Home Digestive Health Can You Take Too Many Probiotics?

Can You Take Too Many Probiotics?

Written by Charmaine Canlas, RPh

Several foods and supplements containing probiotics are getting more popular in the health and wellness industry.

Probiotics also called “good bacteria, ” can support your gut health.

They are a natural part of your body found in the gut. A healthy balance of bacteria is essential to your well-being.

Your body can benefit from taking probiotics to keep this balance.

Research on the gut microbiome and probiotics are considered an emerging science.

Several studies have investigated the ability of probiotics to treat varying ailments. However, too much of anything can still be wrong.

  • Therefore, can you take too many probiotics?
  • And what is the optimal amount?

This review will examine its effects and safety and determine if you’re taking too many probiotics.

Can You Take Too Many Probiotics? Health Effects & Guide

What are Probiotics?

In 1965, the term “probiotics” was first used by Lilly and Stillwell.

They described them as substances secreted by one organism which stimulate the growth of another.

The term is derived from the Greek meaning “for life.” 

However, its definition has evolved.

Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms that can have health benefits if taken at sufficient concentrations.

This definition was derived in 2001 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Probiotics are a natural part of your gut microbiome, consisting of an ecosystem of microbes in your digestive tract.

They help break down food, absorb nutrients, and reduce bad bacteria.

Probiotic products sold globally are growing.

Fermented milk and cheese such as yogurt and cream cheese are popular probiotic foods easily added to the diet.

Many probiotics are usually accompanied by prebiotics to support digestive health effectively. 

Prebiotics are plant fibers that beneficial bacteria consume as food.

The continuous research evidence on their benefits encourages people to include them in their diet.

There are various bacterial species found in the microbiome.

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Saccharomyces boulardii
  • Escherichia
  • Enterococcus
  • Bacillus

Lactobacillus acidophilus is found in fermented foods, and bifidobacterium is added to dairy products and probiotic supplements.

The yeast saccharomyces boulardii supports the digestive system by strengthening the intestinal barrier.

Gut Health

Antibiotics, immunosuppressive therapy, and various conditions can disrupt the balance of your gut flora.

Therefore, supplementing your digestive tract with beneficial bacterial species can re-establish its balance and prevent disease.

Hundreds of different bacterial species are found in the gut microbiota.

Therefore, microbes with potential benefits through their modulation are commonly selected as probiotics.

100 trillion bacteria live in your digestive system, known as the gut microbiome. However, the study behind this concept is not yet an established science.

Understanding how probiotics work and affect the gut to improve overall health and well-being is still in its early stages.

The gut microbiome has piqued the interest of scientists who want to utilize the benefits of good bacteria.

It impacts physiological conditions, metabolism, nutrition, and immune function.

Some of the significant contributions of probiotics include:

  • Improve gastrointestinal microflora
  • Enhance immune system
  • Reduce cholesterol
  • Relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
  • Prevent cancer

A probiotic supplement can help with diarrhea caused by infection and antibiotic use.

It helps ease symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.

Moreover, an imbalance of bad and good bacteria can cause gastrointestinal issues.

This is because the gut microbiome’s diverse and complex microbial community coevolves with its host.

Hence, the healthy bacteria in your gut can be individually unique.

Researchers are investigating probiotics’ potential side effects and safety, as they may disrupt the balance of healthy bacteria.

Probiotic supplements and Probiotic-rich foods

Products containing probiotics can improve your digestive health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Beneficial bacteria are used to ferment milk.

This method produces yogurt, which is ideally suited for survival in the human gut. In addition, the benefits and use of probiotics have been studied well.

A probiotic supplement can lead to enhanced gut microbiota in healthy adults. 

In addition, studies support its role in supporting the immune system, digestive system, and female reproductive system.

A probiotic is marketed as a functional food product offering health benefits beyond nutrition.

Malaysia is widely involved in manufacturing probiotic supplements such as cultured drinks.

The benefits of probiotics in supplement form and foods are as follows:

  • Lower risk of yeast infection and urinary tract infection
  • Improve digestion
  • Support immune system
  • Lower pathogenic or bad bacteria
  • Treat diarrhea

The range of products is still growing.

The most common probiotic-rich foods are cultured or fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, and kefir.

