Can You Take Too Many Probiotics? How Much Is Too Much?
By Christopher Walker
We bet that a good number of adults lack friendly microbiota in their body, hence the prevalence of constipation, bloating and other gastrointestinal issues. This is where probiotics via food or supplementation save the day. However, can too much probiotics be counterproductive? Even most vitamins and minerals in excess can be unhealthy. Are probiotics the same way?
Can You Overdose on Probiotics?
The short answer is yes. However, consider that the average adult body has about 10 trillion bacteria — both good and bad — roaming in your body at any given moment. Even a probiotic supplement with a mega-high probiotic count (i.e. 50 billion CFU) is only a tiny drop in the bucket in comparison.
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No, you won’t overdose on probiotics by taking a supplement and eating probiotic-rich foods. You would have to make a conscious effort to overdose. Even if you consume too much, your body would just expel the excess amounts through your fecal matter. Assuming you’re healthy, your body has an innate ability to get rid of excess vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it doesn’t need. This includes probiotics.
Also, the FDA has not released any official statements regarding an approved dosage or limit.
The Consequences Of A Probiotic Overdose
So, what happens if you consume too many probiotics at once? By too many, we mean a deliberate effort by consuming 10x the recommended dosage of a probiotic supplement. Will you drop dead in your tracks?
No, you won’t instantly croak. In the worst-case scenario, you may experience some minor adverse reactions. In a previous post, we discussed the possible side effects of probiotics. These include migraines, gas, skin rashes and nausea. These side effects don’t occur in the majority of users; only among a minor number of first-time users. However, if you take probiotics in mega-doses, then you elevate the risk of one or more of the side effects manifesting. Furthermore, the unwanted reactions may be more pronounced.
Too Many Probiotics From A Single Strain
While there are no studies we know of, we do advise taking a multi-strain probiotic product as opposed to a single-strain supplement. It’s possible that too many probiotics from a single strain may lead to a microbiome imbalance. This leads to a monoculture that may cause more harm than good. Again, there are no studies on this, but this is the sentiment expressed by Dr. Zach Bush, a triple-board-certified physician in the area of internal medicine, endocrinology and metabolism.
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In an interview with Shape magazine, Dr. Bush explains that too many probiotics from only one or two strains may create an “unstable intestinal environment.” We agree with this assessment. The gut microbiome is naturally diverse. It’s unnatural to overpopulate it with a single strain and create an environment where a single bacterium — even if beneficial — dominates.
The Proper Probiotic Dosage
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact right probiotic dosage since everyone’s requirements are different. It comes down to multiple factors, such as:
- The reason you’re taking probiotics in the first place
- Whether you’re already consuming probiotic-rich foods
- Your bodyweight
- Whether you’re on antibiotics
Our general recommendation is this: as long as you take a probiotic supplement according to directions and/or consume foods with probiotics, you’re good to go. You don’t need to worry about overdosing regardless of the CFU count of the supplement.
Can You Take Too Much Probiotics If You’re Ill?
There are exceptions, though, in which you need to exercise caution with regards to dosage. If you are gravely ill or have a condition that compromises your immune system, then we suggest speaking to your doctor before going on probiotics. While extremely rare, there are documented instances of patients developing complications after taking probiotics.
In one of these cases1, a 17-year-old boy hospitalized for colitis developed bacteremia one week after taking a lactobacillus probiotic strain. Bacteremia is a condition where abnormal traces of bacteria (good or bad) enters your bloodstream. Researchers concluded that probiotics in such an instance may pose a risk for immunosuppressed patients.
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There is also another case2 in which a 48-year-old patient developed endocarditis, an infection that occurs in the inner lining of the heart. The diagnosis arose after the patient had been on a lactobacillus probiotic strain.
We must stress again that these are exceptionally rare cases, and patients in both instances had pre-existing conditions that weakened their immune system. In this scenario, too many probiotics or even probiotics in moderate doses may lead to medical complications.
Too Many Probiotics Is Unlikely To Harm You
Can you take too many probiotics? Yes, you can; your body does not require an excess of anything, even things that are beneficial. Our suggestion is to take a probiotic supplement like Floracil50 and incorporate yogurt or fermented foods into your diet. You won’t even come close to overdosing, and you’ll begin feeling lighter as the body rids itself of old waste.