Overuse of probiotics could lead to a cluster of symptoms — that include brain fog and abdominal bloating — by increasing bacteria in the small intestine.
Too much consumption of Probiotics may lead to bloating, disorientation , according to scientists – including one of Indian origin – who advise people against self-prescribing ‘good’ bacteria. A paper on the study is now published in the journal Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology.
In a study of 30 patients, researchers found that 22 who reported problems like confusion and difficulty concentrating, in addition to their gas and bloating, were all taking probiotics, some several varieties.
The brain fog cleared and, for most patients, the abdominal symptoms “improved significantly” after treatment with antibiotics and stopping the use of probiotics.
“Probiotics should be treated as a drug, not as a food supplement,” Rao says, noting that many individuals self-prescribe the live bacteria, which are considered good for digestion and overall health.
D-lactic acid is known to be temporarily toxic to brain cells, interfering with cognition, thinking and sense of time. They found some patients had two to three times the normal amount of D-lactic acid in their blood.
“What we now know is that probiotic bacteria have the unique capacity to break down sugar and produce D-lactic acid. So if you inadvertently colonise your small bowel with probiotic bacteria, then you have set the stage for potentially developing lactic acidosis and brain fogginess,” Rao said.
Others have implicated probiotics in the production of D-lactic acid – and brain fogginess – in patients with a short bowel so their small intestine does not function properly, and in newborns fed formula containing the popular product.
Short bowel syndrome results in a lot of undigested carbohydrates that are known to cause small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO, and the high levels of D-lactic acid. Severe liver and kidney problems can produce similar problems.
All patients experiencing brain fogginess took probiotics and SIBO was more common in the brain fogginess group as well, 68 percent compared to 28 percent, respectively.
Patients with brain fogginess also had a higher prevalence of D-lactic acidosis, 77 versus 25 percent, respectively.
Movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract was slow in one-third of the brain foggy patients and one-fourth of the other group. Slower passage, as well as things like obesity surgery, can increase the chance of bacterial buildup, or SIBO.
Good food sources of probiotics include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and dark chocolate, which are generally safe because of the small amounts of bacteria present, Rao said.
The most commonly used probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species.
In the United States, probiotics are classed as dietary supplements and their production is not subject to the same Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations as those required of drugs.While probiotics can be beneficial in some scenarios, like helping a patient restore his gut bacteria after taking antibiotics, researchers advised caution against its excessive and indiscriminate use.