Supplements presently play a major role in dietary preferences and habits. Globally, individuals are known to take supplements to improve health, to bridge a gap in intake of nutrients or to treat a condition naturally. Probiotics are presently extremely popular among users and are available in stores across the world. While supplements are meant to address a specific gap, there is also the possibly of adverse or undesirable side effects from supplements. Here is a detailed look at the side effects of probiotics and the best methods to handle and mitigate the condition.
Overview and side effects of probiotics
A combination of yeasts and live bacteria that are classified as beneficial, probiotics are basically a replication of bacteria/yeasts that naturally occur and reside in the human body. Good bacteria are essential for gut health and overall health and when the levels of good bacteria dip, there is the possibility of individuals falling sick or ending up with undesirable symptoms. Before we look at the side effects of probiotics, here is a quick look at how probiotics work. The purpose of intake of probiotic supplements is to maintain the right balance of healthy bacteria in the body. This keeps the effects of bad bacteria at bay and maintains balance that is essential for good health.
Benefits of maintaining balance of good and bad bacteria
There are benefits associated with maintaining the right balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria. For instance, the right balance helps support the immunity levels of the body and fights inflammation. Other benefits that are commonly associated with good gut health or bacteria balance include enhanced digestive functions, prevention of increase in bad bacteria levels, and creation of essential vitamins. Additionally, the right bacteria balance also helps in supporting the cells on the lining of the guts, that prevent the bad bacteria from making their way into the blood. This typically happens when individual consume food or drinks that contain bad bacteria. Finally, the right balance of good bacteria also helps in the improved breakdown and absorption of medications.
Commonly available probiotics
Before we look at the side effects of probiotics, here is a glimpse at the types of probiotics. While there are various types of bacteria that are part of the vast microbiome, specific types of bacteria are considered as most beneficial. These constitute the most popular types of probiotics. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are regarded as the two commonly available beneficial bacteria. Additionally, probiotics also contain yeast, and the most commonly found yeast type includes Saccharomyces boulardii. The right kind of probiotic supplements can help in improving health or addressing certain health issues. For instance, individuals suffering from diarrhea that is attributed to use or abuse of antibiotics will find relief through probiotics. Similarly, individuals with diarrhea that is the result of infection from Clostridioides difficile will obtain relief from the condition through probiotics.
Other conditions that can be managed or treated with probiotics include – constipation, urinary tract infections, yeast infections, sepsis, and gum disease. Additionally, individuals with irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease may also find relief from probiotics. Finally, patients with lactose intolerance, individuals suffering from eczema and patients diagnosed with upper respiratory infections are also likely to experience relief from probiotics.
Side effects of probiotics
As mentioned above, there are clear and proven benefits of taking probiotics to treat various conditions. However, there are also certain side effects of probiotics and it is necessary to identify the symptoms to manage the outcomes more effectively. It is also important to identify the reasons for the adverse effects and take suitable precautions to prevent the conditions. The most commonly reported side effects of probiotics include digestive complications. For instance, individuals are more likely to experience bloating and flatulence when taking probiotics for the first time. Additionally, there is also the possibility of individuals ending up with bouts of diarrhea as a result of taking probiotics. This is attributed to the changes that occur in the digestive tract, when the good bacteria levels increase, thereby resulting in higher gas levels, and bloating.
These side effects of probiotics are known to resolve naturally and may not require any additional medication or attention. In the event that the condition persists, it may be necessary to seek medical opinion or assistance. Other commonly reported side effects include a possible out break of rashes or itching. This is attributed to the possible presence of allergens in the probiotics. For instance, individuals may be sensitised to certain allergens and the presence of the allergens could trigger possible allergies. In the event of any allergies that are not attributed to other reasons, individuals are advised to discontinue the probiotics. After determining the actual cause, the strain of probiotic can then be changed accordingly. Individuals are exposed to higher risk of side effects of probiotics when there is a history of allergies. For instance, individuals who are allergic to gluten, or egg products, or soy may end up with allergic reactions. Similarly, individuals with intolerance or allergies to dairy or lactose will also experience allergic reactions. It is therefore necessary for individuals of this category to seek medical attention or adopt caution when taking probiotics.
