The probiotic craze is taking over, so it's no wonder we've received a slew of questions all centered on "how much of this stuff can I have in a day?"
We love probiotic waters, sodas, granolas, and supplements, but how much is too much? We set out to find the answer and chatted via email with nutritionist Charity Lighten from Silver Fern Brand, Dr. Zach Bush, founder and CEO of Biomic Sciences LLC, and Kiran Krishan, the microbiologist from Silver Fern Brand. Here's what they had to say.
Can You Overdose on Probiotics?
Charity says, "There is no overdosing on the strains Bacillus Clausii, Bacillus Coagulans, and Bacillus Subtilus, as well as Saccharomyces Boulardii and Pediococcus Acidilactici."
Dr. Bush had a similar response, and gave some insight into long-term effects."You cannot overdose on probiotics in a day, but instead, the long-term use of probiotics forces a narrowing of your bacterial ecosystem which is contrary to your goals for optimal gut health." So you don't want to overdo it. Just because you can't necessarily OD doesn't mean keep going.
Symptoms of Going Too Far
How can you tell if you've hit your limit? Dr. Bush explained some signs. After you experience some relief (to whatever gut woes you were taking probies for in the first place), if you keep going, you're creating an "unstable intestinal environment," he said. This could result in "gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, diarrhea, gas, or bloating." Basically the opposite of what you were trying to do. Because you're typically taking only one strain of probiotics, "you are creating a monoculture of a certain strain." Too much of the same strain, and you've got problems.
Krishan said, "If someone takes way too much, [for example] the equivalent to 10-15 of Silver Fern's drink packs in a day, they may experience some loose stool. In a clinical trial with liver failure patients, we used what is equivalent to six drink packs per day and there were no adverse reactions at all and these were very sick subjects."
What we've gathered is that it's quite difficult to overdo it, but it is possible, and the results are pretty uncomfortable.
How Much Is Too Much?
Here's where it gets sticky: there's no FDA-approved limit or dosage. It varies based on who you ask. "I limit probiotic use to two to three weeks following an antibiotic exposure or intestinal illness," said Dr. Bush. "Depending on your medical condition, a medical professional may prescribe an even larger dose that's appropriate for the patient."
And we know you're probably hoping for a simpler "here's exactly how much you should take" answer, but your best bet with probiotics — and all things medical, for that matter — is to consult your doctor. But for now, don't worry about your favorite probiotic drink or supplement; you should be just fine!