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Home arrow Health arrow Gut Health arrow Can You Take Too Many Probiotics? Side Effects Explained

Can You Take Too Many Probiotics? Side Effects Explained

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Written by Brenda Peralta, RD
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Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: July 21, 2023
4 min read 872 Views 0 Comments
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Probiotics are an excellent way to improve gut health. However, while a probiotic supplement can help, it might lead to unwanted digestive issues. Here, you’ll find some side effects of taking too many probiotics.

can you take too many probiotics

Probiotics are living microorganisms you can take to help bring balance to the gut. They can help improve the immune system and digestion, too. 

More and more people are finding the importance of taking probiotics. You can find it in fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut. 

But, adding high-probiotic foods might be challenging, which is why people are relying on probiotic supplements to help boost their probiotic intake.  However, a question lingers if there is a side effect of taking probiotics. Is there such a thing as taking too many of them?

In this article, we’ll go over the 4 main signs of taking too many probiotics. Keep reading to find out more. 

Can You Take Too Many Probiotics?

Consuming probiotics at large doses and for a long time won’t cause any actual damage. However, it might lead to unwanted digestive problems such as bloating and stomach pain. In fact, some people can even develop constipation, but this is a rare side effect.

You might even experience some side effects if you are taking a new probiotic supplement. For that reason, while your body gets used to it, taking it in smaller doses can help reduce the risk of side effects. 

Do Probiotics Cause Diarrhea?

The probiotics found in probiotic supplements, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, are good bacteria you can naturally find in the body. Hence, they are often considered safe. However, for some people, it might trigger a response within the digestive tract that might cause diarrhea. 

With that said, remember the risk of developing side effects is minor. 

In fact, research shows that consuming probiotics supplements can bring several health benefits, such as treating diarrhea. 

Signs of Taking Too Many Probiotics

When you take a probiotic supplement, it displaces the bad bacteria and improves digestive health. While consuming beneficial bacteria is recognized as safe, you might still show signs that the body is not handling them very well. 

Let’s go over the signs of consuming too many probiotics. 

#1 Bloating

Bloating is a common side effect you might experience from taking too many probiotics. You might even experience it when you first start taking a probiotic supplement. 

To help reduce bloating, taking some lemon water with ginger tea can help improve digestion. You can also drink some licorice or peppermint tea. 

However, this side effect should decrease once the body gets used to the supplement. In fact, for most people, a probiotic supplement should eliminate bloating

Changing the probiotic dosage or the strand blend is better if the symptoms continue after a couple of weeks. 

#2 Stomach pain

Stomach pains typically go hand in hand with symptoms like bloating and gas. 

And, let’s be honest, feeling bloated is the worst. You feel like a balloon is inside you. That extra pressure can lead to stomach cramps. 

But, like bloating, the stomach cramps should stop after a couple of days. 

#3 Gassiness

As the body adjusts to the new good bacteria, it might increase the risk of gassiness. If the symptoms don’t decrease after a couple of days, it might be an indicator of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). 

SIBO is when there is an overgrowth of bacteria in the body. It can cause the bacteria in the body to ferment more food than usual, creating gas as a by-product. 

To help determine if it is the probiotic supplement that is causing you to have extra gas, make sure not to add new food. That way, you can determine if it is the new supplement you are taking or something else. 

#4 Diarrhea

Finally, one of the other signs of taking too many probiotics is diarrhea, as it could develop if one of the strains in the probiotic supplement throws off your gut microbiome. 

After all, like fingerprints, everyone has a different gut microbiome – what might work for some people might not work for others. 

If you are experiencing diarrhea, avoid dairy products and high sugary foods since they can worsen the symptoms. 

How Many Probiotics Are Too Many?

Currently, no research states what the ideal amount of probiotics a supplement must have. Additionally, the FDA does not regulate dietary supplements, meaning there are no set guidelines. 

Probiotic supplements might range from 1–10 billion colony-forming units (CFUs). However, there are some cases where you might see a supplement with 50 billion CFUs. Though, it is important to note that having more doesn’t necessarily mean it will be better. 

As a recommendation, I often advise starting with a smaller dosage to allow the body to get used to the new probiotics. You can combine that with probiotic-rich foods to slowly start increasing the intake. 

Still, more research is needed to determine probiotics’ role and the possible side effects. Additionally, there is still a need for more regulation. In reality, you don’t know how many probiotics are still alive whenever you take them or how many survive the digestive process.

However, if unpleasant side effects are still there after a week or two, it’s a sign to stop taking probiotics.

FAQs

How many probiotics should I take?

The dosages can vary with each case. There are currently no guidelines for how many probiotics each person should take. Most studies use 5–20 billion CFUs, meaning this might be a good starting point.

Are 50 billion CFUs too much?

Most adults that don’t have problems with their immune system can consume 30–50 billion CFUs without having any negative side effects. You might want to take a smaller dosage if you experience any side effects, such as bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.

Are 100 billion CFUs too much?

100 CFUs is the maximum dosage available. While it is recognized as safe, it might increase the risk of side effects. Additionally, most people don’t need that many probiotics at once.

A Word From a Nutritionist

Probiotic supplements can help bring balance to the gut microbiome. They can help bring several health benefits, such as boosting the immune system, regulating hormones, and promoting skin health.

If you have doubts about taking a probiotic supplement, you might want to start including more probiotic foods such as kimchi, kefir, kombucha, and pickles. They allow your body to adjust for bigger probiotic doses.

With that said, while probiotics are an excellent way to boost health, not everyone should consume them.

People with weakened immune systems should talk to their doctors before consuming them. If your immune system isn’t strong, the bacteria may cause more harm than good.

So, before you take any new supplement, always consult with your doctor to check if it won’t affect any existing condition or medication you are taking.

Conclusion

Probiotics can help improve gut health by helping restore the gut microbiome. While they are generally recognized as safe, they might increase the risk of side effects such as diarrhea, bloating, gas, and stomach cramps for some people. 

If the symptoms continue, make sure to reduce the dosage of the probiotic strand or change the blend of strains.

Written by Brenda Peralta, RD
Brenda Peralta, RD, is a registered dietitian advisor for Health Reporter. She has several certifications in sports nutrition, health coaching, and women’s health hormones. She presents herself as a fertility advisor and gut specialist.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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HR_author_photo_Brenda
Written by Brenda Peralta, RD
HR_author_photo_Rosmy
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: July 21, 2023
4 min read 872 Views 0 Comments
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