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Can You Take Too Many Probiotics? See The 5 Great Challenges!

Can You Take Too Many Probiotics? See The 5 Great Challenges!

too many probiotics

You would surely hear a proverb; ‘excess of everything is bad.’ So, from a health perspective, a question may arise in your mind – can you take too many probiotics? If you’re confused about it, let me explain it 😇.  

According to scientific research, the human gut is the home of over 100 trillion microbes. All of them primarily influence metabolic reactions, nutrition, physiology, and even the immune system. Interestingly, this whole microbiota remains well-maintained by consuming probiotics. That means there is a plethora of potential benefits of probiotics. 

But a point to concern is; ‘can you take too many probiotics in your routine life?’ The simple answer is ‘NO’ to overdosing on probiotics. Because there are several health concerns also associated with them. However, to know the inside story, you’ve to stick to this guide to the end.

So, let’s open it with a quick refresher on probiotics.

First Know About Probiotics!

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are intended to have health benefits when consumed. Many of the microbes found in probiotic products are similar to or the same as those that are naturally found in the human digestive system.

Probiotics include bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, that benefit the body in various ways. Some probiotic bacteria help digest food or produce vitamins, while others kill off disease-causing cells.

Other potential probiotic benefits include preventing the growth of harmful microorganisms in the gut and reinforcing the gut barrier. The latter helps strengthen the walls of the GI tract to prevent compounds like toxins from being absorbed into the bloodstream.

Differentiate Between ‘Prebiotics’ & ‘Probiotics’

Generally, both probiotics and prebiotics confer health benefits in various ways. But for easy-to-understand;

When we eat living organisms for nutritional purposes, they’re probiotics, whereas when we eat the products of living organisms for nutritional means, they’re prebiotics.

Understand? Now see the difference by diving somewhat deep into them!

Probiotics Prebiotics
  • They are foods or supplements that typically consist of live microbes in order to maintain the microflora in the human body.
  • They are typically foods, especially high-fiber foods, that act as food for human microflora.
  • They boost the human gut’s health.
  • They facilitate the growth of healthy bacteria colonies in the gut and thus nourish probiotics.
  • They ensure a smooth bowel movement.
  • They ensure smooth food movement in the digestive tract.
  • Examples: yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and various other fermented products.
  • Examples: whole grains, bananas, onions, greens, garlic, soybeans, and artichokes.

The Potential Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics have been associated with numerous health benefits. Research suggests that 

  1. They can help improve digestive health by restoring the natural balance of bacteria in the gut. 
  2. They may enhance the absorption of nutrients and support immune function.
  3. They may also alleviate certain gastrointestinal conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diarrhea.
  4. Probiotics have shown promise in managing or preventing certain conditions like; 
  5. Urinary tract infections 
  6. Vaginal infections 
  7. Eczema  
  8. And allergies. 

However, it is important to note that while there is growing evidence supporting these benefits, more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms and effects of different strains of probiotics.

Can You Take Too Many Probiotics? Yes/No 🤔

Although many health benefits are associated with probiotics, have you ever thought about – can you take too many probiotics? Maybe or maybe not. But there is a huge debate on how much its number is good or bad.

Generally, probiotics count in Colony Forming Units (CFUs). This number on the label of your daily probiotic represents the amount of live probiotic bacteria that can divide and form colonies in the microbiome. 

Many healthy adults can safely take over 30-50 billion CFUs when desired. Interestingly, a study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in 2015 showed that between 10 – 20 Billion CFU is all that is really needed. Taking more than you need won’t necessarily result in added benefits. And in some rare cases, it may actually prove to be counterproductive for individuals with weakened immune systems. 

So, the answer to the question as mentioned above is contradictory. It’s probably NO, but sometimes, consuming too many probiotics may be safer. 

Let’s verify the answer Yes and No!

Who Can Take Extra Probiotics?

