Probiotics and Food Sensitivities

Let's face it…even if we want a more natural approach to health and wellness, the medical community has us all trained to look for a pill that will make us feel better.  Some prefer a prescription and others a supplement, but we want a quick and effective method to better health.  

When I see patients and clients with food sensitivities (or go through my own supplement drawer), questions about probiotics are really common.  Makes sense because we are all embracing the fact our gut impacts our health significantly.  

Remember there are a lot of causes of food sensitivities but many of them are going to revolve around how much histamine (and other biogenic amines) your body accumulates.  Too much histamine can be caused by too much being put into the body (food and drink), too much being created in the body (gut microbiome and mast cell activation), or a decrease in how well your body metabolizes histamine (histamine intolerance).  

Acknowledging the gut microbiome in this journey is important and we need to proactively read the label of any probiotic we consider because some gut bacteria actually increase histamine!

Probiotics which increase histamine

By varying mechanisms, the following probiotic strains are known to cause an increase in histamine…and these are the ones you should try to avoid if you're dealing with food sensitivities:

  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus
  • Lactobacillus delbrueckii
  • Lactobacillus helveticus
  • Bacillus lichenformis
  • Streptococcus thermophilus
Probiotics which reduce histamine

These probiotics are known to either directly decrease histamine, or they decrease other biogenic amines like tyramine which cause cross-reactivity with histamine.  Any which way, these are the guys who can actually decrease your symptoms:

  • Bifidobacterium infantis
  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium breve
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus salivarius

Neither of the lists above are intended to be comprehensive.  In fact, where does the very common Lactobacillus acidophilus show up?  This strain is not believed to actually lower histamine like some of the others above, but it is also not known to increase histamine.   

What to expect when you start a new probiotic

After reading the label of your current probiotic, you may consider changing it up and finding one specifically that will support you in your food sensitivity journey.  And there are some out there formulated for folks just like you and me!

Many of us think probiotics are pretty tame.  You swallow a capsule and then your gut is happier and you start feeling better.  Easy peasy!

Know that may not be your experience.  In fact, I would say new symptoms of bloating, gassiness, maybe some gentle cramping and changes in your stools are more normal than not after starting a new probiotic.  Even a short-term increase in food sensitivities or histamine symptoms are normal.  And that's because your gut is going through "remodeling".  

Remodeling is quite literally a mini-war going on in your gut.  It's the fight between bacteria - those who have been hanging out in your belly for an unknown period of time causing issues and those you just swallowed in that capsule who are going to help calm things down.  

The best way you can support the good guys (even if you don't have any increase in symptoms!) is to make sure you're getting both soluble and insoluble fiber daily (prebiotics, aka bacteria food), stay away from inflammatory foods like refined sugar and hydrate.  

And one other quick note about gut bugs…many of us are walking around with some real beasties in our gut.  Bugs like Clostridium and Enterococcus and Klebsiella..  These can all cause inflammation and put out more histamine all by themselves.  For these kinds of bugs, a stool test with a functional provider is going to be the most helpful.  And treatment will likely be more than a probiotic!

Sixty-second Self-care Tip…

Just like it would be unrealistic to label any of the probiotics above as truly good or bad, we tend to make those kinds of judgments regularly.  Even with the different foods we eat.  And then there is the resultant victory or shame after indulging in the good or the bad.  

I know you know what I'm talking about…

With the probiotics above, they each have a place and time when they are needed.  We learned that some of them are not going to serve us well right now on our food sensitivity journey.  It doesn't mean they're bad.  This is just not the right time or place.  

When you hear yourself saying, out loud or internally, that a food or a supplement or a medication…or even something as significant as a person or a job…is good or bad, consider reframing a bit.  

Is it truly bad or is this thing simply not serving me well right now? 

Only you can decide…but it takes the pressure off a bit.  Because sometimes you just need a bite of chocolate.  It's not bad!!  And maybe it really is serving you well right now in this moment.

Looking for some ways you can start supporting your body in this food sensitivity journey right NOW?!  My free download, 7 Steps to Minimize Histamine Intolerance, will help you do that.  Right now!


60-second self-care, food sensitivities, histamine, histamine intolerance, probiotics

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