Can You Take Too Many Probiotics?

Nikhil Goswami

Probiotics are bacteria and yeast that can help enhance your immune and digestive system. These bacteria help break down food, relieve an upset stomach, eliminate harmful bacteria, absorb nutrients, and help prevent multiple diseases that harmful bacteria can cause. They also help to improve your overall health.

You can consume probiotic foods daily to give your body the necessary probiotics. However, if you are not eating probiotic-rich food for a long time, you can start taking probiotic supplements. Now, this brings a question, can you take too many probiotics?

Can You Overdose on Probiotics?

You are unlikely to overdose on the supplement when you take high-quality probiotics, in larger doses or for long periods. 

This is where probiotic supplements come into play.

Research on probiotics in conjunction with the human gut microbiota is still relatively new. Probiotics did not become popular till the 1990s. Therefore, we still have so much to discover. With that said, even though the results of this research are still in the infancy stage, evidence shows that probiotics are not harmful even in long-term use. This is because your body already has over 29.5 trillion bacteria, so adding some more helpful bacteria should not be harmful.

As the name suggests, probiotic supplements for women contain probiotics – live microorganisms that have evolved with humans. 

However, overdosing on this dietary supplement is still possible because our bodies differ, and some people’s systems might react differently. Luckily, the effects of excess probiotics are not severe, and with simple solutions, you can get rid of the adverse symptoms.

Consequences of Taking Too Many Probiotics

In simple words, overdosing on a probiotic product will not bring beneficiary results. If your body doesn’t accept a large number of these microorganisms, it can cause side effects like constipation, vomiting, abdominal pain, and more. 

Your body requires probiotics for overall health, as your gut microbiome requires good bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Saccharomyces Boulardii. The bacteria action helps the intestine absorb nutrients properly and allows waste to pass easily. The recommended dosage of probiotics is 5 to 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU) per day for children. Adults can take around 10-20 billion colony-forming units daily. However, exceeding this amount can cause bloating, gas, headaches, or more problems.

Check the supplement label to see how much CFU is in each serving. If you use probiotics for the first time, starting with a lower dosage is better. As your body starts adjusting to the more significant amount of probiotics, increase the dosage until you reach the recommended limit.

On the other hand, probiotic-rich foods have 1 billion CFUs, making them an excellent option to use daily. Unlike supplements, you can take more than one probiotic food daily, and it won’t cause any adverse side effects. But how do you know that you are taking more probiotics than your body can handle? We’ll share some ways to find out.

  • Excess Gas

Unfortunately, when you take probiotics in excess, you end up creating problems you were trying to eliminate. One of these problems is gas issues. According to research done in 2010 by the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, it is normal to produce gas often when you begin taking probiotics. This is just your body adjusting to the new bacteria in your system. So, if you recently started taking probiotics and noticed persistent flatulence, that could be the cause. Hopefully, you should see improvements in a few days or weeks.

However, there is a problem if the issue persists after this period. In some cases, you could be reacting to the probiotics, but in other cases, you have taken too many probiotics. Studies show that excess microorganisms in your small intestine could lead to Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). This is when the extra microorganisms in your body go into overdrive and ferment everything you eat. The fermentation, in turn, leads to excess air in your digestive tract. This extra air is the reason behind the unpleasant flatulence you might be experiencing.

  • Bloating

The explanation for bloating is similar to that of excess gas. Just like excess flatulence, bloating is a side effect of taking a probiotic product for the first time. The solution is to keep taking the supplements and let the symptom subside over time. However, if it goes on for over a few weeks, it could be another sign of SIBO. This means that your probiotics are creating excess air in your digestive system, which leads to bloating.

  • Stomach Aches

Just like bloating and too much gas, a stomach upset from taking probiotic products for the first time is also a natural response. Therefore, you should start to feel better in a few weeks as your body adjusts. However, if the unpleasant bloating persists for more than a few weeks, it can lead to other side effects like nausea and cramping. Hence, these are signs that the probiotics don’t agree with you, or you are consuming too many and need to cut back.

  • Brain Fog

The extra gas in your system affects more than just your gut; it can also influence your mind and mood. There is something called the gut-brain axis, which means that your brain and gut have a connection. Therefore, your gut health can also affect your mental health.

