Are my pro­bi­otics mak­ing me foggy?

First For Women - - Health -

Q:

I’ve been hav­ing trou­ble con­cen­trat­ing lately, and my sis­ter sug­gested I stop tak­ing my pro­bi­otic sup­ple­ment. But I’m con­fused: I thought pro­bi­otics were sup­posed to make me health­ier, hap­pier and more pro­duc­tive?

A:

Yes, you’re right about that— pro­bi­otics can be enor­mously help­ful for brain and body func­tion. But re­search from the Med­i­cal Col­lege of Ge­or­gia at Au­gusta Uni­ver­sity re­vealed that, for some women, reg­u­lar use of over-the-counter pro­bi­otics can come with sur­pris­ing down­sides.

In the small study, 68% of oth­er­wise healthy par­tic­i­pants tak­ing a daily pro­bi­otic com­plained of brain fog as well as gas and bloat. The re­searchers found that in many of these cases, sev­eral strains of lac­to­bacil­lus bac­te­ria, which are com­mon in pro­bi­otic sup­ple­ments, weren’t mak­ing it to the colon, where they work to boost mood and ease di­ges­tion. In­stead, the pro­bi­otics were tak­ing up res­i­dence in the small in­tes­tine, where they feast on undi­gested car­bo­hy­drates and pro­duce com­pounds linked to fog, gas and bloat.

Since you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing un­ex­plained brain fog, I rec­om­mend dis­con­tin­u­ing your pro­bi­otic sup­ple­ment for a week. If symp­toms van­ish, you have your cul­prit. If they per­sist, con­sider see­ing your doc­tor—she can do a breath test to de­ter­mine if an over­growth of bac­te­ria is to blame.

If your pro­bi­otic is the prob­lem, I sug­gest se­lect­ing a sup­ple­ment that’s tar­geted to spe­cific con­cerns on an as-needed ba­sis. For ex­am­ple, if you have di­ar­rhea, the strain Lac­to­bacil­lus rham­no­sus GG (found in Cul­turelle pro­bi­otics) is proven to fend off stom­ach bugs. To learn more about which strains might be best for you, I rec­om­mend pick­ing up Gut Bliss, by Robynne Chutken, M.D.

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