Can expired probiotics cause diarrhea

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Can expired probiotics cause diarrhea

Like other medications and supplements, probiotic supplements do have an expired date. While the expiration date varies between products, most probiotics have a shelf-life of 1–2 years.

The question of whether expired probiotics can make you sick or cause diarrhea is a common concern among individuals who have mistakenly taken expired probiotics or have failed to consume them before the expiration date. 

So, let me shed some light on this topic for you.

Do Probiotics Go Bad After Expiration?

There is currently no scientific evidence suggesting that expired probiotics can go bad and make you sick.

Unlikely to do any harm, but may not do much good

When you take probiotic capsules, the goal is to introduce a sufficient amount of live bacteria into your gastrointestinal tract. 

However, as probiotics approach and surpass their expiration date, the levels of colony forming units (CFU) ( the number of viable microorganisms present in a probiotic supplement) may decrease significantly. 

Therefore, probiotics beyond their expiration date may not be at a high enough level of CFU to make a clinical difference.

Is It Okay To Take Expired Probiotics?

Since probiotic products are expensive, consumers may be reluctant to discard them. Moreover, some presumed that the life of medications can be extended past expiration with refrigeration.

So let’s take a look at what studies found.

A 2020 study published in Research Square found that many probiotic products retained their viability long after expiration, albeit lower than the recommended threshold for efficacy.

  • Therefore, in terms of efficacy, consuming out-of-date probiotics will not guarantee your desired health benefit.
  • In terms of safety, they are mostly harmless, but researchers in this study recommend not to consume expired probiotics because there still is not evidence to prove their safety level.

In my professional opinion, I do not recommend taking probiotics beyond their expiration as their potency and effectiveness decline over time. Instead, consider purchasing a new and unexpired batch from a reputable brand.

Can expired probiotics cause diarrhea?

As I have clarified above, expired probiotics are technically not bad. It is just that they lose effectiveness since the product contains fewer living organisms. So it is very unlikely for expired probiotics to cause diarrhea. 

However, It is important to be aware of any sign of harm such as an unpleasant odor or the presence of mold in your product. 

If your probiotics emit a pungent smell or undergo changes in color or consistency, they are probably spoiled as a result of moisture or fungal activity. Consuming spoiled supplements may lead to allergic reactions, feelings of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

What To Do If You Accidentally Take Expired probiotics?

First of all, don’t panic! If you happen to mistakenly consume probiotics that have expired, there is generally no need to worry. 

It is highly unlikely that any negative effects will result from their consumption. However, it’s always better to be safe, so here are a few steps you can take:

📌 Observe for Symptoms

Although the chances are slim, it is a great idea to observe any unusual symptoms or discomfort after taking expired probiotics. In case you experience them, seek for professional advice.

📌 Check for visible signs of spoilage

Examine the probiotic capsules or tablets for any visible signs of spoilage, such as mold or an off-putting odor since spoiled ones can make you sick.

📌 Cease Usage

When you discover that the probiotics you consumed have expired, discontinue their use. 

📌 Consult with a Healthcare Professional

For personalized advice and assistance with addressing your concerns or experiencing unusual symptoms after consuming expired probiotics, consulting with a healthcare professional would be recommended.

Let’s wrap up

Though expired probiotics won’t generally make you sick, they are unlikely to be as effective as those within their expiration date.

Accidentally consuming expired probiotics is generally not a cause for alarm. While there is a slim chance of any negative effects, it’s always a good idea to observe for symptoms and contact a healthcare professional if you experience any discomfort. 

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Dr Tun Min is s GP working in NHS UK and writing articles about supplements and vitamins based on personal clinical experience and clinical research.

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