According to research, surplus gas in the system caused by bacterial overgrowth can lead to your inability to think clearly. This gas causes issues with making judgments, short-term memory, and the ability to concentrate. Therefore, if you notice that you are less attentive or forget things more easily when you are on probiotic supplements, it’s a sign that you are overdosing on them. Experiencing those symptoms means you need to pause or stop altogether.

  • Diarrhea

When you start taking way too many trips to the restroom, you could be experiencing one of the many side effects of excess probiotics, which is diarrhea. Similar to other side effects of initial probiotic ingestion, you should start feeling relief from diarrhea in a couple of days or weeks as your body adjusts to the supplement. But, constant diarrhea could be a sign the probiotics are creating an imbalance in your microbiome. This imbalance significantly weakens your digestive systems. Hence, causing you to experience chronic toilet problems.

  • Infections 

Infections are not a common sign of overdosing on the probiotic supplement. However, they can seriously affect those with compromised immune systems. Those with a weakened immune system run a higher risk of serious infections when they take probiotics. This includes people with HIV/AIDS, people who just had surgery, sick infants, etc. The reason for this risk is that your gut health affects your immune system. Therefore, your system cannot function properly when your microbiome doesn’t have a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria.

Therefore, if you are someone who might have a compromised immune system, do not take probiotics without the advice of medical professionals. Talk to your doctor, and allow them to give advice on how you should proceed. There are numerous strains of probiotics, and some are better than others. Furthermore, some work best for specific conditions. Therefore, you should speak to your doctor, and they will prescribe what would work best for you.

  • Headaches 

Some bacterial strains in probiotic foods and supplements produce unwanted biogenic amines. These amines can cause some people to experience side effects. 

Eating foods that produce biogenic amines in low doses is safe because your intestines can eliminate them before you start to feel any side effects. However, when there is a high amount of these amines in your system, your intestine will be overworked. In most cases, it cannot get rid of the amines before you start to feel the side effects. One of the most common side effects of excess biogenic amines is headaches.

You mostly find biogenic amines in food that undergo fermentation, including dried meat, cheese, wine, and some types of fish. It is unlikely that probiotics can cause you to produce biogenic amines and lead to adverse side effects.

  • Increased Histamine Levels

Some bacterial strains, such as lactic acid bacterial strains found in foods and supplements, can produce histamine, a type of biogenic amine. When producers make fermented foods such as yogurt and cheese, they use Lactobacillus. Using Lactobacillus means we have more foods with high levels of histamine.

Histamine is indeed essential when it comes to physiological functions, such as immune response and the secretion of gastric acid during digestion. However, high levels of histamine tend to be mildly toxic in humans because it causes blood vessel dilation. This dilation leads to immune cells entering tissues that combat pathogens, resulting in several adverse effects. Therefore, if you have a high level of histamine in your system, you might experience issues such as allergy symptoms, shortness of breath, and nausea.

When selecting a probiotic brand, it is essential that you pick a product that does not contain strains that produce histamine. If you are looking for probiotics without these strains, you can look at Omni-Biotic products. These products are all tested and do not contain any of those unwanted bacterial strains.

  • Adverse Reactions to Certain Ingredients 

There are instances when you might react to taking too many probiotics because of other ingredients found in the product and not the microbes themselves.

In addition to different bacterial strains, manufacturers include other substances such as soy, eggs, or lactose in their products. These ingredients can lead to adverse reactions in people prone to allergies. Furthermore, some people, such as vegans and people with lactose intolerance, are not supposed to eat foods containing these ingredients. Hence, it is vital that you read the supplement’s label and check for any ingredients you are allergic to so that you can avoid the risk of allergies.

Luckily, there are several variants of probiotic goods, so you should be able to find some that are vegan-friendly or free from ingredients you do not want.

How to Handle Taking Too Many Probiotic Supplements

If you are experiencing any of the conditions mentioned above, there are ways to curb the problem and start feeling better. There are also things you can do to avoid experiencing these negative symptoms in the first place. Here they are.


There are numerous companies out there that create probiotic goods. Unfortunately, not all of them create these products the right way. You can save yourself from having to deal with probiotic overdose by doing thorough research. 

They use faulty methods to cut production costs, leading to low-quality products or contamination. These kinds of products can be harmful to your health and cause some of the symptoms of overdose. 

