Probiotics are often recommended for people dealing with uncomfortable gas, bloating, and/or digestive issues. Since the word probiotics actually refers to a healthy bacteria, that recommendation can be a bit confusing. Is it best to consume probiotics through food or through supplements? And is it ever OK to double up?
Can you take too many probiotics?
It's generally safe to consume multiple forms of probiotics. But it's important to take an individualized approach when deciding how many probiotics to take and in what form, says integrative gastroenterologist Marvin Singh, M.D.
According to family physician Bindiya Gandhi, M.D., if eating fermented foods and taking multiple probiotic supplements causes someone to feel worse (think bloating, gas, nausea, or abdominal pain), then there is most likely a medical problem beyond dysbiosis, or an imbalance of bacteria in the microbiome. In this case, they should consult a doctor.
"Some people who have a histamine intolerance may actually have a problem with fermented foods, as well," Singh says. "They may get reactions or rashes as a result of taking too much."
Can I double up on probiotics?
It's absolutely OK to take multiple probiotic supplements at the same time, says Singh. But you may want to look into trying supplements with different strains to target various needs within the gut.* Otherwise, taking just one multistrain probiotic supplement will serve the same purpose.
"I wouldn't eat fermented foods and take a probiotic literally at the same time," Gandhi says. Instead, she recommends taking a probiotic supplement first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and eating fermented foods throughout the day.
If possible, Singh recommends incorporating probiotic-rich foods into the diet in addition to your probiotic supplement. "Not only do you get the probiotic benefit of the food itself," he explains, "but you're also getting the nutritional value of actually eating something that has other vitamins and minerals, as well."
Is there an ideal amount of probiotics to take each day?
While everyone is different, Gandhi recommends a probiotic with more than 20 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) within each dose. And looking for probiotics with various strains can be helpful in diversifying the gut microbiome, she explains.*
If you're wary about increasing probiotic intake, the best thing to do is monitor your body for any reactions or discomfort. You can also ease into it by taking "one pill every three days and slowly come back to the recommended dose," says Singh. "There's no rush." Alternatively, since most probiotics come in capsule form, you can open up the capsule and take a fraction of the dose to see how you do with it, and build up to a full dose as tolerated.
Probiotics are bacteria that can help enhance gut health—through probiotic-rich foods or high-quality supplementation.* Taking multiple types of probiotics is generally safe, according to experts. Taking an individualized approach to probiotic consumption and monitoring symptoms, such as gas, bloating, and abdominal pain, can help people determine the right amount.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.