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Probiotics may occasionally cause a temporary increase in digestive gas. But, beyond that, they do not present any known risks for most people. In one trial of 140 healthy infants, formula supplemented with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and probiotics appeared as safe as standard formula, and did not have any effect on infant growth by the end of the 7-month trial. 1 However, individuals who are immunosuppressed could conceivably be at risk for developing a dangerous infection with the probiotic organism itself; at least one person taking immunosuppressive medications has died in this manner. 2 In a detailed review of four studies, researchers concluded that the use probiotics did not benefit patients with severe acute pancreatitis. 3 Furthermore, according to one study, the use of probiotics led to an increased risk of mortality in patients with severe acute pancreatitis, and should, therefore, be avoided under these circumstances. 4
A Note About Prebiotics (FOS and others)
Some probiotic supplements also contain prebiotics like FOS to "feed" the good bacteria. FOS appear to be generally safe. However, they can cause bloating, flatulence, and intestinal discomfort, especially when taken at doses of 15 g or higher daily. People with lactose intolerance may particularly suffer from these side effects.
Interactions You Should Know About
- If you are taking antibiotics : It may be beneficial to take probiotic supplements at the same time, and to continue them for a couple of weeks after you have finished the course of drug treatment. This will help restore the balance of natural bacteria in your digestive tract.
- Gibson RA, Barclay D, Marshall H, Moulin J, Maire JC, Makrides M. Safety of supplementing infant formula with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and Bifidobacterium lactis in term infants: a randomised controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 101(11):1706-13.
- MacGregor G, Smith AJ, Thakker B, Kinsella J. Yoghurt biotherapy: contraindicated in immunosuppressed patients? Postgrad Med J. 78(920):366-7.
- Sun S, Yang K, He X, Tian J, Ma B, Jiang L. Probiotics in patients with severe acute pancreatitis: a meta-analysis. Langenbecks Arch Surg. 394(1):171-7.
- Besselink MG, van Santvoort HC, Buskens E, Boermeester MA, van Goor H, Timmerman HM, Nieuwenhuijs VB, Bollen TL, van Ramshorst B, Witteman BJ, Rosman C, Ploeg RJ, Brink MA, Schaapherder AF, Dejong CH, Wahab PJ, van Laarhoven CJ, van der Harst E, van Eijck CH, Cuesta MA, Akkermans LM, Gooszen HG, Dutch Acute Pancreatitis Study Group. Probiotic prophylaxis in predicted severe acute pancreatitis: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 371(9613):651-9.