaining a strong immune response.

It means fewer stomach problems and better health day to day.

Potential Risks and Possible Side Effects of Probiotics


While probiotics offer health perks, they can also lead to unwanted effects like stomach upset and headaches. In some cases, people might face serious issues such as infections or resistance to certain medicines.

Digestive discomfort

Taking probiotics can sometimes upset your stomach. This happens because the good bacteria in probiotics can make your body react with temporary diarrhea or other unpleasant feelings in your belly.

These signs show up when a lot of these bacteria suddenly enter your gut.

In some cases, the byproducts from these bacteria are what cause the trouble, leading to short-term diarrhea. It's not common for probiotics to cause constipation. Rather, they often help people who have slow-moving bowels feel better and have more regular toilet visits.


Some people feel headaches after taking probiotic-rich foods like kefir or yogurt. These foods have good bacteria that can affect the brain, leading to discomfort such as dizziness or a foggy feeling.

Not everyone will have this issue, but it's something some folks face with fermented dairy items.

In addition to food, taking probiotic supplements might cause similar problems. Brain fog, dizziness, and headaches are possible side effects for certain individuals. The reason lies in how these supplements interact with our body's systems.

If you start feeling these symptoms, it could be due to the new probiotics you're trying out.


Probiotic supplements can carry allergens, lactose, or prebiotic fibers. These ingredients might cause bad reactions in some people. They could experience allergic reactions like sneezing, itching, or trouble breathing.

If you have allergies such as rhinitis, asthma, or eczema, probiotics might help. Studies show they can make these conditions better.

Before taking probiotics, check the label for ingredients that could cause problems. This is especially important if you know you're allergic to things like soy or dairy. Talk to your doctor first if you're unsure about how probiotics will affect your allergies.

They can give advice based on science and what's safe for you.

Antibiotic resistance

Taking probiotics can sometimes lead to antibiotic resistance. This happens when the bacteria in these supplements become resistant to drugs that aim to stop their growth. Research shows that this resistance is a concern, especially with drugs that block protein building in harmful bacteria.

The studies on different sources of probiotics, like food and animals, show they often carry genes that resist antibiotics.

Using probiotics needs careful thought because of this risk. If the bacteria in the gut pick up these resistant genes, treating infections becomes harder. This makes it important for doctors and patients alike to be aware of this possible side effect before starting any new supplement regimen involving probiotics.

Infection and sepsis

Sepsis is a serious condition that happens when the body reacts extremely to an infection. It can come from viruses or bacteria and poses a life-threatening risk. People with weak immune systems face more danger when using probiotics because of this.

They might get infections like sepsis or endocarditis, which affects the heart's inner lining.

Studies show that taking probiotics can sometimes lead to infectious problems like fungemia and sepsis, especially in those already at risk. These issues are rare but worth paying attention to for anyone considering probiotics.

It's key for people with weakened defenses or those prone to infections to be extra careful and consult healthcare providers before starting any new supplement routine.

How to Manage Possible Side-Effects

visual illustration of probiotics in the gut

Managing side effects from probiotics is key to feeling better while taking them. Each person's body reacts differently, so it's vital to know how to deal with any issues that come up.

  1. Start slowly: Begin with a small amount of probiotics and gradually increase the dose. This can help your body get used to them without causing major stomach upset or gas.
  2. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day. This helps reduce bloating and ease constipation by keeping your digestive system moving.
  3. Eat a balanced diet: Include foods high in fiber along with your probiotics. Fiber supports a healthy gut and can lessen gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea or constipation.
  4. Take breaks if needed: If you notice persistent discomfort or other problems, pause your probiotic intake until you feel better, then restart at a lower dose.
  5. Talk to a health expert: Consult a doctor or dietitian before starting any new supplement, especially if you have a weakened immune system or are on medications that might interact with the probiotics.
  6. Choose the right type: Pick probiotic strains known for their benefits and fewer side effects, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifidobacterium bifidum, which can ease stomach discomfort effectively.
  7. Monitor your body’s response: Keep track of any new symptoms or changes in your well-being once you start taking probiotics, so you can adjust as needed.

By following these steps, you can manage side effects and make the most out of using probiotics for better health.

