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What are the side effects of probiotics?

A major 2014 study, A Systematic Review of the Safety of Probiotics, found: “The overwhelming existing evidence suggests that probiotics are safe.” But that does not mean there are no side effects of probiotics. 

It may take a little while for the body to get used to changes in the gut when you are taking a probiotic supplement.

So, what are the side effects of probiotics?

This can be seen in the form of wind, bloating or bowel changes – but these things should settle down within a few days. It is, however, important that you consult your GP before taking a probiotic, as it can cause dangerous infections in people with severely compromised immune systems. Probiotics are safe and have few side effects because they are micro-organisms that live in the body naturally. You will often hear them referred to as friendly bacteria. Whether you take probiotics or not, you are going to have these kind of micro-organisms inside you anyway. You will have many, many different types of them and a countless number of each sort. So, taking a probiotic should not be seen as introducing something foreign to your body. As a result, probiotics are well tolerated and thought to be safe for almost everyone. There are a large number of different kinds of bacteria in your body at any one time. Most of these bacteria are in your digestive system, mainly in the colon, and most are harmless. But for your digestive system to work properly it is important that you have the right balance of bacteria in your gut.

What probiotics do is colonise your digestive system with the right kind of bacteria and other micro-organisms.

We say ‘other micro-organisms’ because while probiotics are normally bacteria, they can also be yeasts.

Probiotics can have a big impact on the health of your digestive system.

Probiotics are known to combat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which can be really debilitating. It’s also claimed that probiotics bring benefits to people suffering from more serious bowel conditions, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, as well as potentially warding off Helicobacter pylori infections, which cause ulcers and stomach cancer. Research also suggests that taking a probiotic can lead to weight loss. This may be because probiotics limit the absorption of dietary fat, meaning your body takes fewer calories from your food.

Probiotics are also thought to help with weight loss by releasing appetite-reducing hormones.

Studies have also shown that certain probiotics reduce systemic inflammation. This is a driver of many diseases such as heart disease and cancer. There is also evidence that they reduce the symptoms of depression, lower cholesterol, enhance immune function and improve skin condition.

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