A probiotic supplement should be manufactured with strict guidelines.

Beneficial bacteria incorporated in a probiotic supplement should be evaluated for their compatibility and preservation of their effectivity through processing, packaging, and storage conditions.

The careful selection of probiotic agent, dose, and mechanism of action should be identified in future studies.

How do I know if I’m taking too many probiotics?

Although many of the strains in probiotics already exist in the microbiome.

When you first take probiotics, your body must adapt to the microbes you introduce to your gut.

If you take too many and don’t allow your body to adjust to the change in your microbiome, it may cause excess gas, upset stomach, diarrhea, and bloating.

However, a few days of mild digestive issues is normal as your gut flora rebalances.

Therefore, taking a lower dosage and gradually increasing it until you adapt to its effects is better.

Despite the low risk of serious harm, a higher dosage does not mean better results.

You may feel discomfort and fail to improve your health and well-being.

Taking more than the recommended colony forming units (CFUs) in a probiotic supplement for prolonged periods may cause discomfort but nothing debilitating.

Some reviews describe the potential impact of ingested probiotics on the balance of the gut flora.

The existing literature on probiotics needs to explore the possible adverse effects of an overdose on probiotics.

Healthcare providers must set a standard and educate patients on the possible adverse effects, proper dosage, and quality of probiotic supplements and foods.

Side Effects

Individuals with a weakened immune system, pregnant women undergoing chemotherapy, or any existing chronic disease should consult a healthcare provider or doctor before taking probiotics.

They are at higher risk for adverse reactions or complications to their health.

Moreover, a 2018 study on small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) found that prolonged and excessive use of probiotics can worsen this condition.

SIBO is the excessive bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. Its effects can range from mild digestive problems to chronic diarrhea, weight loss, and malabsorption.

Patients were treated with antibiotics and discontinued probiotics, leading to significant improvements.

However, researchers advised that people with gastrointestinal dysmotility using proton pump inhibitors or opioids are at risk of SIBO.

For people with compromised conditions, it can increase the risk of infection instead of benefitting from the effect of probiotics to prevent infections.

Although several studies consider probiotics safe, caution should be practiced on the quality of the products you take and monitor any symptoms you experience during intake.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality concluded that further studies are needed to support the safety of probiotics as a supplement.

What is a healthy amount of probiotics can I take?

The dosage of probiotics is measured by colony-forming units (CFUs).

The right dosage can vary depending on the product. In addition, individuals may have different tolerance to specific amounts.

Since probiotics are live microbes, they can die in inadequate conditions. The exact CFUs in supplements can be challenging to determine.

Therefore, an optimal dose has not been established by scientists.

Probiotic supplements may contain about 1-10 billion CFUs. However, your age, diet, and tolerance can influence the right dosage you need.

Depending on these factors, a registered dietitian can determine an optimal dosage personalized for you.

If you are taking a higher dosage of probiotics or cannot tolerate what is recommended, lowering the amount can help the body regain balance in the microbiome.

Other factors can help reduce the risk of unwanted effects.

For example, taking probiotics on an empty stomach can prevent your body to produce gas.

The quality and manufacturing of probiotic foods or supplements can affect their efficacy and safety.

Also Read: Align Probiotic Supplements Reviews: Ingredients, Side Effects

Conclusion

Several products with probiotics have emerged in the health industry.

However, this rise has alarmed researchers about whether it is safe to take probiotics without proper standards and guidelines.

You may wonder if you are taking enough or too much since a probiotic dose can be vague.

The study on probiotic supplements and their functional role in food has progressed dramatically.

However, the evidence of their efficacy and safety in treating various ailments needs further research.

Current knowledge on probiotics, especially on their strains, right dosage, and adverse effects, are inconclusive.

Nevertheless, for healthy adults, probiotics may only cause mild discomfort that may subside eventually. It is rare to experience serious complications.

You may initially experience bloating, notice abdominal pain, and produce excess gas.

If these effects become persistent and intolerable, discontinue probiotics and seek advice from a healthcare provider.

It is best to be cautious with probiotics if you have preexisting conditions.

Consult a registered dietitian or doctor on your intake of probiotics in your diet or as a supplement.

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