Who Should Avoid Probiotics?

a table with kefir, greek yogurt, cheeses, and other probiotic foods

Probiotics are not safe for everyone. Some people should stay away from them. Here's who should avoid probiotics:

  1. People with weakened immune systems: If your body has trouble fighting infections, probiotics can make you sick. This includes people with diseases that weaken the immune system.
  2. Patients in the hospital: Those staying in hospitals, especially if they have IV lines or tubes, might get infections from probiotics.
  3. People with serious illnesses: If you have a condition that makes you very sick, like a severe heart problem, probiotics could pose risks.
  4. Infants born prematurely: Very young babies who were born too early may not be ready to handle probiotics safely.
  5. Those with artificial heart valves: Probiotics can increase the risk of infection around these devices.
  6. Individuals on certain medications: Drugs that suppress the immune system or antibiotics can interact badly with probiotics.
  7. People allergic to soy or dairy: Since some probiotic products are grown in these substances, they could cause an allergic reaction.

Remembering this list can help ensure you use probiotics safely and avoid problems if you're at risk.

Safety of Probiotic Use

close-up of 3 probiotic pills

Using probiotics safely helps maintain gut health and avoid side effects. It's wise to follow guidelines for the best results.

  1. Start with a low dose. Too much too soon can lead to stomach discomfort, bloating, gas, or diarrhea.
  2. Gradually increase the amount. This lets your body adjust without shocking your system.
  3. Pick high-quality supplements. Research brands that have positive reviews and clinical backing.
  4. Look for specific strains that benefit your health needs. L. acidophilus is good for digestion, while Lactobacillus reuteri can help prevent yeast infections.
  5. Read labels for any added ingredients that might cause reactions, like biogenic amines which can trigger headaches in some people.
  6. Keep track of how you feel after taking them. Monitoring reactions helps adjust the dose if needed.
  7. Talk to a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement to ensure it's right for you, especially if you have ongoing health issues.
  8. Know when not to take them. People with weakened immune systems or those already on antibiotics should be cautious.
  9. Follow storage instructions on the label to keep the bacteria alive and effective until their expiration date.

These steps support the safe use of probiotics while helping you get their full benefits without unwanted effects.


a glass of water with 2 pills next to it

Managing side effects from probiotic supplements is key for those aiming to boost their gut health safely. Always talk to a doctor before starting any new supplement, especially if you have health issues.

They can guide you on the right types and amounts of probiotics that could benefit you without causing harm. Safely using these supplements means being aware of possible risks like digestive discomfort or allergies, and knowing who should avoid them altogether.

Taking control of your gut health involves understanding both the benefits and potential drawbacks of probiotics.

Probiotic Supplement Side Effects FAQs

Q: What are probiotic supplements?

A: Probiotic supplements are types of bacteria that help your gut stay healthy. They can include strains like Lactobacillus GG, B. infantis, and Streptococcus thermophilus.

Q: Can taking probiotics cause side effects?

A: Yes, some people might experience bloating and gas, or even urinary tract infections after taking probiotics.

Q: Are there serious risks with probiotics?

A: In very rare cases, people with weakened immune systems or those genetically predisposed to certain conditions may face adverse effects like infections from using probiotics.

Q: How do I know if a probiotic is safe to use?

A: Look for products that have undergone clinical trials and are approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Checking trusted sources like PubMed can also provide you with information on their safety.

Q: Can prebiotics help manage side effects from probiotics?

A: Yes! Prebiotics feed the good gut bacteria and can help balance your intestinal microbiota, reducing the chance of dysbiosis which causes bloating and gas.

Q: How can I manage bloating caused by probiotics?

A: To manage bloating caused by probiotics, try reducing your dosage or taking the supplement with food.

Q: Can probiotics cause diarrhea?

A: Yes, probiotics may sometimes lead to diarrhea, especially when first starting to take them.

Q: Are there any risks associated with taking probiotic supplements?

A: While probiotics are generally safe for most people, there may be some risks for individuals with weakened immune systems or certain health conditions. It's important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting probiotic supplementation.

Q: Do probiotics work for everyone?

A: Probiotics may work differently for each individual. Some people may experience beneficial effects, while others may not notice any significant changes.

Q: Can probiotic foods also cause side effects?

A: Yes, some probiotic foods may cause similar side effects as probiotic supplements, such as bloating or gas. It's important to pay attention to how your body reacts to these foods.

Q: What should I do if I experience side effects from probiotic supplements?

A: If you experience side effects from probiotic supplements, consider adjusting the dosage, trying a different probiotic strain, or consulting with a healthcare provider for guidance.

Q: Should everyone take probiotic supplements?

A: Not everyone needs them; it depends on your health condition. People with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis might benefit more but should consult a doctor first.

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Sarah Rights

Sarah Rights is a dynamic and inspirational certified personal trainer, known for her unique blend of gymnastics and strength training. Her journey into fitness began in her childhood, with a deep passion for gymnastics that later evolved into a career in personal training. Sarah's gymnastic background gives her an exceptional understanding of body mechanics, flexibility, and balance.

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