Probiotics are becoming ever more popular these days. From yogurt to supplements, marketers have started using the benefits of probiotics as a catch-all term, to help sell products. But what are probiotics, exactly?
Simply, they are live microorganisms, which can be consumed through fermented foods or supplements. More and more studies show that the balance (or imbalance) of the bacteria in your digestive system, is directly linked to your overall health. Probiotics promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria, and have also been linked to a wide range of health benefits. These include benefits for weight loss, digestive health, immune function and more. Unlike antibiotics – which wipe out all bacteria in your gut – probiotics help to rebuild the good bacteria.
Probiotics also help balance the friendly bacteria in your digestive system. Probiotics are known as ‘pro’, because they contain what is known as "good" bacteria. These are live microorganisms that can provide health benefits when consumed. These benefits are thought to result from the ability of probiotics to restore the natural balance of gut bacteria. An imbalance means there are too many bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria. It can happen due to illness, medication such as antibiotics, poor diet and more. Consequences can include digestive issues, allergies, mental health problems, obesity and more. Probiotics are usually found in fermented foods or taken as supplements. What's more, they appear to be safe for most people – so there is literally no downside to taking them.
What Are Probiotics?
To start with – why should you consider probiotics? Your wallet doesn’t need to be emptied for something that won’t make much of a difference in your health. But probiotics are that rare supplement from which nearly everyone can benefit. Studies have shown that they help with a myriad of health concerns, such as healthy digestion, clear skin, healthy metabolism, improved mood - and even increased weight loss.
Quite frankly, there is very little reason not to try a round of probiotic supplementation, and a long list of reasons why you may want to. Going back to the earlier mention of antibiotics, think of your gut as having two types of bacteria – simply, good and bad bacteria. Sadly, a poor diet, too much stress, not enough sleep - and a lifetime of antibiotics, have likely disposed of the good bacteria in most of our guts. This leaves you with only the bad stuff, which may make you crave poor quality foods, leave you depressed , or even with a face full of acne. These are some of the overwhelming reasons why you need probiotics in your life.
Why Are Probiotics Beneficial?
One of the most fascinating areas of the research behind probiotics, falls into the supplement’s effect on our brain. Many studies have found that probiotics can overcome immune-mediated deficits in the gut-brain-microbiota axis. What does this mean in layman’s terms? It means that even simple, day-to-day psychological stress can impair this important axis. This axis is essentially defined as the signaling and interaction between our gut, brain, and bacteria. If this axis is impaired, our brain’s functioning can start to be impaired. Which means that a healthy microbiome is critical to good neurological health. Some research has even shown that having a good balance of bacteria in our gut is directly linked to serotonin signaling. Since serotonin is critical for mental health, it means that depression and an unhealthy balance of bacteria in our gut, are tightly linked. And it also means that taking a probiotic, and eating probiotic-rich foods, can help to fix this problem.
If simple everyday stress can interfere with our brain and gut health, imagine how badly this axis is damaged when a poor diet, lack of sleep - and many rounds of antibiotics, are introduced into the picture. Interestingly, other scientific studies have found that probiotics may help mitigate anxiety symptoms. In addition, other research shows that the intake of probiotics may even help to reduce negative thoughts. This means that depression has an interesting direct link, to good gut health.
Another interesting effect that probiotics have, is on skin health. In fact, three large studies linked dairy consumption and acne – but not fermented dairy and acne. Since acne is formed via bacteria buildup, balancing the bacteria in your gut is a very logical step to take, if you’re looking to avoid breakouts. Some studies have even used specific probiotic extracts, and found they were successful at reducing acne.
Another study looked at the psychological benefits of probiotic supplementation. In this study, any of the 130 subjects who had more depressive symptoms at the start, saw significant improvement in mood after taking a probiotic. Interestingly, ancient cultures have been consuming fermented foods for thousands of years. Though they did not have science on their side, they saw anecdotal results, and thus continued the practice.
Scientists are also clear in their writing — microbes (like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria) influence brain health, via both direct and indirect pathways. I’m not quite sure why the yogurt companies haven’t latched onto this bit of science to help them sell their product yet, but they may soon include this in their marketing.
What Happens If You Don’t Eat Probiotics?
If you’re feeling or noticing any of the following symptoms, you may have a gut imbalance, and should schedule an appointment with your doctor. These symptoms include: food sensitivities or allergies, digestive problems (like gas and bloating), weight gain, skin issues (like acne, eczema, or rosacea). There are even further symptoms that may be related, like fatigue, mood swings, autoimmune disorders, depression, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, or even joint pain. When your gut bacteria is out of balance, your body also isn’t able to digest food as well. This can lead to serious digestive conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), small bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and leaky gut syndrome.
What Foods Contain Probiotics?
