Yes, probiotics may make you feel sick when you first start using them, causing nausea, bloating, or flatulence.
To sort out why some of these supplements disturb the gut when they are supposed to improve gut health, we have to take a closer look at the formulation of these products.
So, keep reading to find out the details with me;
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live microbes that colonize your intestines after ingestion and promote gut health. These are bacterial or yeast strains and many are also present in common fermented foods like yogurt, pickles, tempeh, etc.
These microbes are generally safe and beneficial for human health.
However, as you take live microbial colonies, you will feel some mild side effects because your body will take some time to adjust to the foreign microorganisms.
Find out the severity of these adversities in the next section, where I have described this initial sickening effect of probiotics.
Another concern related to probiotic supplements is the contamination of pills. As probiotic strains are naturally present in food, these supplements are regarded as dietary products, and the FDA does not regulate their formulations.
Resultantly, many probiotic pills often contain allergens or toxins, which become troublesome, especially for allergic individuals.
Can Probiotics Make You Feel Sick at First?
Yes, probiotics can make you feel sick for the first few days of supplementation.
With a probiotic pill, you feed in a large number of live microorganisms in your digestive tract. Hence, there is a sudden increase in microbial activity.
Resultantly, the acidic secretions from your gut lining temporarily increase as the automatic response to microbial activity. And that increased acidity often makes you feel queasy. Also, bacterial and digestive reactions produce more gaseous by-products, leading to bloating and flatulence.
However, as these bacterial populations get settled in intestinal chambers, gut responses are also normalized, and feelings of discomfort fade away.
Why Does my Probiotic Make me Nauseous?
A bit of gut unrest is normal when starting probiotic supplements, but long-term sickness from probiotics is uncommon. In these rare cases, side effects from probiotic pills usually occur due to food allergens present in the tablets or overdosing on probiotics.
Your probiotic may be making you nauseous due to the following reasons;
Stomach acid leaking into the esophagus (the pathway between mouth and stomach) is the main cause of nausea.
As we discussed, increased acid production may be stimulated when you start supplementing probiotics, making your stomach upset for a few days. This condition should go away after some time.
But if you are feeling nausea even after many weeks, maybe a dietary or lifestyle habit is causing stomach acidity rather than your probiotics.
In this case, you should look if you;
- Are eating meals high in fats or spices.
- Lie down or go to sleep shortly after the meal.
- Do exercises like crunches after a heavy meal.
- Wear tight clothing around your waist.
And if nothing above resembles your routine, you should try another supplement.
That’s because probiotics should get activated only in the intestinal tract as they provide zero to only a few benefits in the stomach.
Some probiotics, especially Lactobacillus strains, convert glycogen molecules into lactic acid, thus, lower pH, as proven by research. Though this pH modification is beneficial for vaginal health and treatment of constipation, however, leads to acidic reflux in the stomach and esophagus.
Hence, you should look for a probiotic brand that uses innovative pill formulation technologies to avoid probiotic activity in the stomach. (read about my favorite ones below)
Gluten/ lactose intolerance
The presence of gluten, soy, or lactose in probiotic tablets is also a potential cause, as nausea is often the preliminary symptom of a food allergic reaction.
Many probiotic pills contain gluten or other allergens in pill-blending material. Resultantly, these pills cause discomfort, pain, and allergic symptoms if a sensitive person uses them.
To avoid such a situation, always check the label and choose an allergen-free product.
Increased Histamine level
Some bacterial strains release histamines in the gut as their excretory products. When these molecules are absorbed, blood histamine level increases, which can concern histamine intolerant people.
Nausea is a common symptom of histamine intolerance. That is why histamine-sensitive people should always check with their doctor before opting for a prebiotic product to ensure it is safe for them.
In rare cases, probiotic intake can overpopulate microorganisms in the gut. Some of these strains may also escape into the blood, leading to bacteremia or fungemia (harmful increased concentration of bacteria or fungal strains in blood).
Consequently, these microbes can make you feel sick with symptoms of fever, low blood pressure, chills, and GI problems, including nausea.
However, this effect is mainly reported in people with weakened immunity due to a prevailing illness.
How Long Does Probiotic Nausea Last?
Probiotic nausea is short-lived and usually ends up within a week or two of starting the supplementation. It eventually comes down to how fast your gut gets used to the supplied bacteria, which depends upon your gut health, dietary choices, and lifestyle habits affecting the gut microbiome, like physical activity or sleeping routine.
Probiotics on Empty Stomach Nausea – Is That Usual?
Yes, it’s normal if your probiotics supplement makes you nauseous when you take it on an empty stomach. Most likely, it’s because the pills release microbes too early.
The nauseous effect is due to the secretion and interaction of stomach acids (which are high in concentration when you’re empty stomach) with probiotic strains.
Although long-term probiotic reactivity is uncommon, if your stomach remains sensitive to probiotic tablets and you constantly feel nauseous after using probiotics on an empty stomach, it could be due to bacterial ingestion (as explained in the above section).
In this situation, the negative effect is twofold: Not only do you feel queasy and disgusted after taking your supplement, but also, stomach acids can kill the bacterial strains, and you won’t see probiotics’ benefits.
How Do You Stop Nausea From Probiotics?
Take probiotics with food
A solution for probiotic nausea can be taking probiotics with food so that the stomach acids are instantly consumed in food digestion, and supplemented strains could escape quickly into the intestine.
