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Key Findings

  • Probiotics, regarded as “good” bacteria, can help regulate the “bad” bacteria that can result in viruses or infections.

  • Primarily tasked with supporting healthy digestive and immune systems, probiotics support other bodily areas as well – including the skin.

  • Found in a host of foods, especially those that are fermented or cultured, probiotics may be needed in supplement form as well to ensure adequate levels.


Getting to the root of probiotics

Breaking down a name into its core structure can be revelatory.  And the word “probiotics” doesn’t disappoint.  When defined on a root level in both Greek and Latin, “pro” means “for” or “promoting,” and “biotics” means “life.”  No wonder that probiotics are best known for helping foster optimal health and well-being.

Bacteria can get a bad rap, especially because most people tend to associate it with contagious bugs that can result in flus, colds and infections.  While this negative connotation is certainly valid, there are also a host of helpful bacteria that help balance out their adverse effects that can be obtained through food, beverages and/or supplements.

The nature of probiotics

Let’s take a microscopic look at what probiotics are before we take an equally thorough look at the positive support they have on body and skin.  

The human microbiome is made up of microbes (microorganisms) that can have both negative (viruses) or positive (digestive balance) effects.  Interestingly enough, while these microscopic organisms outnumber human cells by 10 to 1, they only represent one to three percent of the body’s total mass.

Live versions of the microorganisms that are normally present in the intestines, probiotics can help increase the amounts of good bacteria in the body. This is especially important when factoring in the impact of genetics, lifestyle, age and diet.  

As a group, probiotics are synergistically charged with supporting a healthy digestive system.  Individually, they have unique responsibilities as well.  

Here are the top three probiotics and their contributions to overall good health:

  • Lactobacillus – The more than 50 species of this probiotic can help support treatment of  yeast infections, traveler’s diarrhea, bacterial vaginosis and other conditions, along with support of warding off respiratory infections.

  • Bifidobacteria – Comprising most of the healthy bacteria in the colon, bifidobacteria can support to improve glucose intolerance, blood lipids and IBS symptoms.

  • Saccharomyces boulardii – The sole yeast probiotic, saccharomyces boulardii can support address antibiotic-triggered diarrhea.

What do probiotics do?

These live microorganisms perform a variety of vital functions that are essential to optimal well-being. While mainly charged with supporting a healthy digestive tract and supporting a healthy immune system, probiotics execute other bodily tasks as well.

Along with supporting regular digestion, these friendly bacteria’s gut-balancing powers can support those who suffer from gastrointestinal disorders such as heartburn, Crohn’s Disease, diarrhea caused by infection or antibiotics, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, celiac disease or UTIs.  They can also support to regulate an imbalanced gum microbiome caused by inadequate sleep, stress, kidney stones or taking antibiotics, and support a healthy immune system by protecting against viruses and pathogens.

Probiotics can also support alleviate skin conditions such as atophic dermatitis (eczema), either in supplement form or when applied as a topical skin cream.  In addition, probiotics can support to boost antioxidant, protein and fat absorption; support the gut produce serotonin to augment moods; and break down lactose for those who are lactose intolerant.

Optimal sources of probiotics

These helpful bacteria can be found in a variety of foods, especially those that fall into the fermented and/or cultured categories.  While yogurt is a common option, specialty items such as kefir and kimchi may be lacking in a typical consumer’s diet.  If this is the case, probiotic supplementation may help ensure adequate consumption.  

While probiotic supplements are considered to be safe for most people, you’ll want to consult with your physician or a holistic specialist to determine if they’re an appropriate treatment regimen for you.

Here are some food-based probiotic sources (in alphabetical order):

  • Aged cheeses

  • Kefir

  • Kimchi

  • Tempeh

  • Sauerkraut

  • Sour pickles

  • Soy products

  • Yogurt

What’s the bottom line?

By helping ensure the optimal balance of friendly bacteria and yeasts in the body, probiotics can support to maximize digestive and immune system functionality.  While they can be obtained through a variety of food sources, especially those that are fermented or cultured, supplementation as recommended by a medical professional may be needed to ensure adequate probiotic levels.