The benefits of probiotics are far-reaching and cannot be ignored, and just about everyone stands to gain from their use.
These healthy live bacteria offer a plethora of natural solutions to a host of illnesses and disease from alleviating gastrointestinal distress to enhancing the immune response, and probiotic foods or supplements should definitely be incorporated into your everyday diet.
Still, like everything else health-related, it’s important to understand whether they may cause anything other than beneficial changes in your system.
Are Probiotics Safe?
After their recent popularity made them a fixture in health food stores and supermarkets everywhere, people have often been heard to ask, “Are probiotics safe?”
The answer to that is a resounding “Yes”.
Probiotics are considered completely safe for a normal person to ingest on a regular basis, especially given the fact that most probiotic bacteria in foods and supplements are already present in the human body. These beneficial bacteria and certain other microbes live in mutually beneficial symbiosis with us – they feed on some of the foods we eat and our bodies thrive on the by-products released by their life processes.
However, be careful with them in case you have an immune system disorder or other conditions that have compromised your health. When your body is exceptionally vulnerable, introducing new microbes through the consumption of probiotic supplements or unpasteurized food can go completely wrong.
Are There Any Side Effects of Probiotic Bacteria in Our Foods?
Of course, like any other major dietary change, the intake of probiotics may be accompanied by a few side effects initially, till your system gets used to its new inhabitants. It’s worth noting that if any side effects occur, they do phase out eventually (typically in about a fortnight) and are of a very mild nature.
The most common side effects of probiotics include abdominal bloating and slight pain, diarrhea and gas, but in rare cases, even cramps, acne and rashes could be on the cards. These minor probiotic side effects are really nothing to worry about, as the body is simply adjusting to the new bacterial colonies that are setting up base, and they will disappear in around two weeks.
To fix the discomfort if it goes on for too long or you feel you can’t deal with it, discontinuing daily probiotic use and then steadily reintroducing probiotic foods or supplements in smaller doses is the best way to get a handle on things. Picking the right probiotic is half the battle, the rest can only be determined once they are put to use.
While probiotics are safe for people with no immune disorders, it’s a good idea to start with smaller doses to see how well they work for you.
How to Avoid Probiotic Side Effects
Even the best probiotics can cause some side effects in people, especially those who’ve never taken them before. Whether you’re a beginner or have already been on a probiotic-rich diet for a while, introducing a new bacterial strain may also initially cause bloating, gas or abdominal pain.
Here are a few tips on minimizing and preventing the possible side effects of probiotics:
- Consult an Expert Physician or Naturopath
Even though probiotics are mostly safe for everyone, it is a good idea to consult a professional naturopath, dietician, nutritionist or physician for recommendations about the best probiotic to deal with a specific health concern, before you indulge. Consulting a doctor is essential before taking probiotics in case of serious medical conditions like HIV/AIDS, as well as during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, or when probiotics are being considered as supplements alongside other medication. You should also check about which probiotics can be used by the very young, elderly, or those with weak immunity.
- Research the Ingredients
Proper research is important when it comes to health. Probiotic supplements are not monitored the way food and medication are, which makes evaluation of a particular probiotic tricky and uncertain in terms of safety and whether it’s supplying the value it claims.Certain supplements have multi-strain cultures that can have an adverse effect in case of certain medical conditions. The ingested probiotics could invade the existing beneficial (but weaker) bacteria in your system, as a result of considering them pathogens. It’s a good idea to consult an expert and avoid ingredients that could be harmful on consumption.
- Follow the Instructions
Instructions are always provided on the label of probiotics supplements and foods, and are meant to be followed. Remember that probiotics can be considered an alternative form of medication, and should be taken as prescribed for optimal benefit.The various forms that probiotic supplements are available in may be unfamiliar to you, but they all come with instructions in terms of their use, storage and expiration. For instance, some probiotics can be taken with food while others can be ingested with water, and some may need to be refrigerated, while others do not.
- Don’t Overdo It!
In order to avoid the side effects of probiotics it is important to not over-indulge in foods and supplements. Every person is unique and so are their biological systems. A prescribed dose on the label could even turn out to be too much for your system, but this comes with an easy fix.Start with reducing the dosage, at least till the body gets accustomed to the probiotic bacteria, before taking on the prescribed dosage. Staying well-hydrated is vital, since the side effects are merely the ways in which the body detoxifies and water is a crucial agent for a smooth process.
- Consider the Alternatives
Probiotic supplements are not necessarily everyone’s forte. Natural probiotics are considered an equally good source of beneficial bacteria, but may require a lot more time to reveal the benefits as they pack less of a punch to your system. Probiotic foods and drinks are delicious, they can be bought at stores or fermented at home and range from dairy to vegetables, fruits grains and even fish. You could try starting with a probiotic-rich diet before moving on to supplements for better health.
The side effects of probiotics are not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, these temporary reactions are a sign that the probiotic bacteria are beginning to improve the overall gut environment. Experiencing probiotics side effects means that the good bacteria are doing their job, or maybe even overdoing it a little!