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Probiotic for Bloating: Treatment, Dosage, and Side Effects

Bloating is a common digestive issue that affects millions of people. Various factors can contribute to bloating, including an imbalance of gut bacteria. Probiotics are a promising solution to help manage gastrointestinal health by improving digestion, reducing gas production, and improving overall gut health.

This article examines the science behind bloating and probiotics and helps you to understand how to improve your health.

Understanding bloating

Nearly everyone you know has felt, at one time or another, gassy, distended, or bloated. Abdominal bloating is one of the most commonly reported gastrointestinal symptoms, which is characterized by trapped gas, fullness, and abdominal pressure. Usually, this feeling occurs after eating and resolves spontaneously; however, for some people, bloating and distention are chronic and negatively affect their daily lives.

The causes of bloating are various, complex, and still not fully understood. Common causes range from dietary habits to medical conditions. Here are a few common examples:

  • Overeating
  • Eating a lot of gas-producing foods (beans, lentils, cabbage, onions, and carbonated drinks)
  • Swallowing air from eating too quickly, chewing gum, or talking while eating
  • Artificial sweeteners (sorbitol and mannitol can be difficult to digest)
  • Sudden increased consumption of high-fiber foods

Chronic bloating can be associated with health conditions such as:

  • SIBO — small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (an abnormal increase in the overall bacteria population in the small intestine)
  • Lactose, fructose, and other carbohydrate intolerances
  • Gluten sensitivity or celiac disease
  • Gastroparesis (a condition where the stomach empties more slowly than normal)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other disorders affecting the large intestine

Women usually have higher rates of bloating than men. The menstrual cycle and the hormone changes during the cycle are possible explanations for bloating in women because hormonal changes can cause water retention, which contributes to feeling bloated.

Various daily habits, such as lack of exercise and sleep, stress and anxiety, smoking, or drinking, can also cause bloating.

What are probiotics?

The World Health Organization describes probiotics as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”

They are non-pathogenic microorganisms — bacteria or yeast, which means they do not cause harm to humans. They are known to have particular qualities to survive in the gastrointestinal tract because of their resistance to acidic stomach pH and tolerance to bile and pancreatic fluid. Probiotics represent an important group of beneficial microorganisms that can be found in foods such as yogurt, kefir, various fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, pickles), kombucha, cheeses (gouda, cheddar), and various dietary supplements.

Benefits of probiotics

These beneficial microorganisms perform several important roles inside our bodies, primarily related to positively influencing and maintaining our gut health and improving our immune system. Here are some potential key functions of probiotics:

  • Balancing gut microbiota. Poor diet, illness, or extensive antibiotic use can cause an imbalance in our gut microbiota, resulting in poor digestive health. Probiotics can help to maintain a healthy balance of our gut bacteria.
  • Boosting the immune system. Probiotics can help stimulate the production of antibodies and support the activity of immune cells; moreover, they can help to protect against pathogenic viruses and bacteria by producing antiviral and antimicrobial compounds.
  • Enhancing digestive health. Probiotics can help to break down food, resulting in more efficient absorbance of the nutrients. Furthermore, by producing antiviral and antimicrobial compounds, as mentioned above, probiotics may be able to prevent harmful bacterial infections or help restore damaged microbiota after infections or the use of antibiotics.
  • Metabolic effects. There is some evidence that probiotics may help in weight loss and regulate blood sugar levels. In patients with type 2 diabetes, selected probiotics with prebiotics improved insulin sensitivity, carbohydrate metabolism, fasting blood glucose concentrations, and reduced metabolic stress.
  • Mental health benefits. Probiotics can influence brain function and mental health through the gut-brain axis, which is the network that links the central nervous system with the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Supporting heart health. Certain probiotics can lower 'bad' cholesterol (LDL) levels; also, some studies have shown that probiotics can reduce blood pressure by producing bioactive peptides (small proteins) acting like natural blood pressure-lowering compounds.
  • Increase nutrient absorption. Some probiotics can synthesize vitamins such as B or K and may enhance the absorption of minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium).

