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Why Do Probiotics Make Me Bloated

why do probiotics make me bloated

Can probiotics make you bloated?

Probiotics are generally healthy... but can you have too much of a good thing?

Before we answer these questions…

We need to understand the real causes of bloating and why its become a huge problem.

What Is Bloating?

Bloating simply means your stomach or intestinal tract is filling up with gas.

With no immediate way of escape, the volume of gas builds up creating pressure in your abdomen.

That's why you get that uncomfortable sensation of your stomach swelling up.

It usually isn't painful, but it can be accompanied by stomach cramps.

How Probiotics Can Cause You to Bloat

Bloating can be a common side effect of probiotics and the causes can be many:

Bad Bacteria Don't Go Quietly 

The human microbiome is a very sensitive organism. Introducing billions of new bacteria into your microbiome is going to have an impact. 

First of all, probiotics can help balance our digestion by replenishing the good bacteria in our gut.

They also make our digestive tract a less welcoming place for harmful bacteria such as h.pylori and salmonella to live in

However, harmful bacteria live in readiness to cause havoc and disease at the smallest opportunity.

As probiotics force out these unwelcome guests they don't go quietly, especially if they've been squatting in the digestive tract for long time.

That's why evicting super bugs from the gut can result in excessive gas and bloating.

Type of Probiotic Strain 

Probiotics are living bacteria feeding on the dietary compounds of the food you eat and the feeding frenzy occuring in your intestinal tract creates a lot of gas.

If the probiotics introduce a bacterial strain with a fondness for devouring the sugars or fibers in your diet - it can reward you with lots of gas. 

What's more, certain supplement brands contain more than probiotics. Many are full of inactive ingredients like preservatives, binders and sweeteners that may cause digestive issues.

Lactose - a sugar found in milk, vegetables and nuts - is a common binder. It can be difficult to digest causing gas, bloating and diarrhea. 

So, check the label and see if it contains any of these additives.

Prebiotics

Certain brands of probiotic supplements include prebiotics which are non-digestible fibers that probiotics feed on to encourage their growth.

For some people, these fibers are difficult to digest causing flatulence and bloating.

Although, a new study (i) reveals prebiotics reduce gas as long the human microbiome has enough time to adjust.

For the most part, prebiotics are health promoting especially, when they're combined with probotics. 

But, if you're susceptible to bloating or have IBS you may wish to avoid them.

SIBO and D-Lactic Acidosis

Do you find it hard to concentrate and stay focused?

In a recent study (ii),researchers found a surprising link between probiotic use, bacterial overgrowth and symptoms of bloating and brain fogginess.

The patients with gas, bloating and brain fog (confusion, difficulty concentrating, poor short term memory and poor decision making) were found to have large colonies of bacteria in their small intestines as well as high levels of of D-lactic acid.

All of them were taking probiotics

 Gastroenterologist Satish S.C. Rao the study's lead researcher explains...

What we now know is that probiotic bacteria have the unique capacity to break down sugar and produce D-lactic acid. So if you inadvertently colonize your small bowel with probiotic bacteria, then you have set the stage for potentially developing lactic acidosis and brain fogginess.

Gastroenterologist Satish S.C. Rao

The crucial term here is 'inadvertently' because probiotics are not mean't to work in the small intestines.

If they end up there and reproduce, with the help of probiotics boosting their numbers, there is an increased risk of D-lactic Acidosis.  

What is D-lactic acidosis?

D-lactic acidosis is an overproduction of D-lactic acid - a sugar produced by bacteria after feeding on carbohydrates. 

When there's an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine the bacteria go into a feeding a frenzy and produce excessive amounts of D-lactic. 

Our liver doesn't have the capacity to process D-lactic in large quantities and the excess spills into the blood stream at a level that negatively affects the brain - causing D-Lactic Acidosis.

Is there a Link between SIBO and Probiotics?

If there is, its a weak one because the link is based mostly on theory than hard scientific evidence.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when bacteria that are suppose to live in the large intestine begin to grow in the small intestines. These bacteria start feeding on undigested carbohydrates causing gas and bloating.

In a study by Augusta University, researchers theorize that bacteria may over-spill into the small intestines when the gut microbiome can't cope with the addition of billions of new bacteria.

It's important to point out, this was only a research study meaning a link between SIBO, D-lactic and probiotic is not conclusive.

The study has many weaknesses. For example, there was no control group making it purely observational and the patients involved had very severe symptoms. 

In fact, the study attracted a lot of criticism. Medical doctors and academics at the International Probiotics Association (IPA) rejected many of the studies conclusions and added that the 'brain fog' which which is a "non-medical term that can be triggered by other stimuli such as fatigue, tiredness and dehydration".

7 Ways to Reduce Belly Bloat

If you're experiencing probiotic side effects here are simple ways to reduce and clear the symptoms:

Stop or Lower the Dose

With the introduction of new bacteria the gut microbiome needs time to adapt.

Start slowly by taking less than the recommended dosage.

If the recommended dosage is three pills a day, take one and see how you're body reacts to it.

Build up, layer by layer, to the recommended dosage over a couple of days or a week. 

Is the CFU Count too High? 

Another consideration is the CFU count.

CFU stands for Colony Forming Units an indicator of the number of live and viable bacteria in each dose of a probiotic food or product.

Probiotic supplements are not recognized as a drug, so there's no standardized dose, and the dosage range can vary between brands.

An effective dose is a minimum of one Billion CFU's.