Sometimes, the product might be of good quality, but since the manufacturing process was not optimal, the CFU dose might be too much and cause adverse side effects. Therefore, do your research and only purchase products from trusted brands that third-party labs have tested.

There are some other factors you should consider when selecting the right product for you, and they include:

Choose Safe Probiotic Species and Strains

When selecting a product, you are faced with different species and strains. Keep in mind that these species have different CFU and address varying issues. 

For example, Lactobacillus acidophilus helps to treat eczema and diarrhea in kids, while strains from Bifidobacteria can help support the immune system. Therefore, look for a dietary supplement that could solve your health condition and still offer the appropriate dose.

You can easily read labels to find out what species, subspecies, and strains a product contains. If you need help deciding on a product, contact your doctor.

Check Bacterial Source

You can find probiotic strains from various sources. However, the best option is to opt for human strains. These strains are potent and can last for as long as needed in the human body. Other bacterial strains, such as those found in cheese and yogurt, do not last long and are not as effective.

Determine the Quality of Products

Besides poor production methodologies, some crafty brands include unnecessary ingredients to boost the number of their products. These products can cause serious adverse effects and leave you worse off than when you started taking them. Therefore, you should avoid brands with unverified products that have not been tested and have no reviews. 

Lowering the Dosage or Changing the Strain

In most cases, you might be able to reduce or relieve symptoms of overdosing by reducing your intake by half. Simply lowering your intake decreases the number of these microorganisms in your system. Consequently, this alleviates some problems that come with probiotic overdose. 

In other cases, the solution could be to change brands or strains. Consequently, this change could lead to an improvement. However, before you take any actions to alter your probiotic prescription, seek help from someone with medical expertise.

Changing Brands

Lowering a dose or changing a strain might not be the answer to your problem, and when this happens, it could be because of the brand. Therefore, you can try switching brands. You might be surprised that you can use the same dose and strain from another brand and not experience the side effects of a probiotic overdose.

Taking Probiotics on an Empty Stomach

Sometimes, you might not be experiencing specific symptoms because you are taking copious amounts of probiotics. In some cases, you might have surplus gas because the probiotics react with certain foods. Therefore, taking your supplement on an empty stomach can reduce the chances of this reaction. Furthermore, without this reaction, you increase the odds of the beneficial bacteria surviving in your system.

You should try and take your supplement about 30 minutes before eating. However, if you are still experiencing issues, you can try taking the dietary supplement on an empty stomach before you go to bed.

Drinking Lots of Water

You often experience side effects not because you have taken too many probiotic supplements but because your digestive system is detoxifying itself. Therefore, you can drink lots of water to speed up detoxifying. This is best because water will wash your system of toxins, and you can quickly pee to get rid of them. Furthermore, drinking water can help you stay hydrated if you suffer from diarrhea.

If you have overdosed on probiotics, you can still drink water to help relieve the symptoms. Drinking water helps because the water should be able to quickly dilute the amount of CFU in your system, reducing the amount that causes the overdose.

Using Antibiotics

If your symptoms have gotten to a point where lowering your probiotic dose has no effect, you might need to take antibiotics. When you develop issues caused by bacterial overgrowths, such as SIBO, you need to take antibiotics to kill off the excess bacteria and restore balance in your gut microbiome. This restoration of balance should help get rid of these side effects. 

As you take these antibiotics, you should stop taking probiotics because the point of taking the latter is to kill excess bacteria. So, introducing more microorganisms into your system through probiotics is counterproductive. In some cases, you might need to stop taking these probiotics altogether.

Visiting a Healthcare Provider

After trying all methods and nothing seems to be working, you have one last resort. You can visit a healthcare provider because they will be able to help. You can explain to them all the methods you have tried, the products and strains you have used, and the condition you are trying to treat. After getting your history with probiotics and doing proper diagnostics, they will be able to proffer solutions to your ordeal.

Issues Surrounding Probiotic Dosage

Even though there is such a thing as taking too many probiotics, it is hard to determine the amount you have taken, whether it is via supplements or probiotic-rich foods.

Issues with Supplements

Most probiotics on the market are pretty unregulated. Therefore, knowing how many CFU are in the supplements you take might not be easy. Furthermore, it is challenging to decipher the aliveness of the microorganisms in your system. Hence, even though you know the number of CFU in your supplement, you cannot confidently say how many are alive and working correctly. Even healthy bacteria that are alive might not survive long enough in your gut to do their job.