Encouraging the good strains of bacteria and averting the bad strains of bacteria - is as easy as consuming certain types of food. The best foods are the ones that naturally contain good bacteria, so that they're introduced to the gut immediately upon digestion. These types of foods are called probiotic foods, and there are many tasty options. Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, sourdough bread, kombucha, miso, cottage cheese, and pickles all help to maintain a good balance of healthy gut bacteria. In addition, more than 70% of our immune cells live in the gut, and are very dependent on healthy gut flora.
Good News - Our Bars Have Probiotics!
That’s it. makes an entire line of Probiotic Fruit Bars! They also contain prebiotics, leading to improved gut health, with regular consumption. Additionally, our Probiotic Bars are non-GMO, vegan, paleo, and Whole30 compliant. Since all of our products are made from fruits, there are also additional nutrients and micronutrients. While you may love the portability of our Probiotic Bars - they are exactly like eating real, unprocessed foods. While some companies claim they only make products with real ingredients - we actually do!
Holzapfel WH, Haberer P, Geisen R, Björkroth J, Schillinger U. Taxonomy and important features of probiotic microorganisms in food and nutrition. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2001;73(2):365S–373S.
Felis GE, Dellaglio F. Taxonomy of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Current Issues in Intestinal Microbiology. 2007;8:44–61.
Mercenier A, Lenoir-Wijnkoop I, Sanders ME. Physiological and functional properties of probiotics. International Dairy Federation. 2008;429:2–6.
Joint FAO/WHO Working Group Report on Drafting Guidelines for the Evaluation of Probiotics in Food. Ontario, Canada: 2002. http://www.fao.org/es/ESN/Probio/probio.htm.
Saarela M, Mogensen G, Fondén R, Mättö J, Mattila-Sandholm T. Probiotic bacteria: safety, functional and technological properties. Journal of Biotechnology. 2000;84(3):197–215.
Sanders ME. Probiotics: definition, sources, selection, and uses. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2008;46(2):S58–S61.
Galdeano CM, Perdigón G. Role of viability of probiotic strains in their persistence in the gut and in mucosal immune stimulation. Journal of Applied Microbiology. 2004;97(4):673–681.
Kosin B, Rakshit SK. Criteria for production of probiotics. Food Technology and Biotechnology. 2006;44(3):371–379.
Hilton E, Kolakowski P, Singer C, Smith M. Efficacy of Lactobacillus GG as a diarrheal preventive in travelers. Journal of Travel Medicine. 1997;4(1):41–43.
Moslehi-Jenabian S, Nielsen DS, Jespersen L. Application of molecular biology and genomics of probiotics for enteric cytoprotection. In: Malago JJ, Koninkx JFJG, Marinsek-Logar R, editors. Probiotic Bacteria and Enteric Infections. Cytoprotection By Probiotic Bacteria. New York, NY, USA: Springer; 2011. pp. 133–153.
de Vrese M, Stegelmann A, Richter B, Fenselau S, Laue C, Schrezenmeir J. Probiotics-compensation for lactase insufficiency. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2001;73(2):421S–429S.
Levri KM, Ketvertis K, Deramo M, Merenstein JH, D’Amico F. Do probiotics reduce adult lactose intolerance? A systematic review. Journal of Family Practice. 2005;54(7):613–620.
Salminen S, Ouwehand AC, Isolari E. Clinical applications of probiotic bacteria. International Dairy Journal. 1998;8:563–572.
Kalliomäki M, Kirjavainen P, Eerola E, Kero P, Salminen S, Isolauri E. Distinct patterns of neonatal gut microflora in infants in whom atopy was and was not developing. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2001;107(1):129–134.
Ouwehand AC, Isolauri E, He F, Hashimoto H, Benno Y, Salminen S. Differences in Bifidobacterium flora composition in allergic and healthy infants. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2001;108(1):144–145.
Isolauri E, Arvola T, Sutas Y, Moilanen E, Salminen S. Probiotics in the management of atopic eczema. Clinical and Experimental Allergy. 2000;30(11):1604–1610.
Wheeler JG, Shema SJ, Bogle ML, et al. Immune and clinical impact of Lactobacillus acidophilus on asthma. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. 1997;79(3):229–233.
Isolauri E, Majamaa H, Arvola T, Rantala I, Virtanen E, Arvilommi H. Lactobacillus casei strain GG reverses increased intestinal permeability induced by cow milk in suckling rats. Gastroenterology. 1993;105(6):1643–1650.
Pelto L, Salminen SJ, Isolauri E. Lactobacillus Gg modulates milk-induced immune inflammatory response in milk-hypersensitive adults. Nutrition Today. 1996;31(6):45S–46S.
Ziemer CJ, Gibson GR. An overview of probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics in the functional food concept: perspectives and future strategies. International Dairy Journal. 1998;8(5-6):473-479.
Granato D, Branco GF, Nazzaro F, Cruz AG, Faria JA. Functional foods and nondairy probiotic food development: trends, concepts, and products. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 2010;9(3):292–302.
Toma MM, Pokrotnieks J. Probiotics as functional food: microbiological and medical aspects. Acta Universitatis. 2006;710:117–129.