There are basically several types of populations who need some extra probiotics than average individuals. They include;

People who take Antibiotics  

Though antibiotics help ward off certain bacterial infections, they kill off both good and bad bacteria in our guts. As a result, just one round of antibiotics can negatively alter your gut microbiome for up to a year. 

People with Mood Swings   

In the last decade, scientists have uncovered impressive evidence of what’s commonly referred to as the mind-gut connection. Basically, this evidence reveals that our brain chemistry and immune system, which is housed in our gut, are deeply connected. 

Many of our immune cells are made and ‘instructed what to do’ by our gut, which is why we tend to get sick when we’ve had an emotional upset. Because the gut produces most of our ‘happy hormoneserotonin, we can become down or anxious when our GI is not working well. 

People with Blood Sugar Concerns   

Studies have found that the gut microbiomes of people at risk for diabetes are different than those of people with normal blood sugar function. 

Although more research will explain the exact relationship between healthy gut bacteria and blood sugar regulation, people with blood sugar issues are often advised to eat a high-fiber diet, rich in beans, lentils, whole grains and non-starchy vegetables

One of the benefits of fiber is; it feeds probiotics, helping to nourish a balanced gut.

People with Easily Upset Stomachs  

The bowels are part of the gut microbiome and can become imbalanced somewhat easily. Unsurprisingly, supporting a balanced gut microbiome can help people with sensitive systems find relief. In fact, research has shown that certain strains of probiotics (namely bifidobacteria) may help.

People who experience Constipation 

More common than we’d care to admit, a myriad of factors, including dietary changes, dehydration, a sedentary lifestyle, pregnancy, and more, can cause constipation. 

While there is certainly no shortage of medications available to treat this ailment, they’re not your only option. Probiotics, specifically Bifidobacterium lactis and Bifidobacterium longum, may also help adults have healthy bowel movements.

Babies  

One of the most common conditions that young infants face is colic. The condition typically involves long periods of crying that occur at predictable times of the day. Many infants also fidget their legs, clench their fists, and pass gas. These days, some experts believe colic is related to an underdeveloped GI tract. 

Though we still don’t have a confirmed cause of colic, a 2018 study found that probiotics may help put infants at ease. (It’s no wonder more and more baby formulas contain them!)

Cancer Patients  

People who undergo cancer treatment may also have increased probiotic needs. Chemotherapy can damage the delicate microbiome, allowing pathogens to thrive in the patient’s gut. Consuming additional probiotics can help re-establish the microbiome balance these people need. 

Allergies Sufferers  

A healthy microbiome can help our body respond to allergens like pollen, dust, and mold. In fact, research suggests that probiotics may play an important role in how the body handles and overcomes allergy-related issues. 

Though further investigation will identify the specific strains of probiotics that support this effect, it’s a promising lead,

What are the 5 Bigger Challenges Related to Overdosing on Probiotics?

Although probiotics are generally considered safe for most people, consuming excessive amounts can lead to certain risks and side effects. Here are some potential issues associated with taking too many probiotics.

#1. Gastrointestinal Distress  

Excessive consumption of probiotics can cause digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea. These symptoms are usually temporary and subside once the probiotic intake is reduced or discontinued. 

However, it’s important to note that some individuals may be more sensitive to the effects of probiotics, and the severity of symptoms can vary.

#2. Imbalance of Gut Microbes  

While probiotics are intended to restore microbial balance in the gut, excessive consumption can disrupt the existing equilibrium. This can lead to an overgrowth of certain bacteria or strains, which may adversely affect digestive health.

#3. Risk of Infection  

In rare cases, particularly in individuals with weakened immune systems, excessive probiotic consumption can lead to serious infections. 

This risk is higher when consuming probiotics containing specific strains of bacteria, such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG or Saccharomyces boulardii

People with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing organ transplantation, should exercise caution and consult their healthcare provider before taking probiotic supplements.

