Can You Take Too Many Probiotics?

Whether you are new to taking probiotics or have been taking them for years – one question commonly asked is can you take too many probiotics?

Key Takeaways

  • While probiotics have many health benefits, taking too many can lead to discomfort such as bloating, excess gas, and changes in bowel habits.
  • The right amount of probiotics to take per day depends on individual health and specific goals, but generally, 10-20 billion CFUs per day is a good starting point.
  • Probiotics can also be obtained from fermented foods and should be combined with prebiotics for maximum benefits.

And what happens if you do?

So, here we will explore whether you can have too much of a good thing – and what is the right amount of probiotics to take per day.

Can You Have Too Many Probiotics?

Probiotics offer many health benefits – from improved immunity to reduced risk of obesity and heart disease. (Source)(Source)(Source)

So for many, the benefits outweigh the risks. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the more you have, the better the outcomes.

It is possible to overdo things when it comes to probiotics, but only really if you take excessive amounts.

People who exceed the daily recommended intake of their product of choice on a regular basis are at increased risk of experiencing some symptoms compared to those who stick within the limits.

And remember that you can also get probiotics from a range of fermented foods, so if you regularly consume a lot of these, and take too many additional supplementary probiotics too, you might experience some discomfort. (Source)

The good news is that for most people the effects of taking too many probiotics will likely be short-lived, and should go away once you have reduced your probiotic intake.

woman holding white probiotic container and pills in hands

What Are The Signs Of Too Many Probiotics?

Whilst probiotics can help with symptoms such as gas and bloating, if taken to excess, they are likely to worsen these symptoms too.

You might start to notice that you are feeling unusually gassy, or that your stomach feels a little expanded with air.

You may also observe a change in bowel habits – for example, you could find yourself needing to go to the toilet more often, perhaps with looser stools.

And if you have a histamine intolerance, you could potentially notice an increase in these symptoms – especially if you have taken too many probiotics via fermented foods. (Source)

Similarly, if you already have a condition such as IBS, SIBO, or another kind of gut dysbiosis, you may notice a worsening in these symptoms, at least at the beginning, even if you don’t take excessive amounts of probiotics.

But in the latter case, this is not a cause for concern and your symptoms should soon go away once your gut gets used to the new species.

Common Probiotic Side Effects

Most people won’t have any particular side effects from taking probiotics, especially if they don’t go overboard. (Source)

But if you are new to taking them, have a particular gut health issue, or start taking too many probiotics too early on – you may expect to see:

  • Bloating
  • Excess gas
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Change in bowel habits

It is important to point out that for certain people – taking probiotics may not be recommended unless your doctor approves. This is the case if you are immunocompromised, have a severe gut infection, are receiving chemotherapy, or have another serious illness. (Source)

If you have any doubts then do seek medical advice before starting probiotic treatment, but rest assured that for most people, probiotics are entirely safe and shouldn’t cause any negative issues for you.

What Is The Right Amount Of Probiotics To Take Per Day?

This depends on many factors and is likely to be specific to you as an individual. For most people, however, around 10-20 billion, CFUs per day is a pretty good starting point. This is likely to provide you with general gut health benefits, and may also improve your immunity too.

If you are not in good health or are trying to improve a specific issue then you may want to take a lower or higher amount accordingly.

And don’t forget that you don’t need to get all of your probiotics from supplements alone. You can also continue to boost your gut health by taking fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir, and kombucha on a regular basis.

Remember to combine any probiotic treatment plan with a good dose of dietary prebiotics if your probiotic product does not contain them already.

Sportsman holding bottle with probiotics

How To Choose The Best Probiotic For You

First of all, it’s good to consider why you want to take probiotics in the first place. This is because different probiotic strains have different benefits and therefore you can select products with the specific strains that have the benefits you seek.

For example, lactobacillus acidophilus is good at improving your immune system and reducing your risk of eczema, whereas bifidobacteria is capable of reducing your IBS symptoms. (Source)(Source)(Source)

Next, you can think about additional factors that impact the overall quality of a probiotic. These include:

The Method Of Delivery

Sadly, many beneficial probiotics are lost before they arrive in your large intestine.

This can be because products are stored incorrectly, or are exposed to extreme temperatures or moisture.

After all, probiotics are living microorganisms that can be vulnerable in the wrong environment. So, a good idea is to opt for a product that is in a powdered form. This is because probiotic powders are usually flash dried and frozen which protects them before reactivation in water.

This makes it more likely the beneficial bacteria will survive in the gut.

Its CFU number

This refers to the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) per probiotic dose. It gives you an estimation of how many bacteria of benefit are in your product. Usually, a higher number is a good indication that you are getting a decent product.

But, sometimes a high number of CFUs for just one strain isn’t useful as it can lead to an imbalance in your gut and may even cause unpleasant symptoms due to the excessive potency of the probiotics – so more isn’t always best.

It’s Shelf Stability

For many people, keeping a probiotic in the fridge is inconvenient, especially if you travel frequently and want to remain consistent in your health habits.

Luckily many products are now shelf stable and don’t require refrigeration but it’s worth double-checking this before purchasing, otherwise, you risk losing the beneficial bacteria before they have arrived safely in your gut.

The Different Types Of Strains It Contains

Remember that a healthy microbiome is a diverse microbiome. This is because each probiotic strain offers different benefits. So taking huge amounts of just one strain is unlikely to give you the diversity you need.

Ideally, you would find a product that offers you a range of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria strains to ensure you are getting a range of health benefits, whilst promoting a diverse microbiome.

Similarly, you should aim to choose evidence-based microbe strains that already have a good level of research behind them – as this makes it more likely you will see a benefit from your product of choice.

Synbiotics = Prebiotics + Probiotics

Whether It Contains Prebiotics Or Not

Prebiotics work together synergistically with probiotics. This is because prebiotic fibres are needed to fuel probiotic bacteria in your gut.

So, some probiotic blends also include orebiotic fibres creating a synbiotic product.  This is useful if you struggle to get enough fibre into your daily diet and can mean you get more value for money from just one product.

To conclude, it’s clear that for most people taking probiotics is safe, and can lead to many improved health outcomes.

But more isn’t always better. It’s important to start taking probiotics slowly and to give your gut a chance to adjust- especially if you also consume lots of fermented foods.

If you stick to the recommended upper limit on your product of choice, you are not likely to experience common probiotic side effects. But if you overdo things and take excessive amounts you are more likely to experience stomach discomfort and other digestive issues.

And, if you are immunocompromised or have severe health issues always speak to a doctor before taking probiotic supplements.

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