All the provided information about the benefits of probiotics on your health is based on current research. It is very important to understand that a lot of scientific questions about probiotics are still unanswered, and more research is needed.

The Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are well-known bacteria species used in probiotics. Other bacterial species, like Enterococcus, Streptococcus, and Escherichia, are used as probiotics too. Saccharomyces boulardii is a type of yeast widely used as a probiotic, although it is not normally found in the human intestinal tract. Due to its ability to grow at human body temperature and its resistance to antibiotics, this yeast strain is recommended for those on a prolonged antibiotic course.

Do probiotics help with bloating?

In scientific literature, you can find mixed evidence on whether probiotics can help with bloating. Overall, probiotics can modify gut microbiome, meaning they can potentially improve gut health and bowel movements, and by doing that, they could help with bloating or other digestive problems.

In one study, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients received probiotic strain Bacillus coagulans. The results showed that the participants experienced significant improvements in their bloating severity scores.

Nevertheless, in one trial with 275 participants taking encapsulated B. infantis, no significant difference in bloating was observed. Despite various results, we should be aware that it is very difficult to design scientific studies or clinical trials in order to answer questions about specific strains, doses, and the exact mechanism of action of probiotics in bloating.

And to acknowledge how probiotics can improve bloating, we need to understand how gas enters or is produced in the intestine. Bloating can be the result of increased gas production or, in other terms — fermentation.

How can probiotics reduce bloating?

Let's take a deeper look at potential ways in which probiotics can reduce bloating:

  • Balancing gut microbiota. Probiotic bacteria compete with other pathogenic bacteria for nutrients and can also modulate pH in the intestine.
  • Enhancing digestion. Probiotics can help with certain foods digestion. For example, some probiotic strains produce enzymes that help break down lactose and, in that way, reduce bloating in lactose-intolerant individuals.
  • Modulating gut motility. Gut motility is regulated by the enteric nervous system (ENS) found in the intestinal wall. Gut microbiota can communicate with the central nervous system, meaning the motility can be regulated by microbiota composition.
  • Reducing inflammation. Inflammation can cause changes in gut motility and sensitivity, leading to bloating. Probiotics may promote an anti-inflammatory environment, which reduces bloating.
  • Enhancing gut barrier function. Probiotics can improve the mechanism of the gut barrier, contributing to reduced bloating.
  • Producing short-chain fatty acids. Probiotics can ferment dietary fiber into short-chain fatty acids, which later provide energy to gut cells, reduce inflammation, and support gut barrier function.

Which probiotic strain is best for bloating and gas?

Best probiotic strains

A meta-analysis study published in 2023 revealed three probiotic strains and two mixtures significantly superior to placebo in reducing abdominal bloating. This article involved 39 studies in which 13 single-strain probiotics and 11 multistrain groups were tested. Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus plantarum, Bacillus coagulans, and Bifidobacterium longum plus Lactobacillus rhamnosus were effective in improving abdominals bloating scores.

  • Lactobacillus plantarum is commonly found in many fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, yogurt or other fermented dairy products, sourdough bread).
  • Bacillus coagulans is a beneficial probiotic bacterium that is quite resilient and can survive harsh conditions (acidic environment of the stomach). It is not so common in traditionally fermented foods like other strains. Therefore, sometimes, the Bacillus coagulans strain is added to foods in order to enhance their probiotic content (for example, in probiotic yogurt or dairy products, drinks or juices, probiotic snack bars).
  • Bifidobacterium longum is well known for its positive effects on gut health — it is commonly found in the human gastrointestinal tract and is one of the first bacteria to colonize the gut of infants. It can be found in a variety of fermented foods: yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, or miso.

How to use probiotics for bloating?

Using probiotics to help with bloating involves choosing the right strains, using the proper dosage, and maintaining consistency. First of all, before starting any new supplement regimen, consult with your healthcare provider.

Choose from the strains listed above or other strains known to help with bloating and gas (Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, others). Take your probiotic supplement daily, preferably at the same time each day. Always check the supplement instructions to see if probiotics should be taken with or without food. Some probiotic strains should be taken with food in order to enhance their survival through the digestive tract. Also, follow the recommended dosage.

