What if something that is supposed to make you feel better, ends up making you feel worse?
It’s not always possible to “feel” the benefits of taking probiotics but when someone feels notably worse from taking them, now that’s interesting. So what’s going on here?
There are a few possible situations going on.
First, adding a bunch of new organisms to the current intestinal environment can create a battleground of sorts. These new organism have to fight for space and resources and this effect along with a shifting balance in the gut can create some discomfort. This is usually mild and transient with symptoms settling down as a new balance sets in. If the discomfort lasts then we start thinking about what else may be going on. Some of the other ingredients in probiotic supplements may actually be the culprits, rather than the microorganisms themselves – things like FOS and GOS are prebiotics, essentially food for the bacteria. These substances can create some symptoms in the gut for various reasons. We’ll look ate these more a little later.
The next thing to consider is dysbiosis.
Specifically a condition called SIBO – Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. We’ve written about this before, but essentially it occurs when bacteria are able to colonize areas of the gut that they should not be able to. Symptoms of SIBO often include gas, bloating, distension, and altered bowel movements. When SIBO occurs, even beneficial bacteria can aggravate symptoms. Further, prebiotics can feed the problematic bacteria.
Getting back to prebiotics.
As mentioned earlier, these are often included in probiotics supplements to aid in the ability of the bacteria to survive and propagate once they reach the gut. Some products contain little or no prebiotics and are more suited to certain people or conditions.
There are also various tests available that can assess the health and balance of your microbiome. These can be valuable tools into developing a targeted treatment strategy.