The word is out—probiotics are crucial for a healthy gut and a happy life.
So, why does it sometimes seem like you start to feel worse before better when beginning a probiotic regimen?
As you may already know, the friendly flora that comprise the majority of your microbiome are essential for a vast number of important functions in your body, like optimizing your digestion, supporting your immune system, balancing your moods, and boosting your metabolism. Indeed, we rely on the trillions of beneficial bacteria (called probiotics) in our gut to maintain nearly every aspect of our health and wellness.
But, if you’re just beginning your journey on your path to improved gut health, you may notice some bumps in the road as you start to incorporate probiotics into your daily wellness plan, especially if your microbiome is out of balance from the many aspects of our modern lifestyles that can deplete beneficial bacteria.
You see, things like antibiotics in food and as medicine, antibacterial cleaners, excessive stress, sugar, processed foods, and even the aging process can lower your populations of probiotics that you need for optimal health. So, when you start replenishing the friendly flora in your gut, you might feel some changes as your microbiome begins to shift towards a healthier balance.
This is due to probiotics’ amazing—and decidedly health-enhancing—detoxification effects on the body.
Probiotics and the Healing Crisis
Effective probiotic supplements like Hyperbiotics PRO-15 are packed with live, healthy bacteria just waiting to dive in and begin reshaping your gut environment. And when you start supplementing with a high-quality probiotic formula, the good guys begin building strong colonies of beneficial bacteria that inhibit the inhospitable microbes in your GI tract—who then start to die off in mass amounts.
When large quantities of the bad guys are crowded out and attacked, they release toxins that can build up faster than you can expel them. Your body then creates an immune system response to clean house, which can manifest as mild and temporary side effects like cramps, bloating, gas, diarrhea, irregularity, achiness, and even skin breakouts.
Officially known as a “healing crisis” or the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction, these detoxification effects (frustrating as they may be) are actually excellent temporary indicators that your probiotics are working to reshape, repair, and remold the flora within your gut microbiome, which, in turn, can lead to a stronger foundation of health.
What’s more, probiotic strains stimulate a variety of positive activities in the intestinal tract, like producing lactic and acetic acid, stimulating cytokine production, increasing T-lymphocytes, creating natural antibacterials, and synthesizing vitamins and enzymes.
Often it takes some time for your body to acclimate to this new level of activity, so you may notice a difference (either positive or negative) in the way you feel for a few weeks until your system adjusts. Keep in mind that if you increase the dosage at a later date, you may return to this acclimation period once more.
The good news is that probiotics’ ability to detoxify your body extends beyond just getting rid of the unwelcome guests in your gut. Once your microbiome is balanced and the bad guys are under control, your friendly flora work hard to continually expel other harmful toxins that may be lurking.
Detoxifying Effects of Probiotics
Your mighty gut microbes are more powerful than you may think, and they exert some big detoxifying influences on your body that can have significant lasting impacts on your health, such as:
• Reducing heavy metals. Certain strains of beneficial bacteria (like Lactobacillus) have the ability to bind and detoxify heavy metals that can accumulate in the body, like lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium.1 In one study, Lactobacillus rhamnosus bacteria were able to effectively bind both lead and cadmium in vitro.2
• Breaking down pesticides. Research shows that Lactobacillus plantarum and other strains in fermented kimchi can break down and degrade pesticides commonly used in the environment (think golf courses and turf) and on crops like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and soy.3
• Excreting BPA. Bisphenol A is an industrial chemical often present in plastics (like water bottles) and resins that can leak into our foods and drinks and cause issues. The good news is that probiotics work to reduce absorption and facilitate excretion of BPA, so it doesn’t build up in the body and negatively affect your health.4
Now that you know how probiotics can work to detoxify your gut both in the short- and long-term, how do you get through a temporary healing crisis that has you feeling less than your best?
How to Deal With Temporary Detox Effects
If you find yourself struggling with detoxification effects, don’t be discouraged! Remember that it’s only temporary, and there are several ways to help your body adjust to your probiotic regimen so that it truly works for you.
If you find yourself experiencing what you think may be detoxification effects after starting a probiotic formula, here are three simple ways to get through this awkward time of bloaty discomfort:
1. Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is the absolute, most efficient method for cleansing toxins from your body, and hydrating your system can also help keep temporary diarrhea and constipation at bay. Aim for at least half your body weight in ounces each day, and feel free to add lemon for an alkaline boost that further helps to move out toxins.
2. Lower Your Dosage: If you’ve just started a probiotic formula and you’re experiencing any effects that you feel are unmanageable, consider taking a break and giving your body a couple of days to balance out before resuming at a lower dosage. Detoxification effects can differ for each person, and lowering your dosage and slowly working back up is a great way to ease into your probiotic regimen, especially if you’re having trouble adjusting.
3. Get Moving: Our bodies are designed for movement, and an overly sedentary lifestyle can mean that your body isn’t functioning at its best, especially your detox powerhouses, the circulatory and lymphatic systems. In fact, the lymphatic system—because it doesn’t have a “pump” like the heart—needs movement for lymph fluid to transport waste and toxins out of your cells. Any sort of exercise that you enjoy will help to get things moving, but jumping on a mini trampoline is especially effective for pushing lymph fluid around the body.
When you first begin adding probiotics to your daily life—or increase your dosage for more intense support—keep in mind that an adjustment period may be required and that it’s actually a very good thing.
Depending on the state of your gut health, replacing your undesirable bacteria with beneficial bacteria can give your system a bit of a jolt, so help your body through the process by being patient and easy about it, drinking plenty of water, staying active, and getting quality sleep.
Once your microscopic friends have had a chance to settle in and set up shop, you can finally begin to experience the level of health and vitality you deserve!
1. Monachese, M., Burton, J. P., & Reid, G. (2012). Bioremediation and Tolerance of Humans to Heavy Metals through Microbial Processes: a Potential Role for Probiotics? Applied and Environmental Microbiology,78(18), 6397-6404. doi:10.1128/aem.01665-12
2. Ibrahim, F., Halttunen, T., Tahvonen, R., & Salminen, S. (2006). Probiotic bacteria as potential detoxification tools: assessing their heavy metal binding isotherms. Canadian Journal of Microbiology,52(9), 877-885. doi:10.1139/w06-043
3. Cho, K. M., Math, R. K., Islam, S. M., Lim, W. J., Hong, S. Y., Kim, J. M., . . . Yun, H. D. (2009). Biodegradation of Chlorpyrifos by Lactic Acid Bacteria during Kimchi Fermentation. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,57(5), 1882-1889. doi:10.1021/jf803649z
4. Oishi, K., Sato, T., Yokoi, W., Yoshida, Y., Ito, M., & Sawada, H. (2008). Effect of Probiotics,Bifidobacterium breve and Lactobacillus casei, on Bisphenol A Exposure in Rats. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry,72(6), 1409-1415. doi:10.1271/bbb.70672
Emily Courtney is a Writer and Editor at Hyperbiotics and mom to two fun and active boys. Emily is passionate about natural wellness and helping others learn about the power of probiotics for vibrant health! For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.
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