Dosage

The dosage of probiotics can vary depending on the specific strain of the bacteria and your individual health condition.

Colony-forming units (CFUs) are a measure in microbiology to estimate the number of viable fungal or bacteria cells in a dose. When we are talking about probiotics, this number indicates live, active microorganisms that can divide, form colonies, and provide health benefits. Usually, probiotic supplements contain 1–10 billion CFU per dose, while some products may have up to 50 billion CFU or even more. Nevertheless, higher counts do not necessarily enhance the health benefits of the supplement. The effectiveness of the probiotics also depends on the strain of the bacteria (not all bacteria have the same ability to survive and colonize the gut), the timing of administration, and the patient's age, among other factors.

When buying probiotic supplements, usually, on the label, you can see the CFU number, which indicates the number of viable microorganisms per dose. You should aim for products that list the number of CFUs at the time of expiration rather than the time of manufacture because the viability of probiotics will drop over the product's lifespan. The CFU number should be calculated for the expiration of the product day.

As mentioned above, the effectiveness of probiotics depends on various factors, therefore, you should always consult with your healthcare specialist about the need for probiotics for your health benefits. The recommendations may vary according to the desired health benefit, probiotic strain, and dose.

If you are just starting to use probiotics, start with a lower dose and gradually increase. Your body needs some time to adjust to it; moreover, this helps to minimize any potential side effects.

Side effects

Probiotics are considered safe for most people, but sometimes, they can have side effects, especially at the beginning. These side effects are mild and temporary, but it is important to be aware of them. Common side effects are associated with various digestive symptoms:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea
  • Soft stools
  • Gas and bloating (these are the most common side effects when starting probiotics because your gut needs to adjust to the new balance of gut bacteria)
  • Taste disturbance

After starting probiotics, you should keep a journal of your symptoms, noting any changes in bloating, gas, or overall digestive comfort. By doing that, you can determine if the current dosage is effective. If side effects persist, you should consult your healthcare provider — maybe you need to adjust the dosage or try different bacteria strains.

How to choose the best probiotics for bloating

When choosing the best probiotics for bloating, you should consider several factors, such as specific strains of probiotics (Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium lactis, and others), the dosage, and the form of the product. Probiotics can be found in various forms, so choose the form that fits you the best (capsules, tablets, powders, or liquids).

Another very important step is to choose probiotics from reputable brands that conduct third-party testing and can ensure the quality of the product.

📝Healthnews editor's top picks

In the previous article by Healthnews, we examined and presented the 14 best probiotic options for bloating and gas. Here is an overview of three products from that list.

Future Kind probiotic
  • Designed to support your intestinal health, digestion, and immune system
  • Ten different bacterial strains are mixed, reaching 30 billion CFUs in just one take
  • At least four bacteria strains in this formula are scientifically proven to help with bloating
Unbloat comm block
  • Enriched by digestive enzymes, prebiotic fiber (food for your microbiota), and herbal remedies
  • Contains seven probiotic strains
  • 25 billion CFUs of probiotics to boost your gut function even further
Routine comm bl
  • Specially formulated for women in order to support their gut and vaginal health
  • Bacteria strains in the probiotics are proven to enhance bloating and gut health
  • Other ingredients like ashwagandha or chicory (both scientifically proven to have numerous health benefits) also contribute to overall health

Final word

It is important to understand that while probiotics are considered to be safe for human use, there is still a risk to your health if you consume probiotics without consulting a healthcare specialist. Also, it is important to bear in mind that depending on the severity and duration of bloating, it is advised to seek medical advice so that the root cause is treated rather than the symptoms.

Digestive health is very important to our well-being, having an impact on energy levels to immune function. If you're been struggling with mild bloating, gas, or other digestive discomforts, probiotics may be a game-changer for you. However, a balanced diet rich in fiber, regular physical activity, hydration, and stress management also are essential for your wellness. Together with a healthy lifestyle, probiotics can enhance your digestive health.

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