Mindy from Too Many Jars In My Kitchen! is back, talking about the importance of introducing probiotics watchfully and slowly. She shares excellent advice for anyone new to probiotic foods or supplements, and especially those on the GAPS diet. Please feel free to ask questions or share your own experiences in the comments. Mindy is so helpful, warm, and encouraging; I’ve enjoyed sharing this space with her! –Wardee
Sometimes we have to learn things the hard way. Sometimes it takes us more than one time. At least that’s how it was for me when adding in probiotics while on the GAPS diet!
Probiotics are an essential part of the GAPS diet (a gut-healing protocol). This is how we repopulate our guts with all of the good stuff that we’ve been missing. However, as we introduce them, our bodies can experience difficulty. I hope that by sharing my story, you’ll avoid making the same mistakes I did!
Making Up for Lost Time
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride recommends getting to a therapeutic dose of probiotics (15 to 20 billion bacterial cells/day for an adult) and then holding there for about 6 months. With this in mind, I slowly started adding probiotic supplements after a first round of the Intro diet. I started with a quarter of a capsule and increased up to 2 capsules per day without too much of an issue.
After that, I forgot about continuing to increase the amount I was taking. A few months later, it dawned on me that I should have been increasing this whole time. I realized I needed to make up for lost time, and I was determined to do it quickly!
Within a few weeks I was up to 3-1/2 capsules per day. That would not have been so bad if my body wasn’t so sensitive to increases and I hadn’t also been increasing the probiotics in my food at the same time.
Probiotics in Food
It seems obvious to mention that there are probiotics in food! I actually knew this at the time. What I didn’t think about is how the quick increase in probiotic supplements, combined with the highly probiotic foods I was beginning to eat, would cause such strong die-off reactions.
Take kefir, for instance. Kefir is highly detoxifying, especially if you let your rapidly growing kefir grains stay in your milk. Ask me how I know!
I had never made kefir before starting GAPS and didn’t know that I should get rid of my extra kefir grains. I just let them keep growing and growing, which made the kefir even stronger, which caused even more die-off symptoms.
Gradually, throughout the month or so that I was increasing my probiotic supplements while also consuming my super strong kefir, I felt worse and worse. I started getting severe headaches every day, I felt extremely exhausted, and had a rash that was spreading all over.
That’s when the dots were all connected and I realized I was going much too fast for my body and needed to slow down.
My Tips for Introducing Probiotics
After my experiences with increasing too quickly, I put together these tips for introducing probiotics. Please remember that I’m not a doctor and these are just my personal opinions.
Increase Slowly: It can be tempting to hurry up the process. I’ve found that a quarter capsule increase per week is a very manageable amount. If you aren’t as sensitive, you may be able to increase by a half capsule at a time.
Take Breaks: I found that my body did better if I didn’t continually increase. If you’re now at one capsule per day, take a few days to a week before starting to work up to 2 per day.
Watch Your Food Sources: Make sure you’re not increasing the amount of probiotics from your food too quickly, if you’re also increasing your supplements at the same time.
Pay Attention: Look for signals that you are going too quickly for your body. You might have headaches, rashes, exhaustion, or other signs. These will be unique to your own body.
Not everyone is going to react the same way to increases in probiotics. Some of you are going to be able to increase much faster than I can, and will get up to your therapeutic dose in no time.
I would caution you, though, to start slow and pay attention to your body’s signals. I ignored mine and ended up feeling miserable. Oh, and I did mention at the beginning of this post that it took me two times to learn this. After a break, I started increasing my probiotics again. Even though I went slower that time, it still wasn’t slow enough for my body. Paying attention really is important!
I wanted to quickly get to my therapeutic dose, but it took some painful lessons to realize that this healing journey isn’t a sprint, but a marathon. I’ll still get there eventually, but my body will be happier and better able to handle it if I take my time.
Thanks, Mindy! Great advice. Everyone — please leave comments with your questions or to share your own experiences!