So you’re a probiotic virgin, but you’re ready to take it to the next step. You’ve done the research, prepared yourself. You know about all the benefits and even when to take your probiotic so it’s most effective. You’ve already gotten over the fact that you’re putting bacteria into your body and have even started preaching to your friends: “no really, it’s good bacteria....there’s a difference.” And taking a pill or powder is easy enough, right?
You’re ready to dive in with confidence, without turning back. Move over inflammation and malabsorption of nutrients, you’re gettin’ that gut in shape.
But, um, maybe you’ve started taking probiotics for the first time and it’s not as glamorous as you thought. Maybe there’s some gas? Okay, a lot of gas. Bloating? Yeah, there’s that too. But wait, you thought this was all in your past!
We know, we know. But don’t be alarmed. Just like giving up your virginity in real life, giving up your probiotic virginity can be awkward. But these not-so-fun symptoms are totally normal and there’s a good reason for it. Let us explain.
That gas, bloating and stomach cramping you may be experiencing (some even report “flu like” symptoms) is a scientific phenomenon: The Herxheimer Reaction or, as the kids on the street are calling it, “herx” or “herxing.” When your body is experiencing high doses of good bacteria (can I get an amen to those 20 billion CFUs?) they’re paving the way for a healthy atmosphere for further good bacteria colonization. The bad bacteria (the ones that are giving you systemic inflammation, poor digestion and flared up skin) can’t live in this nice, new environment so they all die off. This mass die off of bad bacteria causes a high release of toxins and it’s more than the body can handle at once. Before those toxins can be detoxed from the body, gas and inflammation levels rise giving first time probiotic users an uncomfortable surprise. Think of this as toxic overload in the body.
It’s when these symptoms persist, anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on how imbalanced the gut is, that the new probiotic users give up the probiotics. “This doesn’t work; it’s making me feel worse.” “I think I’m allergic to my probiotic.” We assure you that’s not the case. Keep with it, don’t give it up! Ultimately, your symptoms will fade as your gut heals. In other words, it’ll get less awkward if you keep taking your probiotics.
Besides just letting it pass (maybe literally...) there are some things you can do to quell your sometimes uncomfortable symptoms:
- Eat detoxifying and anti-inflammatory foods. If your body is already going through a lot inflammation-wise, avoid the sugary treats, fried foods or processed/packaged items.
- Stay hydrated!
- Eat antioxidants to help combat the inflammatory effects of oxidation that occur while toxins are being released.
- Consume warm or room temperature liquids. No need to slow down your intestinal motility. Keep those bowels smoothly movin’.
- Sweat! It’s the easiest way to detox. Good old fashioned exercise will do it but you can also try steam rooms or infrared saunas.
- Bounce! Rebounding helps to remove stagnant toxins.
- Dry brushing helps stimulate lymphatic toxic release as well as brushing it off the surface skin level.
Have no fear, probiotic newbie: things will get better! Know that it’s all part of the healing process and there will soon be a day where you can pop that pill or down that powder with ease, all while continuing to do wonders for your gut. We’ll see you on the other side!