Probiotics Side Effects

by on June 22, 2012


Recent studies on the benefits of probiotics for various health conditions has prompted an increased interest in probiotic supplements and probiotic enriched foods. According to research, probiotics side effects are virtually nonexistent but some safety concerns have appeared. Currently, the long term effects of probiotics are not known but studies on the benefits and risks are ongoing.

Common Probiotics Side Effects

There are currently no real known side effects of probiotics. Many people experience gas, bloating, or other minor gastrointestinal symptoms after eating probiotic-rich foods, but the majority of individuals who have taken probiotics have not had any side effects at all. A few reports of more serious reactions have been filed and are still under investigation.

Serious Probiotics Side Effects

The biggest concern in the use of probiotics is in individuals who already have serious illnesses. Studies have found that probiotics can produce a life threatening disease called lactobacillus septicaemia in individuals with weakened immune systems or severe sicknesses. There is also evidence that some probiotic products, particularly yogurt, play a role in obesity trends. The benefits and side effects of probiotics in children are also being studied in more detail.

Remember that research on probiotics side effects and their long term risks is still ongoing. As of now, probiotics are believed to be completely safe and beneficial to most healthy adults. It is always a good idea to discuss the use of any dietary supplement, including probiotics, with your doctor first.


Naturally occurring probiotics are believed to transfer to newborns during vaginal birth. In the event of a cesarean section, these microorganisms are not transferred from the mother and may be the explanation for higher rates of allergies, along with lowered immune functions, in babies born via c-section. A number of studies are being conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) to determine if probiotics have continued benefits throughout childhood, including the prevention and treatment of diarrhea in infants. As with other uses, the long term benefits and side effects of probiotics in children are still under investigation.


Only a few trials have been conducted to determine the benefits and safety of probiotics during pregnancy. The probiotic strains Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium were used to treat eczema and bacterial vaginosis in controlled groups of pregnant women. In each study, no adverse reactions were noted. The observed pregnancies were carried to term and no deformities or other complications occurred. The use of probiotics did not appear to influence birth weight or the likeliness of a cesarean section. Still, probiotics are not recommended during pregnancy unless recommended by your doctor.

The Immune System

It is believed that probiotics can provide a big boost to the immune system in most individuals, making it easier to fight off infections and viruses quickly. Probiotics can lower stress levels and have improved symptoms of various infections in clinical trials. However,when probiotics are given to individuals with immune deficiencies or who have serious illnesses, there is no evidence that the treatment improves their conditions and in some cases, life threatening side effects can occur. If you have a disorder that weakens the immune system or take a medication that suppresses immune functions, talk to your doctor before taking probiotics.

Probiotics Drug Interactions

It is safe to take probiotics with most medications, as well as other supplements, based on current research. Probiotics may actually enhance some vitamin supplements, such as B1 and B2, according to one clinical study. There have been reports of a few mild interactions however. Discuss the use of probiotics with your doctor if you currently take any of the medications below.

  • Immunosuppressants including Zenapax, CellCept, Simulect, ect.
  • Corticosteroids such as prednisone, Flonase, etc.
  • Antibiotics like penicillin, clindamycin, ofloxacin, etc.

Some doctors recommend an increase in probiotics to prevent antibiotic induced diarrhea in children and adults. If you are taking an antibiotic and probiotics, wait at least 2 hours after the antibiotic dosage to take a probiotic supplement. This will ensure the effectiveness of both.

With the wide range of health benefits good bacteria can provide and the low number of known probiotics side effects, an increased intake of these microorganisms can improve the general health and well being of most children and adults. It is always a good idea to discuss the addition of any new drugs with your primary care provider before you begin, whether it is a prescription or a natural supplement like probiotics.