One Billion CFU's per dose may sound a lot, but as your gut microbiota is home to multi-trillions of bacteria, a billion CFU is the lower end of the scale.

However, if you're taking a supplement with a CFU count of 100 billion per dose and you're experiencing side effects, that dose is probably too high.  

As a general rule, take between 10 to 30 billion CFU's per day.

Again, start at the lower end of this range and gradually increase the dose over the next couple of weeks.  

Take Probiotics on an Empty Stomach

Several brands recommend taking their probiotic during a meal. However, combining probiotics with certain foods can increase gas.

Instead, take your probiotic product on an empty stomach 30 to 45 minutes before a meal.

Drink Plenty of Water 

Typically, gas and belly bloat are a positive sign that probiotics are kick starting the detoxification process. By staying hydrated you can help the body speed up this process.

Reduce intake of Complex Carbs

Complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, legumes and grains can  produce a lot of gas. Consider reducing them or cutting them out altogether. 

But if you love eating these foods, consider a digestive enzyme supplement. Digestive enzymes stop gas by breaking down complex carbs. They also stop indigestible sugars getting into the large intestines where they can ferment and produce gas.

Introduce Fermented Foods 

Humans have been eating fermented foods for centuries and for good reason.

The fermentation process produces natural live bacteria that are beneficial to the gastrointestinal tract. 

The most popular fermented foods and drink include:

  • Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
  • Kimchi (spicy fermented vegetables) 
  • Kombucha
  • Kefir

You can buy these probiotic rich foods online but make sure they contain live and active cultures.

The best way to make sure is to ferment your own and sauerkraut and kefir are very easy to make at home.

Look After Yourself

There's a clear connection between our brain and gut. 

In fact, chemical signals transmitted between our brain and digestive system are influenced by bacteria and hormones.

For example, when anxious our body releases the stress hormone cortisol which weakens our digestion and immune system. 

That's why its important to take measures to release stress and get a good nights sleep.

Probiotic Strains to Help Alleviate Bloating 

For best results, choose probiotics that are researched and shown to help alleviate digestive issues.

The two most widely studied bacteria are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

Studies (iii) reveal these two bacterial strains helped improve symptoms of bloating in patients with functional bowel disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation and diarrhea as well supporting the immune system.

Here's a list of the most widely researched probiotics strains that can help alleviate bloating.

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM
  • Bifidobacterium lactis HN0199
  • Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-078
  • Lactobacillus plantarum Lp299v 
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Bifidobacterium infantis 3562411
  • Bacillus Coagulans12
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae CNCM I-385613

No matter how beneficial these strains are, current research has produced mixed results and is not conclusive.

Choosing a probiotic supplement containing these strains is certainly a good way of combating belly bloat.

But its not the only way to beat the bloat

A Better Way To Beat the Bloat 

If  you're symptoms persist, continuing to take probiotics is only going to make you more frustrated.

And there's a good reason for this.

If you're pumping billions of beneficial bacteria into an unhealthy digestive system their survival rate will be so low they won't have an effect. You're just throwing your money away.

A better strategy is to clean up the gut before introducing new probiotic bacteria. 

And a good place to start creating a balanced gut microbiome that ensures the beneficial bacteria survive and thrive is to introduce prebiotic fiber.

Prebiotic fibers feed the friendly bacteria in your gut and help create an environment that enables them to multiply and thrive an displace the bad bacteria.

Without prebiotics, you're wasting money pumping probiotics into a gut environment where they have limited chance of surviving.

Foods rich in prebiotic fibers include:

  • Jerusalem artichoke 
  • Apples (with skin)
  • Bananas
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Leeks

One of the richest sources of prebiotics is kiwi fruit. 

What's more, kiwifruit is rich in phenolics that help suppress the growth of bad bacteria and digestive enzymes that break down and digest food.

The fruit is also a great source of soluble fiber that keep you're bowel movements regular.

Unfortunately, most of the fruits therapeutic properties are contained in the fuzzy skin, which most people throw away - meaning they miss out on many of the digestive health benefits. 

If the taste of fuzzy hairy skin is not appealing,  you may want to consider Kiwi-Klenz. Its a natural product using pure kiwi-extract from New Zealand grown green kiwi-fruit. 

All the fruits digestive health boosting nutrients from the skin, seeds and pulp are retained with high concentrations of prebiotics, digestive enzymes, phenols and soluble fiber. 

Discover how Kiwi Klenz helps rebalance your gut bacteria.


FAQ's

Who should avoid taking Probiotics?

People with a weakened immune system or have HIV/Aids should consult doctor before taking a probiotic product.

Can I overdose on Probiotics?

Typically, probiotic foods and supplements are safe. However, taking more that you should can produce a number of gastrointestinal side effects that may include gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. If you already have a healthy immune system and a balanced digestive system and your goal is to maintain that, then an effective probiotic dose would be 10 billion CFU's per day. 

Can probiotics cause an allergic reaction?

Unfortunately, humans can be allergic to nearly everything. If you have a lactose intolerance probiotic yogurt could result in digestive issues. Certain probiotic bacterial strains can produce histamine within the intestinal tract and boost levels in the body which could cause an inflammatory response. If you are susceptible to allergic reactions consult a doctor before taking a probiotic.

References:

(I) Colonic gas homeostasis: Mechanisms of adaptation following HOST-G904 galactooligosaccharide use in humans.

(II) Brain fogginess, gas and bloating: a link between SIBO, probiotics and metabolic acidosis.

(III) Probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 versus placebo for the symptoms of bloating in patients with functional bowel disorders: a double-blind study.