What are probiotics

What are Probiotics?

According to the World Health Organization, probiotics are living microorganisms that when consumed in sufficient numbers can provide health benefits that go beyond basic nutrition1. Probiotics are cultures that have been shown to provide specific health benefits such as supporting gut and immune health and contributing to the maintenance of a balanced gut microbiota, important for the proper functioning of the digestive system and the entire body.

Probiotics Defined

Probiotics — The word “probiotic” translates to “for life,” taken from its Greek and Latin etymology. Probiotics are good, friendly bacteria.

Gut Flora — The natural bacterial content of the inside of the digestive tract. Also known as gut bacteria2.

Gut Bacteria — Living inside of your gut are 300 to 500 different kinds of bacteria containing nearly 2 million genes. Paired with other tiny organisms like viruses and fungi, they make what’s known as the microbiota3.

Microbiota — The full collection of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, virus, etc.) including their genetic material that naturally exist within a specific environment. Like a fingerprint, each person's microbiota is unique: The mix of bacteria in your body is different from everyone else's mix.

Microbiome — The totality of microorganisms collective genetic material present in or on the human body or in another environment.

What Are Probiotics Good For?

When consumed in sufficient numbers, probiotics are believed to be beneficial to your digestive system, or your gut. Research suggests that regular consumption of some probiotics helps maintain the balance of the intestinal microflora, which can have a wide range of positive effects on intestinal functions. Adding probiotics to your daily routine can help maintain the gut flora balance needed for overall digestive health. And balancing your digestive health may have a positive impact on how you think and feel. Potential benefits may vary depending on the type and quantity of live probiotic bacteria consumed. Several different types of probiotic cultures (L. casei, L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, B. bifidum) are being introduced in an expanding variety of dairy products around the world.

Daily consumption of probiotic foods, such as certain yogurt and cultured dairy drinks containing probiotics, may be good for you in one of the following ways:

  • They may help support your immune system and digestive system by providing a regular source of "friendly" bacteria for the intestinal tract4.

  • They may help to maintain the balance of bacteria in the intestinal tract5.


1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: http://www.fao.org/3/a-a0512e.pdf

2. Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 9th edition

3. Quigley, E.M.M, 2013

4. Gill et al., 2004

5. Adolfsson et al., 2004

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