Adrienne Youdim MD, FACP

The Low Down on Probiotics

There has been a lot of buzz about the benefits of probiotics, but what are they exactly and why are they so important for our health?

Why do we need bacteria in our intestines?

Our gut contains millions of bacteria and other microorganisms that help promote proper digestion, maintain our defenses against the bad bugs (that cause illness and disease) and help produce vitamins in the body such as vitamin K. Without these bugs we would lose our ability to maintain many vital bodily functions. There are situations in which the balance of these good gut microorganisms can be affected – antibiotics, a change in diet, or illness can cause an imbalance of good gut bacteria to bad gut bacteria.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are intended to help replenish the good bacteria that live in our digestive system and to help promote health. Probiotics can be naturally occurring in fermented foods like pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi, and in some milk products such as yogurt or kefir. Most people do not consume enough of these foods to maintain a healthy balance, so probiotics taken as supplements can help.  

Using probiotics can help restore the balance of bacteria in the digestive system and have been shown to have many benefits including: aiding in proper digestion, preventing digestive disorders, antibiotic associated diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Probiotics can also support the immune system and help reduce inflammation. More recently, healthy gut bacteria have been shown to have a greater role in our general health including promoting good metabolic health, immunity and even mood and cognitive health. Studies support a connection between a healthy digestive system and better mood and reduced anxiety.

Not all probiotics are created equal. Your probiotic should contain:

  • Multiple strains of probiotics
  • 1 billion to 3 billion CFUs (colony-forming units)
  • The bottle should state clear instructions for use, dosing, expiration date, and how to store your probiotic.

PROBIOTIC PRO TIP: Heat destroys probiotic bacteria, so make sure not to drink hot coffee, tea, soup, or other hot liquids for 1 hour after you’ve take probiotics in ANY form, either as a supplement or in foods.

Make probiotics a part of your daily routine for improved overall health and wellness!

Certain individuals should not use probiotics without the guidance of a physician or health professional.  If you are taking immunosuppressive drugs or chemotherapy, or have yeast allergies, consult your physician before taking probiotics.

The medical information provided here or anywhere on is intended as an informational resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Supplements and products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration.
Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of prebiotics
Gibson GR et al.
Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology (2017) doi:10.1038/nrgastro.2017.75 Published online 14 June 2017


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