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May 162011
 


I’ve heard many people ask the question,  “What are the side effects of probiotics?”  “Can any of probiotics side effects be severe?”  Before we get to that question,  I think it is best that we start from the beginning.

What are Probiotics?

The term probiotic refers to a supplement,  either in the form of a pill,  food,  or liquid that contains the healthy bacteria that is normally found in the human intestinal tract.  The idea is to supplement these healthy bacteria as a holistic measure to improve digestive health.

Why are Probiotics Important?

A healthy human digestive tract is loaded with many species of healthy bacteria.  These good bugs do many things.  The help overall immune function,  help with nutrient assimilation,  and take up space so that more sinister organisms can not take root and grow.  These harmful organisms could be fungi,  such as candida,  or harmful bacterial bugs such as C. diff.

Probiotics and Dysbiosis

Intestinal dysbiosis,  is a term used to describe an imbalance of the healthy flora in the intestinal tract.  The most common way to treat this condition is with a probiotic supplement.  There are many quality probiotics brands available.

Causes of Dysbiosis

Stress is one possible cause of dysbiosis.  It is well known that stress can cause physical changes in the human body,  and stress is well known to be a cause of hypertension and coronary artery disease.  But the research concerning the link to dysbiosis is in it’s infancy.

Poor diet is a significant contributing factor to a state of dysbiosis.  What our diets lack is just as important as what we eat too much of.  The modern Western diet is devoid of raw and fermented foods,  and low in soluble fiber.  These fermented foods,  such as yogurt have been a source of healthy bacteria for many centuries,  mainly lactobacillus acidophilus.

Our diets are also high in processed carbohydrates such as white or “enriched” flour.  These are bad for several reasons.  They are devoid of fiber,  which causes constipation.  These processed carbs and simple sugars also cause yeast overgrowth,  mainly Candida albicans.  Candida releases poisons called mycotoxins.  The candida itself can spread to other parts of the body as well.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics are recognized by many as the major cause of dysbiosis.  Simply put,  antibiotics kill bacteria.  But they kill the healthy bacteria as well.  This leaves a power vacuum so to speak,  and allows an opportunity for the dangerous bugs to take hold.

The overuse of antibiotics is a widely accepted problem nowadays.  C. diff in children has more than doubled  over the past 10 years.  And these infections  usually occur after a round of antibiotics.  Apparently,  the antibiotics are better at killing the healthy bacteria than the bad ones.

Probiotics Side Effects

  • Gas-Gas is the most common of probiotics side effects.
  • Bloating-Bloating is rarely reported and is usually mild.
  • Diarrhea-Though probiotics are often used to treat diarrhea,  they have been reported to cause it in some people.
  • Headaches-There have been some reports of headaches,  the reasons for this are unclear.
  • Skin Rashes-This is very rare and possibly caused by an allergic reaction to other substances in the supplement such as dairy,  gluten,  or soy.

What you must consider is that some of these symptoms may be caused by other substances in the formula,  as opposed to the live bugs themselves.  These side effects are also usually mild.

Nearly all holistic practitioners believe that probiotics benefits outweigh the risk of any side effects.  But it is a good idea to consult a doctor trained in holistic medicine in you have any concerns.

And to minimize the risk of any of probiotics side effects,  you could start off with a low dose and then work your way up slowly.  The important thing to remember is that investing in our health is our responsibility,  and ours alone.


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