It’s weird when you think about it… taking a probiotic means that we’re consuming billions of tiny live organisms that are going to make our body work better.
It’s even weirder to discover that there are more of these microscopic organisms inside us than there are cells of our own body.
This collection of microorganisms is known as our microbiome and it contains a rich mixture of bacteria, viruses, fungi and archaea (a kind of single-celled organism). It is also known as our gut flora.
We’ve been trained to think that these types of microorganisms are dangerous to us because they cause anything from common colds to anthrax. But in fact many are on our side. They’re our buddies!
These little critters inside our microbiome help our bodies to perform tons of important functions such as digesting food, manufacturing vital nutrients, fighting off invaders and balancing our metabolism.
That’s why our microbiome is sometimes described as the ‘forgotten organ’ of our body. Take a look at Five Surprising Things Our Microbiome Does For You
Obviously our microbiome isn’t really ‘magic’ but it helps us in so many ways that it almost feels like magic.
Our microbiome is SO IMPORTANT that when it gets damaged, we get sick. Food that we used to enjoy suddenly gives us diarrhea or constipation, we get fat and can’t lose weight, we catch every cold and flu going around.
Our immune system can turn on us, attacking our own organs, in what are known as autoimmune conditions (which can show up in just about any part of our body). Even our brain suffers and we get anxiety, depression, dementia and autism.
It’s not just us humans that have a squillion microbes inside us, it’s every multicellular creature, from ants to elephants. This is how Mother Nature gets sh*t done! We’ve evolved together with these microorganisms in a symbiotic relationship. They depend upon us and we depend upon them.
What’s more, there are many, many species and strains of microorganisms in each of us. We don’t yet know how many but we know that a richly diverse collection makes for a healthier human.
Each of us has a unique combination of different microorganisms and in that sense it’s like our fingerprint, except that it’s not fixed but always in flux. Factors like the food we eat and the chemicals or stress we’re exposed to have a direct effect on the amount and types of different microbes.
Some of these microbes are more helpful to us than others. Some are just opportunistic chancers that will move into a space created by a helpful species dying back.
This is when the bad guys get the upper hand, and the result is that we get sick, sometimes immediately, sometimes gradually. Take a look at Why Your Gut Is Broken
When symbiosis goes wrong, it’s known as ‘dysbiosis‘. It means that once there was a helpful, co-operative relationship between organisms but now it’s broken down.
It’s generally a mix of elements that come together in a perfect storm to tear down the balance of our microbiome but one of the single biggest factors is the use of antibiotics.
At the other end of the scale are probiotics, which help us to reintroduce or top up the useful microbes. They’re like the cavalry riding in to save the day!
Benefits of Probiotics
The result of taking probiotics is a huge list of potential health benefits from a smooth, happy digestive system to better weight control, clearer skin, a properly functioning immune system and a happier mental state.
Despite all these benefits the mainstream medical community has been slow to embrace the value of probiotics. The principal reason for this is the focus since the time of Pasteur on the ‘germ theory of disease’ and the damage perceived as done by microbes. But we’re now learning that many are not harmful and are in fact vital to our health.
Another reason is that scientific studies of the human microbiome and probiotics are still in their infancy. The role of different species and strains is still barely understood, let alone how they work in different combinations in each of us.
At this level it’s still difficult to set up studies across the population that give reliable results, especially as each probiotic effects each person slightly differently.
One point to be clear about is that probiotics are not a magic bullet to cure all gut and health problems. When our gut is in a bad state, we often need a combination of diet and lifestyle changes, supported by personalised supplementation and lab testing. Check out Dude Where’s My Magic Bullet?
But there is no question that probiotics play a vital role in gut healing, and therefore in our overall health.
How To Choose A Probiotic
When buying a probiotic look for:
- multi-strain not single strain (a ‘strain’ just means a species of bacteria). I recommend a minimum of 8 to 10 strains or more. Some brands contain 30 or more strains. One thing that’s clear from scientific studies is that diversity of strains in our microbiome goes hand in hand with good health and vice versa. Lack of diversity of different species goes together with all the health problems mentioned above.
- a high CFU (Colony Forming Unit) content. Anything from around 8 billion CFU’s upwards is a good therapeutic dose.
If you’ve never taken probiotics before, you may experience some digestive upset initially, especially if your gut is currently struggling. Therefore start with a low-dose and work upwards very gradually.
Avoid any product that has extra additives such as sugar or sweeteners. These additives do nothing but detract from the potency and effectiveness of the probiotic.
Many probiotics require require refrigeration but not all. Some very good ones do not.
Here are a few carefully-selected probiotics that I recommend. From this selection, BioKult is great for beginners and Dr Mercola’s is stronger.
Here is probiotic ranking that I find useful:
And if you’re ready to take more action to fix your gut, you’ll find lots of useful posts on this site including:
Clean Eating: Not Just An Elitist Fad
What’s All The Hype About Fermented Foods
In the future I’m sure we’ll see much more sophisticated probiotics becoming available, designed specifically to work in tune with our unique microbiome as it is on any given day, and targeted with laser precision at our particular ailment. I look forward to that day but in the meantime probiotics are still supremely useful!
55 thoughts on “Probiotics and Our Magical Microbiome”
I take a probiotic supplement everyday to ensure I have enough good bacteria in my gut!
I learn so much when I read your posts. Such an amazing post.
