Can Probiotics Cause Weight Gain?

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There are so many benefits that come with taking probiotics such as helping to balance the bacteria in your digestive system, many imbalances are caused by a poor diet, illnesses, or medication.

A balanced digestive system and a healthy gut can contribute to better general mental wellbeing, reduce the severity of allergies and skin conditions, reduce the symptoms of digestive disorders, boost your immune system and overall contribute to healthier wellbeing. 

However, taking probiotics has been linked to weight gain and weight loss, and if you’re someone who is either trying to gain weight or lose weight, this can be a significant factor when considering taking probiotics. 

This article will guide you through everything you need to know about probiotics and weight gain so you can decide whether implementing probiotics into your health and wellness routine is suitable for you.

Can Probiotics Cause Weight Gain?

The answer to the question is yes, probiotics can cause weight gain, but alternatively, they can cause weight loss in some circumstances. It just depends on certain factors.

Below we’ll be discussing some of the major reasons for probiotics causing weight gain.

1. Commercial Probiotic Foods & Drinks Contain High Levels Of Sugars & Calories

If you’re interested in gut health, have done a bit of research on probiotics, or follow wellness or lifestyle influencers on Instagram, then you’ve probably come across information about probiotics like kombucha, miso, or tempeh. 

While it’s great that everyone can have access to and some understanding of the probiotics environment, what people need to know is that these commercial probiotics can be packed with added sugars to make them taste better.

Many people have the misconception that these probiotic foods or drinks are super healthy, which they can be if you pick the right ones, but even the most healthy foods like avocados, despite having beneficial nutrients, are high in calories. Too many calories can lead to weight gain.

Probiotics have added sugar which, according to researchers, is beneficial as it helps to increase the survival rate of the bacteria so it will have a better chance of reaching your intestines to help balance your gut microbiome. Sugar is also used in kombucha to improve the taste to make it easier for people to drink.

So if you are looking to take probiotics but you don’t want to increase the risk of weight gain, then it’s probably best to take a more effective route via supplements instead of consuming probiotic drinks or food.

If you’re not keen on taking supplements, then look out for the sugar or calorie content of these commercial products before buying them to find one that fits your daily requirements.

Alternatively, you could just reduce the consumption of commercial probiotic drinks or foods in your daily life to help reduce the amount of sugar and calories you are consuming.

There’s nothing wrong with using these probiotic drinks or foods daily, but if you’re trying to avoid weight gain, then you may want to consider increasing your daily exercise to burn off those extra calories or reducing calories from other meals to help compensate for the increased calories from probiotics.

2. Not Maintaining An Active and Healthy Lifestyle

You can’t expect a probiotic supplement, food, or drink to do all the work for you and allow you to maintain your current weight or lose weight.

You need to also implement a healthy diet and regular exercise routine to help regulate your weight. 

If you’re constantly consuming drinks with added sugars and fatty foods, then a probiotic will not be able to override these calories and help you maintain your weight. 

Consuming a balanced diet and partaking in regular exercise alongside taking probiotics will help to maintain your weight, or lose weight if necessary. 

If you’re taking probiotics to lose weight, then you may want to take additional supplements or integrate certain ingredients into your diet to increase the effectiveness of these probiotics.

Certain examples are green tea or turmeric, which can naturally boost your metabolism and aid in weight loss.

3. Some Probiotic Strains Promote Weight Gain

There are strains of probiotics out there that can promote weight gain, so without you knowing you may be taking one of these strains and expecting it to help you lose weight. 

These weight gain strains can be given to people who are recovering from anorexia or bulimia to help them gain weight during the refeeding phase of their recovery process.

Eating disorders and illnesses like this can severely impact gut health and therefore probiotics are useful for establishing more balanced gut health and encouraging weight gain.

One popular strain that is used for weight gain is Lactobacillus Acidophilus which alters the gut bacteria to encourage cell growth, and therefore weight gain.

If you’re looking for probiotics for weight loss then your best bet is to try a thermogenic probiotic that produces heat in the body to metabolize the fat more quickly.

The key ingredient is Lactobacillus gasseri.  However, these thermogenic probiotics should be taken carefully and following the instructions on the label.  You should also follow a healthy diet and active lifestyle alongside taking these kinds of probiotics if you aim to lose weight. 

4. Some Strains Of Probiotics Are Inactive or Not Potent Enough

Bacteria within commercial probiotics like yogurt or kombucha need to be refrigerated to survive or they will become inactive due to stomach acid.

You could be consuming inactive probiotics that are advertised as being healthy and effective, when in reality you’re just consuming calories without the probiotic benefits. 

Some probiotics are also more potent than others and therefore will have a higher chance of surviving in the harsh conditions of your stomach and will have a better chance of having a positive effect on your gut health.

If the strain isn’t strong enough, then it may not survive, and the likelihood is you’ll continue taking the probiotics with the mindset that they take a while to work while it’s actually doing nothing for your body apart from adding extra calories. 

5. Incorrect Design Means These Probiotics Don’t Even Reach The Stomach

Some probiotic products are not designed well and won’t even have a chance to work on your gut health, as they don’t make it to your stomach.

Some probiotic tablets or products can easily dissolve on the tongue and may never reach your stomach, so all the good things they claim to do, like balance your digestive system, alleviate cravings, boost your metabolism, and encourage weight loss don’t ever occur. 

Therefore, you could be consuming more calories from the probiotics in the hopes that they are helping you to burn off the extra calories, when in reality they didn’t even get delivered to your gut to have a chance to work their magic.

Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are the probiotic strains that are popular and recommended for good gut health. They products online contain the strains:

Probiology Probiotics

For other guides on probiotics and its effects:

Written and Medically Reviewed By

  • Chelsea Cleary, RDN

    Chelsea is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) specializing in holistic treatment for chronic digestive disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), SIBO, and Crohn’s disease. She educates patients on how they can heal themselves from their conditions by modifying lifestyle and dietary habits.

  • Julie Guider, M.D.

    Dr. Julie Guider earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine. She completed residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia. She completed her general gastroenterology and advanced endoscopy fellowships at University of Texas-Houston. She is a member of several national GI societies including the AGA, ACG, and ASGE as well as state and local medical societies.