Possibility of infections as a result of side effects of probiotics
While probiotics are considered as beneficial, there is also possibility of increased infections in a small section of users. For instance, individuals of varying age groups, belonging to the category of individuals with compromised immunity are advised to refrain from taking probiotics. This is because of known side effects of probiotics in individuals lesser immunity levels and certain illnesses. In most cases, the outcomes included, bacterial or fungal infections. Additionally, individuals on prescription or OTC antifungal formulations are also advised to take probiotics only after the infections have resolved and the medications are discontinued. These are simple precautions that will help prevent the onset of possible side effects of probiotics.
Side effects of probiotics – possible excessive growth of bacteria
Other possible adverse side effects of probiotics include a condition medically known as SIBO. Acronym for small intestine bacterial overgrowth, this refers to the condition wherein, bacteria typically found in the large intestines, end up growing the small intestines. As mentioned earlier, bacteria are in various parts of the body, but there are specific bacteria strains that are distinct and localised to specific areas of the body. Anerobic bacteria typically grow in the large intestines and as a result of consuming probiotics, there is the possibility of the bacteria growing in the small intestines. Symptoms that are indicative of this condition include gas, flatulence, and bloating. There is also the possibility of individuals experiencing ending up with bouts of diarrhea apart from experiencing short term memory loss. It is important to note that this condition is typically restricted only to a small section of users and will not be experienced by most users of probiotics.
Side effects of probiotics – possible resistance to antibiotics
In addition to the above side effects of probiotics there is also the possibility of individuals ending up with possible antibiotic resistance as a result of prolonged probiotic use. This is sometimes attributed to the presence of antibiotic resistant genes in the probiotics. This is not a commonly occurring outcome and is generally limited to only those probiotics that are manufactured and marketed by companies that do not follow the right practices. Reputed manufacturers follow stringent practices and ensure that the strains of probiotics are free from harmful genes that could trigger antibiotic resistance.
Different forms of probiotics and best practices to avoid side effects of probiotics
Now that we have taken a good, detailed look at side effects of probiotics it is necessary to understand more about the different types of probiotics and measures to prevent side effects. Probiotics are generally available as food products, as drinks, in pill or capsule form, in powder form and as liquids. It is necessary to follow best practices to prevent adverse effects of the supplements. For instance, the supplements are extremely sensitive in nature and therefore it is essential to ensure that it is not exposed to heat or oxygen. Additionally, probiotics need to be protected from light and humidity. This is important as the probiotics may either break down or degrade fully when exposed to the harsh conditions.
In other words, the best practice is to refrigerate probiotics at the right temperature to ensure that it is not exposed to elements. In the event that the temperature int eh room is suitable, it may not be necessary to refrigerate the product. However, refrigeration is a good idea, as this will maintain the supplement at the desired temperature consistently. It is of utmost importance to take the probiotics within the expiry date. Most individuals tend to take medications of supplements even after the date of expiry. This is not the best of practices and in the case of probiotics, the desired outcomes may be affected.
The connection between antibiotics and probiotics
There is a clear connection between antibiotics and probiotics. While antibiotics are important medications that are essential to fight infections, the mechanism of action of antibiotics sometimes results in the body’s store of good bacteria being depleted. As a result of this, individuals are likely to end up with certain conditions that include diarrhea. The consumption of probiotics will help combat this condition and restore the balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria. It is therefore a good choice to take probiotics alongwith antibiotics as per recommendations and on the specific advice of the treating specialists. In such instances, the consumption of probiotics will not certainly result in certain adverse conditions. For instance, this will not result in excessive levels of good bacteria, but will help restore the balance, thereby preventing certain conditions associated with the imbalance of good/bad bacteria levels.
Individuals who need to exercise caution to prevent side effects of probiotics
There are certain categories of individuals who need to exercise caution to prevent side effects of probiotics. For instance, individuals with a weak immune system are advised to stay off probiotics. This includes patients undergoing chemotherapy. Similarly, individuals with certain health conditions or severe illnesses are also advised to stay off the medication. Finally, patients who have undergone surgical procedures in the recent past are also advised from taking probiotics. Infants who are unwell are also not to be given the probiotics as this could have an adverse effect.
There are possible risks associated with probiotics and this can also be classified as side effects of probiotics. The commonly identified and documented risks associated with probiotic use includes the risk of acquiring an infection, and the risk of developing resistance to antibiotics. It is possible to avoid these risks by methods clearly explained in earlier sections.