Probiotic Benefits for Chronic Fatigue Symptoms and Digestive Issues

Digestive system can be related to fatigue. Do probiotics help? Research is showing that probiotic benefits may include relief from chronic fatigue symptoms.

probiotic benefits

By taking advantage of probiotic benefits, you can help heal your leaky gut AND your chronic fatigue symptoms.

There’s nothing like suffering from debilitating chronic fatigue symptoms and digestive issues. Unfortunately, many people suffer from both. It’s not at all uncommon to be dealing with fatigue and bowel problems, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) simultaneously.[1,2] In this article, you’ll learn how probiotic benefits help chronic fatigue symptoms and can also help your digestion.

Gut Health and Fatigue Are Related

The association between gut problems and fatigue has been noted for years, but it wasn’t until very recently that researchers really started putting the pieces of the puzzle together, uncovering how abnormalities within the digestive system are related to fatigue and what can be done to heal both. Feeling chronically tired and also having digestive symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, loose stools, diarrhea, alternating diarrhea and constipation, gas, and reflux means you likely have a “leaky gut” along with an overgrowth of “bad” gut microbial flora and too little healthy flora.[3,9]

Leaky gut is another term for increased intestinal permeability.  It is caused by a loosening of the tight junctions within the gut lining which form a barrier between the inside and outside of the digestive tract. It can be caused by any type of inflammatory process, including:

  • Infections with yeast, viruses, or bacteria
  • Long-term or very frequent use of antibiotics
  • Repeated use of pain-killers (NSAIDs) or alcohol
  • Long-standing psychological stress; extended exercise (athletes)
  • Food allergies or sensitivities, such as gluten sensitivity
  • insufficient intake of antioxidants

When any of these factors increase the permeability of the intestinal wall, unwanted bacteria, proteins, and other compounds can leak through. To deal with these foreign compounds, the body mounts an immune response, leading to more inflammation.

CFS and Gut Bacteria

Researchers have now found that if you have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), your body likely produces high levels of immune cells directed against the toxins given off by unhealthy gut bacteria—a sign of leaky gut and a cause of inflammation.[7] In fact, the severity of both chronic fatigue symptoms and digestive symptoms was found to directly correlate with the number of these immune cells directed against toxin-generating gut bacteria.

Probiotics are “friendly” microorganisms (typically bacteria or yeasts) that can live in the gastrointestinal tract or on other mucosal surfaces and have beneficial effects on human physiology and health. There are three general probiotic benefits which researchers believe may help in the treatment of leaky gut and chronic fatigue:

  1. They increase the numbers of healthy bacteria that live in the gut while decreasing the unhealthy bacteria;
  2. They improve the ability of the gut wall to act as a barrier to keep unwanted compounds out of the body;
  3. They decrease your body’s own production of inflammation-producing compounds, lowering inflammation in the gut and throughout the body.[3]

How to Choose a Probiotic

By taking advantage of probiotic benefits, you can help heal your leaky gut AND your chronic fatigue symptoms. But with literally thousands of probiotics on the market now, it can be nearly impossible to choose. To get the most benefit, look for a high potency probiotic with billions, rather than millions, of microorganisms. Ideally, you want to purchase the highest quality, most potent probiotic you can afford, one which uses human-sourced strains of both lactobacilli (for the small intestine) and bifidobacteria (for the large intestine) and has been proven to survive the harsh conditions of the stomach.

Fixing your digestion and improving the health of your gut is absolutely essential for total health and for healing from fatigue. But gut health is not the only factor that causes fatigue. 

Share Your Experience

Have you used probiotics to treat CFS or another health condition? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.

[1] Dansie EJ, Furberg H, Afari N, Buchwald D, Edwards K, Goldberg J, Schur E, Sullivan PF. Conditions comorbid with chronic fatigue in a population-based sample. Psychosomatics. 2012 Jan;53(1):44-50.

[2] Simrén M, Abrahamsson H, Svedlund J, Björnsson ES. Quality of life in patients with irritable bowel syndrome seen in referral centers versus primary care: the impact of gender and predominant bowel pattern. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2001 May;36(5):545-52.

[3] Lakhan SE, Kirchgessner A. Gut inflammation in chronic fatigue syndrome. Nutr  Metab (Lond). 2010 Oct 12;7:79.

