Probiotics are bacteria that are used to help maintain healthy microorganisms in the body’s gut. Humans naturally have between 500 and 1,000 different strains of bacteria in their bodies. These microorganisms optimize the body’s digestion system and support a healthy immune function.
One of the most common misconceptions I hear about probiotics is that they can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea. While these symptoms can occur for some people, the opposite is actually true in that probiotics are often used as a way to help ease these digestive issues.
Truth: probiotics, bloating, and gas
The human gut flora can be altered by diet, lifestyle, exercise, exposure to toxins, and antibiotic use among many other things. Probiotics can help by maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in the microbiome in the midst of those changes.
Overgrowth of “bad” bacteria in the gut can cause digestive discomfort such as gas and bloating. Probiotics can suppress the growth of pathogenic bacteria which, in turn, helps reduce gas production and bloating in individuals with digestive health conditions.
Abdominal bloating is often caused by a buildup of fluids or gas in the abdominal section of the body. One way to scientifically measure this build up is by looking at a person’s abdominal distension scores. Research shows that the abdominal distension scores may be improved with the use of probiotics containing Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus casei, or Lactobacillus plantarum species. (1)
In terms of diarrhea, probiotics can help enhance the intestinal immune response, restore balance to gastrointestinal flora, and upregulate intestinal electrolyte absorption, all of which can help alleviate this issue. (2)
Researchers have looked at probiotic use for Traveler’s Diarrhea, which is an intestinal infection that occurs when eating or drinking contaminated food or water—commonly associated with traveling and experiencing new foods and beverages. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2019 in Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease showed that Saccharomyces boulardii is an effective strain for the protecting against Traveler’s Diarrhea. (3)
If you are taking antibiotics and are concerned about the potential of diarrhea, research has also pointed to the use of Saccharomyces boulardii (4) or Lactobacillus rhamnosus (5) to support antibiotic-associated bacteria.
There’s other research—albeit more research is needed in this area—that suggests probiotics may play a role in supporting our mood too—added bonus. In one case, probiotics have the potential to help reduce negative thoughts associated with a sad mood, according to a study published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity.
Don’t let misleading probiotic headlines guide you on a confusing path to this gut healthy option. Probiotics can help optimize your gut health so you are better prepared for bouts of bloating, gas, and diarrhea—or even stave off these issues.