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Top 10 Probiotic Side Effects Everyone Should Be Aware of

  • Probiotic therapy controversy: medical vs. alternative
  • Class action lawsuit against Dannon, a probiotc product
  • Childrens probiotics.
  • Additional NCCAM sponsored research


The controversy involving probiotics is the same as with any other natural or alternative therapy: the medical community will not acknowledge or put any priority on any research if there isn’t a monetary gain achieved by someone. Whenever the balance is upset, we experience a plethora of problems: everything from lactose intolerance to infections. Probiotic therapy is the use of the ‘good’ bacteria from natural and supplement sources to balance the body’s internal system. Our bodies have both good and bad bacteria. Scientific understanding of probiotics and their potential for preventing and treating health conditions is at an early stage, but moving ahead. In November 2005, a conference that was co funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and convened by the American Society for Microbiology explored this topic. Manufacturing companies have more recently used probiotics as a new marketing tool to sell their products. When embracing any alternative therapy, we need to ask ourselves if there are any potential risks and are there any .

Probiotic Side Effects

This topic is even more important given a recent class action lawsuit against Danone’s (or Dannon’s) Activia yogurt sparked discussion about health benefits of probiotics. Most yogurt probiotic products contain active cultures anyway, so some people wonder if it’s really worth paying a premium for extra probiotic strains.

Here are the top 10 probiotic side effects:

1. Gas or bloating

Probiotics have been proclaimed to be a therapy to assist in eliminating gas or bloating. In some people, probiotics can have the opposite effect and actually cause gas or bloating.

2. May cause other infections

Probiotics might theoretically cause infections that need to be treated with antibiotics, especially in people with underlying health conditions.

3. Diarrhea and abdominal pain

In some people, probiotics can cause diarrhea and abdominal pain.

4. Unhealthy metabolic activities

They could also cause unhealthy metabolic activities, too much stimulation of the immune system, or gene transfer (insertion of genetic material into a cell).

5. Fungal infections

There have been a few reports of probiotics causing severe fungal infections. People who had this happen found that their immune system was impaired. Thus, it’s important for a person to consult his or her doctor before consuming a probiotic-heavy diet. You don’t want to cause more harm than good.

6. Intestinal Infection

In case of people having an underlying disease or a compromised, probiotics can cause potential health problems. In fact, these individuals are at a higher risk of developing infection after the use of probiotics. Symptoms such as bloody stools, skin rash and fever are indications of intestinal infection. In addition, probiotics may disturb the normal metabolic processes and autoimmune responses of the body. According to medical studies conducted, there is a possibility that probiotics may interact with immunosuppressive drugs, leading to life-threatening conditions. Hence, those who are on immunosuppressive medications should strictly avoid probiotics.

7. Headaches

Some people have reported headaches after they have begun a probiotic regiment. If the practitioner lowers the dosage and this symptom usually goes away.

8. CAM instead of medical treatment

Some people are using probiotics instead of standard medical treatment. If you are thinking about using a as CAM (complementary and alternative medicine), consult your health care provider first. No CAM therapy should be used in place of conventional medical care or to delay seeking that care.

9. Governed as food, not drugs

Probiotic products taken by mouth as a dietary supplement are manufactured and regulated as foods, not drugs (for more on this point, see NCCAM’s What’s in the Bottle? An Introduction to Dietary Supplements).

10. Supplements don’t seem to cut it

Studies done on supplements containing probiotics have shown that many do not live up to their claims. There is a difficulty in the studies, as there are many types of probiotics and testing was not done on a one-to-one comparison. Effects from one species or strain of probiotics do not necessarily hold true for others, or even for different preparations of the same species or strain. If you are using a pill supplement – you may be wasting your money. Anything below 1 billion bacteria per gram isn’t really enough to be therapeutic.

More recently, parents are adding a probiotic therapy as part of their kids diet. As with anything, you should consult with your major medical provider before adding childrens probiotics to their diet.

NCCAM-sponsored research on probiotics
Investigators at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine are developing a clinical trial on the effectiveness of selected probiotic agents to treat diarrhea in undernourished children in a developing country.
At the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, researchers have been examining probiotics for possibly decreasing the levels of certain substances in the urine that can cause problems such as kidney stones…
A team at Tufts-New England Medical Center is studying probiotics for treating an antibiotic-resistant type of bacteria that causes severe infections in people who are hospitalized, live in nursing homes, or have weakened immune systems.

The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.

One Response to “Top 10 Probiotic Side Effects Everyone Should Be Aware of”

  1. 1
    Helena Says:
    Probiotics seem pretty controversial, but even with the side effects, their benefits are unquestionable. Perhaps it’s about the individual and the dosage. Who should take probiotics and who shouldn’t? And in what quantities? These answers may help us get the best out of probiotics.