[4] Sullivan A, Nord CE, Evengård B. Effect of supplement with lactic-acid producing bacteria on fatigue and physical activity in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Nutr J. 2009 Jan 26;8:4.

[5] Singh PK, Chopra K, Kuhad A, Kaur IP. Role of Lactobacillus acidophilus loaded floating beads in chronic fatigue syndrome: behavioral and biochemical evidences. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2012 Apr;24(4):366-e170.

[6] Rao AV, Bested AC, Beaulne TM, Katzman MA, Iorio C, Berardi JM, Logan AC. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of a probiotic in emotional symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. Gut Pathog. 2009 Mar 19;1(1):6.

[7] Maes M, Mihaylova I, Leunis JC: Increased serum IgA and IgM against LPS of enterobacteria higher in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS): Indication for the involvement of gram-negative bacteria in the etiology of CFS and for the presence of an increased gut-intestinal permeability. J Affect Disord. 2007;99(1):237–240.

[8] Maes M, Leunis JC. Normalization of leaky gut in chronic fatigue syndrome(CFS) is accompanied by a clinical improvement: effects of age, duration of illness and the translocation of LPS from gram-negative bacteria. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2008 Dec;29(6):902-10.

[9] Logan AC, Venket Rao A, Irani D. Chronic fatigue syndrome: lactic acid bacteria may be of therapeutic value. Med Hypotheses. 2003 Jun;60(6):915-23.

This article was originally published in 2012 and is regularly updated.

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Kathleen Jade, ND

Dr. Kathleen Jade is a naturopathic physician and served for many years as the Medical Director and Editor-In-Chief of Natural Health Advisory Institute. She has been licensed as a primary … Read More

View all posts by Kathleen Jade, ND

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  • I stopped probiotics because I could not afford them. One month. I felt exhausted. I do have chronic fatigue and tomorrow I am getting them again. The best one for me is VSL 111. It’s 45$ but I will cut back on something else and would not stop taking them again. I take 2 a day. I do. Lost a bit from them but I would rather that than the chronic exhaustion. I hope this helps someone.

  • Karen, keep it up. Look at healing your gut lining also. Very important and find out what foods are causing the damage…..often wheat, dairy, and then things like eggs, corn, soy. Good luck. My daughter has had CFS for 8 years….since she was 13. Very difficult.

  • Also Karen, if you are in the USA check out a brand called Regactive. Can’t get it in Australia yet but it seems to aid glutathione production which aids in clearing toxins and thus assisting in better liver function, and more energy. Anyway….gooogle it. I am going to see if I can import some..but I doubt I will be allowed.

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is 100% undiagnosed Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome types the term CFS should never have been used & Fatigue is a symptom of EDS a connective tissue disorder a Born Genetic condition

  • I suffered with chronic for a year, and no supplements and vitamins and diet seemed to help. Finally I came across an obscure article about a woman describing how she used four different probiotics (to get a wide range) which helped her chronic illness. So I decided to try this. I happened to have four of the highly rated probiotics in my fridge. Within a few days, I was feeling a lot better. Months later, I’m finding that I need a continued intake of probiotics or else my fatigue gradually returns.

  • I have severe chronic bouts of c diff after colon surgery. Just started taking Xifaxen and its beginning to improve diarrhea. Still only can eat chicken rice soup, crackers, and bananas. This is the longest flare up, 4 weeks. Is there specialist in The Mid West???

  • I’ve had CFS for about 4 years. Because I can’t work I don’t have money to buy probiotic supplements so I get them through my diet. Whenever I’ve felt well enough I’ve researched ways to get rid of CFS. About 2 years ago I read about how diet could help and began cutting sugar out of my diet. This was really difficult as a low carb diet takes more planning and preparation. I rapidly experienced improvement in my energy levels, nausea and clarity of mind. My symptoms still fluctuated so I continued to research, just 2 months ago after a a big dip in my health I came across the book Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ
    Book by Giulia Enders. This put me onto probiotics, I have been eating a largely raw diet with an emphasis on unpasteurized probiotic foods. This includes home made sauerkraut, home made kombucha, olives and home made yogurt. My energy and stamina has improved hugely since I have started having about 4oz of yogurt after each meal. 6 weeks ago I also removed all fruit from my diet. I always ate plenty of vegetables and not too much meat but the removal of carbohydrates and fruit, and the upping of a viriety of probiotic and prebiotic foods seems to be key in my improvement.

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