The delivery mechanism is another factor to consider when talking about doses. How you take your supplement determines how your body will digest and absorb the probiotics. Your consumption pattern matters because your stomach acid has the potential to destroy probiotics before they reach your gut and are absorbed. If anything depletes the population, then you will get a lower amount of CFU than you expected or none at all. Therefore, manufacturers use freeze-drying and encapsulation to protect probiotics and optimize their functionality. 

Issues with Probiotic-Rich Foods

If you opt for probiotics-rich foods such as yogurt to get your dose, there are also a few indicators to tell if you are getting the correct dose of probiotics. Several factors play a role in the probiotic content of these foods. These factors include:

Storage Methods Used in the Supply Chain

The conditions the yogurt faces as manufacturers supply the food from the factory to the grocery store are essential. If the conditions are not optimal during transit, many of these microorganisms could die, leading to a lower number for your consumption. Keep in mind that the yogurt would still be safe for consumption, but you might not ingest the correct probiotic dose from them.

The Temperature of Your Refrigerator

So, it would be best if you considered buying yogurt with groceries. If you are lucky, you might purchase yogurt with all its good bacteria intact. Conversely, you might end up with fewer microorganisms. Regardless, storing your yogurt at home plays a significant role in keeping the probiotics in the fermented food alive. The temperature of your refrigerator should be optimal. The storage environment should be as cool as possible so the probiotics can survive. Again, even at a less-than-optimal temperature, your yogurt might survive and still be edible, but we cannot say the same about the life of the bacteria.

The Probiotic Supplements Strain

Bacterial strains differ, and they contain different doses of CFU. Therefore, the yogurt you opt for might contain live probiotics. However, due to the strain of these microorganisms, you might not be getting the correct dosage of CFU. This is the reason why many people opt for probiotic supplementation. Even though these probiotics have dosage problems, it is easier and more likely for you to take the right one. This is because they come in various forms. Hence, some are formulated to survive certain storage conditions and conditions in your body to deliver the correct CFU dose. 

What Is the Appropriate Daily Dose of Probiotics?

It is challenging (or nearly impossible) to determine the correct daily dose of probiotics. There is a challenge because the correct dose varies based on the human gut flora and the probiotic product. Generally, studies show that probiotics are safe for consumption, and the chances of experiencing side effects are low.

As mentioned earlier, professionals recommend that children take 5 to 10 billion CFU daily. Also, adults should take around 10-20 billion CFU daily. However, increasing this dosage does not lead to higher benefits. If anything, it can cause issues you were trying to treat.

Moreover, probiotics are live microorganisms, and these organisms can die over time. Therefore, it is hard to pinpoint how many CFU exist in your probiotic supplement dose. The inability to determine the number of CFUs is one of the reasons scientists find it difficult to recommend the right amount of probiotics to take daily. It is also why they find it challenging to understand what amount of probiotics is too high for you.

However, there are ways you can estimate the amount of CFU in a supplement at any time. In order to guess the amount in a supplement, take a look at the probiotic label. 

As a rule of thumb, about half of the CFU in the product should still be alive and well before the expiration date. That said, a supplement’s exact CFU content is difficult to pinpoint. Thus, choosing the right strain is more important than the amount of CFU. This is because the right strain can treat your condition, whereas a product with more CFU may or may not. This extra CFU might be too much for your system, leading to overdose symptoms.

Conclusion: Is It Okay To Take Too Many Probiotics? 

Probiotics are helpful gut bacteria or yeast naturally found in your body and some foods like yogurt. You can also get them as supplements. With proper dosage, these beneficial bacteria have health benefits, including relief from constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, vaginal infections, etc. However, taking it in excess can be counterproductive for some people.

There are also probiotics for weight loss & probiotics for UTI if you want to have a look at it. 

Your body indeed has over 29 trillion bacteria. Therefore, it is highly unlikely to overdose on probiotics, but it is still a possibility. Hence, taking too many probiotics can develop issues like diarrhea, headaches, stomach aches, difficulty breathing, and others. This is why you should take the recommended dosage and buy trusted products. You can visit any pharmacy and find the product over-the-counter (OTC). Alternatively, you can check online.

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