Can Probiotics Cause Diarrhea?

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If you regularly suffer with diarrhea issues then you will no doubt have searched out various avenues to help solve the problem. There are many digestive system disorders which can affect a person, and if you suffer from IBS, one of the most common conditions of them all, you may swing between constipation and diarrhoea on a regular basis.

Whatever your reason for suffering from regular diarrhoea bouts, there is a certain amount of evidence to suggest that taking probiotics, or by upping the amount of probiotic content in your diet, could help solve the problem.

A study published by the NCBI in 2016 showed that probiotics may help with infectious diarrhoea, and other studies have shown a correlation between antibiotic-related diarrhoea, being reduced by taking probiotics.

Of course, probiotics remains a mysterious subject for many researchers, as whilst a lot of evidence suggests benefits, there is still quite a lot which suggests less benefit than you might think.

It completely depends on the person much of the time, the type of probiotic strain being taken, and how it is taken. In addition to this, there is little in the way of evidence to suggest any side effects, but not enough evidence to suggest there aren’t any.

More research is needed, and this is currently ongoing.

For now however, you might be wondering about probiotics for diarrhoea, and whether they could help you.

What Causes Diarrhoea?

There are many different causes for diarrhoea, and it can be due to a condition you’re suffering from, something you’ve eaten, a virus, or an infection. Inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome are two of the most common types of digestive system issues which our population deals with today, and these can both cause diarrhoea, either regularly, or in bouts when the condition flares up.

If you are taking antibiotics for a particular problem, perhaps a tooth infection or something else entirely, you might find that the antibiotics are strong enough to cause diarrhoea, which lasts for a short period of time. There is also some suggestion, as we just mentioned, that taking probiotics might help this problem, and prevent the diarrhoea from occurring. Again, more research is ongoing.

Whatever the reason for your diarrhoea, and it really could simply be your diet, you need to pinpoint it first and then look to solutions to help you. So, do probiotics help with diarrhoea? With the limited evidence we have, there is a suggestion that they can.

What Are The Benefits of Probiotics?

Hand in hand when talking about probiotics and diarrhoea, we need to touch upon the general benefits of taking probiotics. Gut health is without a doubt the main one which you will hear about, and this is certainly where the main benefit comes from.

The benefits of probiotic are:

  • Probiotics support positive gut health
  • Help to boost the immune system
  • Can help to avoid UTIs and yeast infections in women
  • Can help to support oral health
  • May help with certain mental health conditions and brain function – more research needs to go into this
  • Can help with common digestive system issues, such as IBS and inflammatory bowel disease
  • May give you more energy – again, more evidence is needed
  • Can help with constipation issues
  • Can help with diarrhoea issues

How do Probiotics Support Gut Health?

In order to understand about the link between probiotics and diarrhoea, we read need to understand how probiotics work with the gut, in order to restore balance and harmony.

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts which live inside the digestive system. These bacteria are not harmful, and are classed as ‘friendly bacteria’. Of course, you have harmful bacteria within your gut too, but these are outclassed and outnumbered by the good bacteria, and having the right amount helps to cause balance and harmony within your gut.

Probiotics don’t just balance out the good versus the bad bacteria, but they also help to move food through your digestive system, without delay, blockages, or incident. They do this by affecting the nerve signals within the gut, which control how food is moved through the system.

By doing this, they ensure food travels through correctly. From this explanation, you can understand in some terms how probiotics can help with IBS and issues, such as bloating and gas.

These types of issues occur when food is sluggish in speed, when there are issues somewhere within the tract, and when you perhaps eat the wrong types of food, which take their time passing through. By ensuring the smooth passage, many digestive tract symptoms do not occur.

Can Probiotics Cause Diarrhea?

When you first start taking probiotics, it may be the case that you suffer from bloating, gas, and possibly diarrhoea for the first day or two, but that should be it. You should not continue to have any symptoms from probiotics after this time, and if you do, it is that this particular probiotic does not suit you and you need to stop taking it and seek out another type. Probiotics cause diarrhoea only when they do not suit that individual’s bacterial picture.

We all have a different amount of bacteria within our gut, and we have different amounts of different strains. This is why different strains suit different people, so trial and error, along with advice from your doctor could be the route you need to go down.

In terms of the question of do probiotics cause diarrhoea? No. Probiotics are supposed to help your gut health, including alleviating constipation and diarrhoea, they are not supposed to cause another issue.

Remember, we are all completely different from one another, and one size does not fit all. If diarrhoea is caused by the type of probiotic you’re taking, it’s time to switch it up and find a better fit.

Can Probiotics Help With Diarrhoea?

On the flip side of our last question, we now need to explore whether probiotics can actually help with diarrhoea. We’ve answered this question in part, but let’s dig a little deeper.

Diarrhoea can be caused when your body’s natural bacterial picture is disrupted. This can be due to a condition, stress, something you’ve eaten, or a virus. Whatever the cause, the effects can go on for anything up to a couple of days. Of course, we all know that diarrhoea is very unpleasant, whether it is associated with stomach cramping or not.