Try Herbal Teas
Herbal teas are known for soothing gut muscles, aiding digestion, and reducing gut unrest for ages. And my personal holy-grail combination is that of ginger and chamomile.
You can go for store-bought herbal teas as well or make one for yourself at home in two easy steps;
- Boil one cup of water
- Add a one-inch piece of peeled ginger or a tablespoon of chamomile and let it simmer for about 2 minutes.
P.S: I also like to add a bit of local honey for a hint of natural sweetness, and so may you, if you like!
Use Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oil also works great for getting rid of nausea. Its herbal extracts help reduce the acidic effects on muscles. Also, the pleasant smell refreshes the mind and helps you get off the gaggy feeling.
A 2013 study shows that peppermint oil effectively reduced nausea in hospitalized patients.
Besides oil extract, peppermint tea can also relieve queasy feelings.
Increasing water intake can help with multiple gastrointestinal problems by improving digestive efficiency.
Firstly, drinking more water improves food flow through the digestive tract, and quick digestion reduces the chances of acid reflux and bloating.
Another benefit of streamlined digestive flow is the faster consumption of acids produced by the gut lining. Water also dilutes gastric acids and helps them mix well with ingested food rather than rushing into the esophagus.
Our Recommended Probiotics (No Nausea!)
The number one factor while choosing a probiotic supplement is to check if it is allergens-free and how it deals with the stomach before it reaches its destination (intestines). In that regard, my personal choice is Gut+ from Yourbiology and Biotics8.
1. YourBiology Gut+ – Best for Women
And just in case you’re still worried if it would cause nausea, I double-checked with Carmina at Yourbiology, and here’s what she had to say:
YourBiology’s Gut+ is a multi-strain probiotic to improve your digestion, vaginal health, skin conditions, and immunity.
The best part about these pills is that you don’t have to worry if the pill gets dissolved in the stomach, releasing all the probiotics and eventually leading to nausea and abdominal pain.
Yourbiology has used its patented Makterk Bipass technology for protecting probiotics from stomach acidity. Capsules made from brown seaweed are used to encase the four potent bacterial strains of Gut+.
These marine polysaccharide capsules do not open up when the surrounding environment is highly acidic (as in the stomach) until they reach the intestinal tract with a suitable pH range.
Besides that, these pills are free from soy, dairy, and gluten. Hence, the chances of food allergies are also reduced to none.
It includes 40 colony-forming units (CFUs) of Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains. Thus, you get a good replenishment for your gut microbiome, which constantly faces the negative pressure of digestive activities.
The addition of prebiotic fiber is another plus point of this supplement. When you take Gut+, you are not only gulping gut-friendly bacteria but also getting in some food for their effective growth in your gut.
Though good for everyone, it is primarily designed for women’s gut issues.
For men, I recommend Biotics 8 from Bauer nutrition.
2. Biotics 8 – Best for Men
Like Gut+, this probiotic supplement is also multi-strain, allergen-free, and protected from stomach acidity.
Its constituent strains are packed in hypromellose (HPMC) capsules which resist acidity in the same way as the seaweed capsule of Gut+. Hence, you have the surety that all strains reach your intestines and get the maximum benefit from the product.
This feature also ensures that probiotics won’t cause nausea except for the initial adjustment stage.
Plus, it is a gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free product. So, it gets you covered even if you have some sort of food allergies.
Besides the bacterial strains, other ingredients of the supplement also help with digestion as it contains digestive enzymes (Lipase for lipids, Protease for proteins, and Amylase for carbohydrates).
Biotics 8 is a mixture of 10 active microbial strains, prebiotic fiber, vitamin D, and enzymes for macromolecule digestion.
This supplement is focused on male gut health and includes strains that boost energy and drive, improve cognitive focus, and elevate mood.
Can new probiotics cause nausea?
Yes, you might feel nauseous in the initial days when starting a new probiotic supplement. That’s because the new microbes take some time to adjust to your natural gut microbiome.
Can stopping probiotics cause nausea?
No, stopping probiotics is not likely to make you nauseous.
Can a lack of probiotics cause nausea?
Yes, it’s possible if the number of gut-friendly microbes declines due to a digestive disease like severe diarrhea, dysbiosis, or gut infections.
As a result, normal digestive functions get disrupted, causing acid reflux and nausea.
Can too many probiotics cause nausea?
No, overdosing side effects of probiotics are rare in normal, healthy individuals. However, too many probiotics may cause nausea in histamine-intolerant or immunocompromised persons.
Also, if you are a gluten-sensitive person and your probiotics tablets contain traces of gluten, taking too many of them can lead to nausea.
Probiotics are often recommended for curing gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, constipation, and general gut discomfort.
However, when you start taking these bacterial strains, your gut may get upset for a few days, leaving you with a feeling of distress, bloating, or nausea. This sickness is often short-lived, and symptoms fade once your digestive system gets used to the new supplement.
If your probiotics continue to disturb your gut, making you feel nauseous after taking the pill, you should probably look for another product.
Supplements that contain allergens can cause unrest and nausea in people sensitive to certain food groups.
Likewise, the interaction of probiotics with stomach lining and gastric acids can also be a reason for probiotic nausea. A product with a resistive pill casing is an easy solution in this case.