What Are Probiotics and Why Are They Important?

Last Updated on August 16th, 2023

Probiotics are live bacteria that are known to be beneficial for the gut. Probiotic microorganisms break down prebiotic fibers, which are found in plants.

Many people recognize the important role of probiotics in digestive health. For instance, they take travel probiotics to get ahead of traveler’s diarrhea.

Common probiotic foods and drinks include yogurt, kimchi, tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, and kombucha. If you regularly consume these foods in your diet, you’re already taking in probiotics and reaping their many benefits. 


what is Probiotics food
what is Probiotics food
Probiotics and Good bacteria
Probiotics and Good bacteria

Supplements come in a range of forms, with some being effective for a specific part of the digestive tract. For example, you can get mouth probiotics that function in the mouth or gut probiotics that improve intestinal health.


what are Probiotics
what are Probiotics

The Gut Microbiome

Probiotics and intestinal health
Probiotics and intestinal health

There are trillions of microorganisms that reside in the human gut, formed of millions of different species of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. They work in symbiosis with your body to improve not only your digestive health, but your overall well-being.


Recent studies have focused specifically on two species of bacteria – Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. It’s thought that the presence of these two bacterial species contribute significantly to your health and their depletion have been associated with an increased risk of disease and obesity.

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Probiotic foods and supplements contain high amounts of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus and they are both approved by the FDA. Other common probiotic species that are included in many probiotic supplements include Lactococcus, Enterococcus, and Streptococcus.

Despite the gut microbiome being more widely known, there are other microbiomes in your body. You have a unique microbiome in your mouth and if you’re a female, you’ll also have a unique vaginal microbiome. The microorganisms found throughout your whole body is known as your holobiome.


Why Are Probiotics Important?

The consumption of probiotics has been closely associated with improved health and reduced incidence of disease. Whether you ingest probiotics through foods or supplements, they can improve your physical and mental health in a number of ways.


good bacteria and bad bacteria
good bacteria and bad bacteria


Here are some of the key benefits of probiotics and why they’re important for your health:

  1. Probiotics Food importance
    Probiotics Food importance

    The consumption of probiotics has been associated with the decreased risk of chronic diseases, including diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease.

  2. The consumption of probiotics may reduce symptom severity in those with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), autism, and sensory processing conditions. 
  3. Probiotics improve the diversity and balance of microbial species inside your gut.
  4. Probiotics can reduce negative symptoms in those with digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
  5. Foods and supplements that contain probiotic species can improve mental health because of the close connection between the gut and the brain (known as the gut-brain axis).
  6. Probiotics may improve immune system function by modulating certain immune pathways, making them beneficial for individuals with autoimmune conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, dermatitis, and food allergies.
  7. Some studies indicate the ability of probiotics to inhibit bacterial growth in the body, providing even more immune boosting effects.


Probiotics and Why Are They Important
Probiotics and Why Are They Important


Tips When Taking Probiotics

Check product expiration dates and store probiotics as directed to maintain viability. If new to probiotics, begin with a lower dose and gradually increase as needed. Timing-wise, consumption on an empty stomach before breakfast or with a meal varies. Avoid heat exposure, which can diminish potency. 

Consistency is crucial for maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria. Monitor your body’s response and consult a healthcare provider if uncommon symptoms arise. Prioritize quality by choosing reputable brands specifying strains and quantities. Moreover, complement probiotics with a diverse fiber-rich diet, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

It’s also crucial to support your natural immunity and overall gut health by incorporating probiotics before, during, and after travel. This can help your system handle infectious pathogens such as E. coli and prevent undesirable stomach problems.

You can obtain probiotics from various sources, including supplements and fermented foods. Select a source that aligns with your preferences and dietary needs. Additionally, consulting a healthcare professional is vital, as individual responses to probiotics differ. This ensures probiotics align with your unique health requirements.

Dr. Amanda
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