By putting right the disrupted balance in your gut, diarrhoea should be alleviated. If your diarrhoea in the past has been caused by a condition, such as IBS, again, probiotics have been shown in many studies to help with that problem. The fact that probiotics also help to keep food moving through your digestive tract at the right speed, without backing up or becoming sluggish, can help to regulate your bowel pattern, and avoid diarrhoea bouts.

Probiotic Strains Which May Help With Diarrhoea

We have mentioned that everyone is different, and that is still the case when talking about which particular strains might be useful for diarrhoea issues. Most types of probiotics support the gut, so most are going to have a certain good impact on diarrhoea issues, however not all target that particular problem.

One which is quite commonly referred to in terms of being helpful with this problem is saccharomyces boulardii. This is a yeast type of probiotic, although it acts exactly the same as a type of friendly bacteria, and ensures that your body absorbs nutrients as it should and also fights bad bacteria, the type which causes diarrhoea. Many studies have shown evidence that this type of probiotic could be useful in treating diarrhoea.

A few other types of probiotic to look into in regards to helping diarrhoea are:

  • reuteri (from the lactobacillus species)
  • rhamnosus

If you’re not sure which would be best for you, have a chat with your doctor and heed their advice.

How to Find Probiotics in Food

If you don’t want to take a supplement, or you want to try and up the amount of probiotic value in your diet overall, there are certain super foods you can try. These all have varying different strains of probiotic within them, and the amount of benefit they have completely depends on how much you eat, how often, and the type you go for. These are mainly fermented foods, as this is the best way of ensuring the live bacteria remains alive and thriving.

Some of the most common probiotic foods are:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickles and gherkins
  • Miso
  • Soy milk
  • Dark chocolate
  • Olives
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Tempeh
  • Traditional buttermilk

There are several more, but these are the easiest ones to find in supermarkets and health stores, and the easiest to incorporate into your diet.

Always Look For Live and Active Cultures

If you’re going to look towards yogurt for your probiotic content, then you should be careful which type of yogurt you go for. You might think that all yogurt is healthy, because that’s what we’re generally told, but did you know that some are actually far from good for you? There are many yogurts which contain added sugars and very little in the way of health benefit.

In order to get the best probiotic content from yogurt you should look at the label and search out the words ‘live and active cultures’. If you see this, or one ‘live’ or ‘active’ at the very least, then you know there is a good amount of probiotic benefit to be had from consuming that product.

Frozen yogurt isn’t a no-go, but again, make sure it has these words on the label, otherwise its quite a useless food to try and get probiotic benefit from. WE should also mention Greek yogurt. As delicious as it is, the production method for making Greek yogurt really cuts out a lot of the friendly bacteria you need to have a good amount of probiotic benefit, so it’s best to go for natural yogurt with live and active cultures, as a general rule.

A Word About Acute Diarrhoea

We know that diarrhoea isn’t the most delightful of subjects to discuss, but we also need to talk about the instance of acute diarrhoea from a health point of view.

If you are experiencing regular diarrhoea in an acute manner, e.g. it lasts for days, it is uncontrollable, and you have associated symptoms, such as cramping perhaps, then you should certainly see your doctor. Diarrhoea from time to time is quite normal for many people, especially if it is just one instance and it is as a result of having eaten something spicy or which your body didn’t particularly like. It’s also the case in those who suffer from IBS, to swing from constipation to diarrhoea. However, if you are experiencing diarrhoea regularly, this needs checking out and the cause needs identifying.

It’s not unusual to experience a stomach upset or diarrhoea as a result of taking antibiotics, and we’ve already mentioned that probiotics may play a role in helping in that regard. Acute diarrhoea however requires attention, and you should ensure that you remain hydrated at the very least.

Probiotics in The Mainstream

Probiotics have a lot of benefits, but they are also part of an unregulated industry. Because there is so much confusion around how much benefit there is for the regular person, and whether or not there are side effects, as well as the actual dosage you should be taking, every product has its own instructions to follow.

The only way you can be sure you’re getting the best probiotic for your needs is by shopping around, checking reviews, educating yourself on strains, and talking to your doctor if you’re not sure about anything. In addition, never start taking supplements without first consulting your doctor.

Whilst there isn’t much in the way of evidence to suggest dangers from probiotics, those who have a low immune system, perhaps due to chemotherapy, or those who suffer from conditions like a leaky gut, should certainly ask advice first, and heed the words spoken.

Can Probiotics Cause Diarrhea?
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Joshua LaBrooy

B.Com, JD.

Josh is a qualified personal trainer and nutritionist based in Sydney Australia. He is passionate about helping people reach their health and fitness goals through proper nutrition choices. Josh also holds a Bachelor of Commerce and Juris Doctor from The University of Melbourne.

You can connect with Josh here on Twitter or Facebook.

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