A Quick Guide to Understanding Probiotics

A Quick Guide to Understanding Probiotics

Publish Date June 1, 2024 2 Minute Read

Our Pharmacist, Olivia Kinney, demystifies some of the most common probiotic strains and explains how they work.

What is a probiotic?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are part of your normal gut bacteria. We often think of bacteria as harmful or unwanted, but bacteria are actually important for our bodies to work properly when digesting food and performing other functions.

Why are probiotics important?

Think of your body like an ecosystem. Everything needs to remain in balance for optimal health. Probiotics are not intended to prevent, treat or cure any disease; however, they may be beneficial for restoring bacteria balance after yeast infections and diarrhea. In our Pharmacy, we are often asked about using probiotics during a course of antibiotics. Studies have shown that probiotics reduce the frequency of antibiotic-associated diarrhea, but make sure to separate the probiotic and antibiotic doses each day.

What are the most common probiotic strains and what does each one do?

Probiotics are commonly sold over the counter, but not all species available are part of the normal human gut flora (the microorganisms that live in the intestines). The beneficial effects from one probiotic strain cannot be generalized to every strain. Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are the most common strains, easily recognizable in over-the-counter products. The precise way probiotics work is still being studied, but it is thought that lactobacillus and bifidobacterium produce compounds that limit growth of “bad” bacteria.

What are the best ways to get probiotics?

Probiotics are readily available in foods like yogurt and as over-the-counter products and dietary supplements.

What about prebiotics? What do they do?

Probiotics contain live microorganisms that, when ingested, are directly added to your gut flora. Prebiotics are different because they are plant fibers that stimulate growth of bacteria in your gut. Fruits and vegetables commonly contain prebiotics. Taking a prebiotic may make your probiotic more effective, but it isn’t required for the probiotic to work.

Eat (or Drink) Your Probiotics

Heating any of these foods kills both harmful and “good” bacteria. So if you want the full probiotic benefits, enjoy them in their raw form:

  • Yogurt
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kefir
  • Tempeh
  • Miso

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