Very detailed informative, enjoy my read here & learn the tips for myself as I consume probiotics in my routine too😀 cheers, siennylovesdrawing.wordpress.com
Very informative, glad to know about the guy health and probiotics here from your blog. Thanks for sharing.
This post is really very helpful and informative. Probiotics is really good for health.
I have to see how to increase my intake of Probiotics because it seems really beneficial. I might have to drink a lot of Yakult now.
My functional medicine doctor put me on probiotics and it has been a game changer. I digest food better, more energy. There is a big difference when I take a probiotic and when I don’t
I have just started taking probiotics, they are so many benefits in them. This post s very informative 🙂
Don’t know much about probiotics. I need to learn more about it. I eat yogurt for breakfast every day. I hope that is enough?
Thank you for such an informative post! Probiotics are so important and I need to make that they are a part of my daily routine!
Just heard more about the microdome and how it’s related to covid and its vaccine the other days. I always know that it has deep impact to human body but it’s deeper than I thought.
Thanks for sharing your inspiring post. I definitely need to add probiotics to my diet regimen.
First time to know about such a thing and seem interesting to read about them. Definitely going to read more about them to get more knowledge about these. Thank you for sharing
Probiotics are so important. Another great, informative post that I am sure will help people. Thanks for sharing!
I honestly had no idea what Probiotics are til I came across your post. I get to learn a lot of terms on this blog. I don’t know if you are a dietician or not but if not then you should become one.
Amazing and interesting post on the inner workings of our body. I like to fast regularly to “clear the system”. I find it helps me no end.
We consume probiotics regularly as administered by an expert a few months ago. You have shared a great deal of information about the same thank you.
It’s important to understand and follow a healthy lifestyle, your post is really very informative.
This is a very helpful post. I used to have a cast-iron gut but as I have gotten older, I have to be more careful. I am adding more probiotics to my diet. Thank you for sharing!
thanks for sharing this & am gonna refer to your guide to choose a probiotics 😀
Very informative. I learned so much from this. Thanks for sharing.
Omg thanks for sharing this, I have been drinking everyday a probiotic drink. And this information is quite helpful.
Wow I definitely learned something new today. Thanks for sharing!
Probiotics are in a lot of foods here here in Japan. Yakult is the most famous of them all.
Very informative post. I love probiotic organic yogurts in the morning
I’m a nurse and it has been awhile since I’ve read dysbiosis and symbiosis in a post (prolly since nursing school)! And whenever I read/hear about ‘probiotics’ it automatically reminds me of a drink called ‘Yakult’.
This is so informative, I’m looking around for benefits and side effects of probiotics.
I’ve read a lot about probiotics and I must say this article is among the most informative ones I’ve ever encountered.
Keep up the good work.
I am getting my daily dose of probiotics from this small bottle called Yakult. Great information you got here.
Recently I came to know how healthy probiotics are for our health. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.
so much useful and informative information. Thank you so much! I enjoyed your blog!
I have a yeast infection last year my doctor recommend me to drink probiotic like delight and yakult to prevent itching and allergies and it work that’s why I drinking Delight 🙂 Awesome post!
Probiotics is really important in our body. That’s why I love eating yogurts and drinking yakult everyday.
The idea that bacteria are beneficial can be tough to understand. Maintaining the correct balance between these bacteria is necessary for optimal health.
I love probiotics. We always drink yakult here at home
The microbiome is truly a fascinating subject and I am glad that I could read this article and also understand how Dysbiosis functions
Why do you recommend probiotics supplements instead of eating more fermented foods, like miso, kimchi, sourkraut, kombucha, kefir, etc…? What is the difference?
Hey Carolyn, I recommend probiotics AS WELL AS fermented foods, which I wrote about in: What’s All The Hype About Fermented Foods (link at bottom of post above). For lots of people fermented foods are enough, and they’re cheaper than probiotics, especially when homemade. If our gut’s really bad we often need BOTH. On the other hand, some people don’t tolerate fermented foods well so for them probiotics are best.
If we don’t tolerate fermented, it could be the same fir probiotics? I can’t support fruit kefir and i am trying a complex of pobiotics and phages…worst situation than before after ten days…it is normal? First actions of probiotics or sibo is growing up? Do you have cases of untolerated probiotics people?
I stopped after 10 days and hesitate to continue….
I enjoy eating yogurt and having raw vegetables and fruits to help aid me in my digestive tract – they seem to do a great job of keeping me feeling less bulky!
I got my daily dose of science! This is great info. I love probiotics.
This is some great information! Thank you for sharing. It was very helpful
Great article! I think the mainstream is just beginning to realize the importance of gut health!
I have had stomach issues for AGES. I started taking probiotics, and everything has been running so much more smoothly! When I forget to take them, I definitely can feel the difference!
my mom was just telling me about new stuff coming out about pre-biotics. Do you have any info or insight on that? Thannks!
I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I undoubtedly appreciating every little touch of it I have you bookmarked to take a look at new material you post.
This is a matter close to my heart cheers. Thanks
Hello , I do believe this is a fantastic blog. I stumbled upon it on Yahoo , I shall return once again.
What are these raw probiotics. I though live probiotics are better?
I have diverticulitis and very poorly for months. I started taking Kefir and my gut is settling down. My energy is still low.
Have you considered also taking a good probiotic?
My husband swears by probiotics. I gotta start taking them.
Very interesting post on probiotics. I had no idea.
Great information, a lot of things I didn’t know.
I am learning more about this because of my husbands health. Great information.