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Acidophilus: Smelly Side Effects and Other Dangers

Updated on August 3, 2010

What is Acidophilus?

The human body is chock full of bacteria. Some types are harmful to our health and some are helpful. People are interested in acidophilus because it is one of the helpful kinds; it is actually made of up a number or organisms. Acidophilus includes friendly bacteria such as L. acidophilus, L. casei, and L. bulgaricus and are highly concentrated in the intestines in both sexes and the vagina in women.

Prevalent Side Effect: Farting

If you’re not embarrassed about firing off the occasional stink bomb, Acidophilus’ most common side effect shouldn’t concern you. Although releasing sulphur compounds from your bum scares away friends and the opposite sex, it doesn’t pose a serious threat to your health.

When you introduce acidophilus supplements (which are helpful bacteria) into the body, it can potentially throw the natural flora of the intestinal tract out of whack. Some types of bacteria feed on fiber from our diet and release methane and hydrogen gas. Other bacteria thrive by absorbing the gasses. Acidophilus can produce flatulence when too many types of bacteria are releasing gas and not enough are absorbing it.

Kick bad bacteria out of the neighborhood.
Kick bad bacteria out of the neighborhood.

Battle of the Bacteria

Taking acidophilus does more than put helpful bacteria into the body. It kills off harmful bacteria as well. This often causes an effect where people feel worse before feeling better, because as the micro-organisms die off toxins are released into the body.

This side effect to acidophilus supplementation is called a herx reaction. It was first noted by a team of dermatologists named Adolf Jarisch and Karl Herxheimer. When treating skin conditions some patients developed even worse skin than they started with, as well going into a sickly state. Fortunately it was temporary and merely a pathway to healing experienced by some but not all.

How Common are Acidophilus Side Effects?

Most people will not notice any changes when on a regimen including acidophilus. If you want to play it safe, start by taking low dosages and slowly build up the amount you take over time. This will ensure the death of bad bacteria won’t be quite as sudden so you’re body will have more time to adjust.

A minority experience diarrhea, excess gas, rash, hives or the symptoms similar to a flu or allergy reaction. These side effects are temporary and will fizzle out over time. The one is exception is that some will have trouble breathing due to an allergic reaction. If this happens to you or a loved one, seek medical attention immediately.

Are Acidophilus Supplements Worth Taking?

For the gastrointestinal tract to stay healthy and work optimally, it needs good bacteria. In theory the body should keep the balance of good and bad bacteria in check; however, situations can arise when intervention is a good thing.

Taking acidophilus improves digestion, prevents and deals with an overgrowth of bad organisms and gets rid of symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. It also aids in colon health.

The people most in need of acidophilus are those that have used antibiotics to treat infections. Antibiotics can wipe out the natural flora in the body, both good and bad organisms. Eating yogurt or taking acidophilus capsules helps the body rebuild the flora needed in the digestive system.

Skeptical Viewpoint on Acidophilus

It should be noted that not everyone in the medical establishment agrees about the effectiveness of acidophilus supplementation. Some argue that the regulatory systems work just fine in the vast majority of people and that there is no need to intervene. Since the body is so complex it is hard to prove with 100% certainty that acidophilus has the health benefits it is claimed to have.

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