Have you ever taken a probiotic supplement expecting it to clear up your bloating and found that it only made you feel like you swallowed a balloon? Or, maybe you decided to start eating sauerkraut, drink kombucha or kefir only to find that this caused new symptoms on top of the abdominal fullness?

Probiotics are often marketed as a solution for bloating, but in my clinical experience, abdominal bloating cannot be entirely resolved with probiotics–at least, not without dietary modifications and a few other supplements.

Here are a few reasons why probiotics can make bloating worse:

Most probiotic supplements contain FOS or GOS. These are so called “pre-biotics” that actually can contribute to gas formation in some individuals because they’re carbohydrates that bacteria feed on. Unfortunately, like we humans, many types of bacteria produce gas during digestion, leading to bloating. And, what if they’re the wrong kinds of bacteria?

Most probiotic counts are so low they aren’t potent enough against an already over-populated gut. The number “2 billion” might sound impressive at first, but think about it: each adult human gut typically houses trillions bacteria!  So a few billion bacteria per capsule at one or two capsules daily is small cookies, especially if you’re dealing with gut that’s currently dominated by the nasty kind.

Probiotics can worsen SIBO. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is a situation in which organisms that normally remain in the large intestine move up into the small intestine where they don’t belong. Symptoms can include bloating, nausea, weight loss and/or diarrhea, and can lead to malnutrition-related health problems if left unresolved. While there are several postulated causes of SIBO, it’s important to realize that adding more bacteria to an already ‘crowded’ gut is a bad idea.

Probiotics don’t do much good without dietary changes. That’s right: if you think that simply adding a probiotic of 30 billion daily is going to resolve the problems that a fast-food diet created, think again. Besides, it’s diet that largely influences what species and strains of gut flora live inside you— because the food you eat is the food they eat.  

Different probiotics have different effects on different individuals. Remember that product your friend raves about because it resolved her bloating? The same product just might make you constipated. It all depends on many factors, including diet, stress, medications and much more. That doesn’t mean your bloating is hopeless; it just requires more tools to resolve.

Don’t get me wrong: There are some very useful probiotic products that have lead to some significant, life-changing health improvements in my clients—but typically this only occurs as a follow-up to other important changes they’ve implemented.

A holistic nutritionist can design you a customized program that helps you address the root causes of your bloating. I observe that the best results are obtained with a combination of methodical, step-by-step approach, supplementation and dietary improvements.  If you’re feeling limited in life by your bloating, know that you can be helped with a holistic nutritional approach.

By Andrea

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