Do Probiotics Have Side Effects?

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM Published on , Last Updated on


Your gut is populated with “good” and “bad” bacteria. All these microorganisms make up what’s called the microbiota, and a healthy balance of all that good and bad bacteria in your gut can make a big difference in your health. But there are other factors like stress, toxins, and antibiotics—that can affect the diversity of the microbiota and balance of “good” bacteria. [1]

What Are Probiotics?

These good bacteria are also called called probiotics, and more and more people are taking them for the health perks. Studies suggest they can aid in digestion, boost the immune system—even regulate mental health. [2] [3] And if heart health is a concern, a probiotic might even help with that. [4] There’s also recent evidence suggesting probiotics can help you maintain a healthy weight. [5]

But probiotics are far from perfect; there are side effects you should consider. For the most part, those side effects for healthy individuals are mild issues—things like gas or bloating. One study suggests, though, that probiotics could shorten diarrhea symptoms or help discourage much more severe gastrointestinal problems (such as Crohn’s disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome), so perhaps those slight side effects aren’t that bad after all. [6]

Whenever someone is taking live bacteria, though, there’s always a possibility of danger. Those who are critically ill shouldn’t take probiotics for this reason. For example, a Dutch study suggests a higher death rate among acute pancreatitis patients when drinking a probiotic blend of six active cultures. [7] In this case, “good” bacteria is seen by the already weakened immune system as harmful and attacked as invaders.

What Probiotics Can’t Do

But, while they can certainly help supplement a healthy lifestyle, don’t think of probiotics as a miracle drug. Don’t just jump on the bandwagon without doing your research. After all, probiotics are something of a big business right now, with the latest research suggesting they could be worth about $45 billion by 2018. [8]

So, yes, while there are a few things to consider when taking probiotics, if you’re healthy and think they’re right for you, try them! But, maybe you currently take probiotics and worry about side effects. We’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below.

References (8)
  1. David, L. A. et al. Host lifestyle affects human microbiota on daily timescales. Genome Biology. 15 (7).
  2. Behnsen, J. et al. Probiotics: Properties, Examples, and Specific Applications. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine.
  3. Foster, J.A. & McVey-Neufeld, K.A. Gut-brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends in Neurosciences. 36 (5).
  4. Baker, J. et al. Intestinal microbiota determine severity of myocardial infarction in rats. FASEB.
  5. Goodrich, J. et al. Human Genetics Shape the Gut Microbiome. Cell. 159 (4).
  6. Gevers, D. et al. The Treatment-Naive Microbiome in New-Onset Crohn’s Disease. Cell Host & Microbe. 15 (3).
  7. Besseling, M. G. et al. Probiotic prophylaxis in predicted severe acute pancreatitis: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 371 (9613).
  8. Transparency Market Research. Probiotics Market (Dietary Supplements, Animal Feed, Foods & Beverages) - Global Industry Size, Share, Trends, Analysis, Growth And Forecast 2012 - 2018. Transparency Market Research.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

  • courtney

    I have had digestive issues for the past year, and started taking probiotics about two months ago, and let me tell you, they have made a huge difference! I have not seen anything but good side effects from taking probiotics. I did though, do my research, and found a good organic, non GMO probiotic. And my cystic acne has cleared up, my general mood is better, and my digestive issues have nearly gone away.. If you are suffering from digestive issues I would do my research and give them a try!

  • Cin Hus

    Great article! I didn’t know there were any side effects to probiotics other than feeling better! You mention gas and bloating as a side effect. Gas and bloating could be just poorly combined meals. Great Taste No Pain has a great Alkaline diet that shows proper food combinations to make digestion optimal. If you watch what you eat, you should rarely have gas or bloating. By following this plan, you can eat a can of beans and have no gas! A lot of gas and bloating comes from fresh fruit with a meal which is a very bad idea and it seems like all the Chefs are cooking with it these days!!! Fresh fruit is the softest thing you can eat and it is the first thing to break down in your stomach. If you’re eating it with a meal, it will rot and putrefy before you get any nutrition from it which causes gas and bloating! Also, cooked or canned fruit is acidic. Fruit does not belong with ANY meal and should always be eaten raw on an empty stomach between 3 hours after a meal to 20 minutes before a meal. For optimal health, a person should consume at least 2 tablespoons of fermented foods every day. It’s my belief that you get much more benefit from eating fermented foods than you do from probiotic pills.

  • Karie

    Probiotics have totally changed my health for the better in several ways. The side effects you mentioned are so lame…”gas and bloating” I’ve never experienced gas and bloating from the use of probiotics, in fact they actually “help” with gas and bloating!

  • nancy

    i tried probiotics and my son tried them also. we got bad acid reflux for the few days we took them. quit them and acid reflux stopped right away. we both took chemo a few years back and wonder if chemo and probiotics do not go together?

  • torin andersen

    Just started making yogurt at home. Never eaten yogurt before and am semi-lactose intolerant. Started having a spoonful in my fruit smoothies every other morning then started doing every day after a week. Two weeks in to the program my body was vacating 6-7 times a day. Exhausting. So I quit and spend less time in the bathroom now. Common side effect?

    Prior to this regiment I had 2-3 movements a day at 7:45am, 4pm and 9pm

  • Peter Chai

    hi I have the question to ask what happen after those patient take probiotic and recover from illness but then stop taking probiotic.

  • Deborah

    I think taking probiotics has caused a few symptoms for me. Like a peculiar feeling in my mouth, severely chapped lips that become sore, itchy, red, then turn dark and start to peel. Also I’m noticing that my hair is starting to break and thin out. When I try to stop the probiotics I get really bad acne!! Help

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