#4. Allergic Reactions   

Although rare, some individuals may develop allergic reactions to certain probiotic strains. Symptoms can range from mild skin irritations to severe anaphylaxis. If you have a history of allergies or sensitivities, it’s crucial to read the ingredient labels of probiotic products and consult an allergist if needed.

#5. Trigger of Headaches

Some probiotic-rich foods, like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi, contain biogenic amines. Biogenic amines are substances that form when protein-containing foods age or are fermented by bacteria. 

The most common amines found in probiotic-rich foods include histamine, tyramine, tryptamine, and phenylethylamine. Amines can excite the central nervous system, increase or decrease blood flow and may trigger headaches in people sensitive to the substance.

One study found that low-histamine diets reduced headaches in 75% of participants. However, a review of 10 controlled studies found no significant effect of dietary amines on headaches. 

More research is needed to determine whether or not amines can be direct triggers of headaches or migraines in some people. Thus, keeping a food diary, including any headache symptoms you might experience, can help clarify whether fermented foods are problematic for you.

Explore the Best Microbial Strains of Probiotics

Different microbial strains offer unique benefits, and understanding their sources and characteristics is essential for making informed choices. These are;

Lactobacillus

Lactobacillus is a genus of bacteria found naturally in the human gastrointestinal tract and various fermented foods. It is one of the most well-known and extensively studied probiotic strains. 

Bifidobacterium 

This strain plays a vital role in maintaining intestinal health and has been linked to various health benefits. B. breve, B. longum, and B. infantis are some well-studied species within this genus. 

Saccharomyces boulardii

While most probiotics are bacteria, Saccharomyces boulardii is a unique strain of yeast that offers probiotic benefits. It is commonly used to prevent and treat gastrointestinal disorders, including antibiotic-associated diarrhea and Clostridium difficile infection.

Streptococcus thermophilus

This is a lactic acid bacterium frequently found in fermented dairy products like yogurt. It produces lactic acid, which aids in the digestion of lactose, making it beneficial for individuals with lactose intolerance.

Enterococcus faecium 

It is a species of bacteria that naturally reside in the gastrointestinal tract of humans and animals. Studies have suggested that it may have a protective effect against pathogens, enhance the production of short-chain fatty acids, and improve the integrity of the gut barrier.

What’s the Right Dose of Probiotics?

No doubt, probiotics offer several advantages to human health along with multiple risk factors for its overdosing. But it’s crucial to maintain its balance in the body and must avoid exceeding the recommended dosage. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, 1-10 billion colony-forming units (CFU) are in an average dose of probiotic supplements. 

But no concrete research is available that demonstrates the most effective dosage of probiotics for human health. However, some recommendations are given by health professionals and researchers. 

Follow A Good Rule of Thumb!

As a good rule of thumb, at least half of the CFUs will still be alive and active before the “best by” date on a probiotic label. Because the precise CFU amount is hard to calculate, it’s more important to find the correct strain of bacteria to provide you with the benefit you are looking for versus the product with the most CFUs.

Factors Affecting Optimal Dosage

Generally, the optimal dosage of probiotics depends on the following factors;

  • Particular microbial strain
  • Individual consumption needs
  • People’s health condition 

Well! It’s always suggested that you consult with a registered dietitian or a healthcare professional in order to determine the best suitable dosage as per your situation.

Takeaways

Taking too many probiotics won’t cause any dangerous side effects or death, but it can cause uncomfortable symptoms like gas, bloating, and upset stomach. However, people with severe illness or who are immunocompromised should consult with a doctor before taking probiotics.

Researchers haven’t pinpointed exactly what an effective dose of probiotics is, or which probiotics are most beneficial. It is also difficult to know what size dose you’re taking due to the unregulated supplement market and the perishability of probiotic foods.

Overall, you will surely get the answer about- can you take too many probiotics? Because taking a safe and healthy amount of probiotics seems okay. However, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about what’s right for you.

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