Salminen SJ, Gueimonde M, Isolauri E. Probiotics that modify disease risk. Journal of Nutrition. 2005;135(5):1294–1298.
Fuller R. Probiotics a Critical Review. Wymondham, UK: Horizon Scientific; 1999. Probiotics for farm animals; pp. 15–22.
Fuller R. Probiotics in man and animals. Journal of Applied Bacteriology. 1989;66(5):365–378.
FAO/WHO. Report on Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Evaluation of Health and Nutritional Properties of Probiotics in Food Including Powder Milk with Live Lactic Acid Bacteria. 2001.
Gibson GR, Roberfroid MB. Dietary modulation of the human colonic microbiota: introducing the concept of prebiotics. Journal of Nutrition. 1995;125(6):1401–1412.
Berg RD. Probiotics, prebiotics or "conbiotics"? Trends in Microbiology. 1998;6(3):89–92.
Lahtinen SJ. Probiotic viability—does it matter? Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease. 2012;23:10–14.
Salminen S, Ouwehand A, Benno Y, Lee YK. Probiotics: how should they be defined? Trends in Food Science and Technology. 1999;10(3):107–110.
Guarner F, Malagelada JR. Gut flora in health and disease. The Lancet. 2003;361(9356):512–519.
McNaught CE, MacFie J. Probiotics in clinical practice: a critical review of the evidence. Nutrition Research. 2001;21(1-2):343–353.
Isolauri E, Sütas Y, Kankaanpää P, Arvilommi H, Salminen S. Probiotics: effects on immunity. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2001;73(2):444S–450S.
Stanton C, Gardiner G, Meehan H, et al. Market potential for probiotics. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2001;73(2):476S–483S.
Ewe JA, Wan Nadiah WA, Liong MT. Viability and growth characteristics of Lactobacillus in soymilk supplemented with B-vitamins. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 2010;61(1):87–107.
Sheehan VM, Ross P, Fitzgerald GF. Assessing the acid tolerance and the technological robustness of probiotic cultures for fortification in fruit juices. Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies. 2007;8(2):279–284.
Medina IM, Jordano R. Survival of constitutive microflora in commercially fermented milk containing bifidobacteria during refrigerated storage. Journal of Food Protection. 1994;56:731–733.
Gardiner G, Ross RP, Collins JK, Fitzgerald G, Stanton C. Development of a probiotic Cheddar cheese containing human-derived Lactobacillus paracasei strains. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 1998;64(6):2192–2199.
Kehagias C, Koulouris S, Arkoudelos J, Samona A. Viability and biochemical activity of bifidobacteria in association with yoghurt starter cultures in bifidus milk and bio-yoghurt during storage at 4°C. Egyptian Journal of Dairy Science. 2006;34(2):151–158.
Pszczola DE. What makes a winning ingredient? Food Technology. 2012;66(8):58–85.
O'Sullivan DJ. Exploring the potential to utilize lantibiotic-producing bifidobacteria to create dairy ingredients with increased broadspectrum antimicrobial functionalities yields encouraging results. Food Technology. 2012;66(6):45–50.
McFarland LV. Meta-analysis of probiotics for the prevention of antibiotic associated diarrhea and the treatment of Clostridium difficile disease. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2006;101(4):812–822.
Sazawal S, Hiremath G, Dhingra U, Malik P, Deb S, Black RE. Efficacy of probiotics in prevention of acute diarrhoea: a meta-analysis of masked, randomised, placebo-controlled trials. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 2006;6(6):374–382.
Hempel S, Newberry SJ, Maher AR, et al. Probiotics for the prevention and treatment of antibiotic-associated diarrhea a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of the American Medical Association. 2012;307(18):1959–1969.
Salminen S, Bouley C, Boutron-Ruault MC, et al. Functional food science and gastrointestinal physiology and function. British Journal of Nutrition. 1998;80(1):S147–S171.
Shah NP. Functional cultures and health benefits. International Dairy Journal. 2007;17(11):1262–1277.
Szajewska H, Mrukowicz JZ. Probiotics in the treatment and prevention of acute infectious diarrhea in infants and children: a systematic review of published randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 2001;33(4):S17–S25.
Isolauri E, Kirjavainen PV, Salminen S. Probiotics: a role in the treatment of intestinal infection and inflammation? Gut. 2002;50(3):iii54–iii59.
Huang JS, Bousvaros A, Lee JW, Diaz A, Davidson EJ. Efficacy of probiotic use in acute diarrhea in children: a meta-analysis. Digestive Diseases and Sciences. 2002;47(11):2625–2634.
Pedone CA, Bernabeu AO, Postaire ER, Bouley CF, Reinert P. The effect of supplementation with milk fermented by Lactobacillus casei (strain DN-114 001) on acute diarrhoea in children attending day care centres. International Journal of Clinical Practice. 1999;53(3):179–184.
McFarland LV. Meta-analysis of probiotics for the prevention of traveler’s diarrhea. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease. 2007;5(2):97–105.
Marteau P, Seksik P, Jian R. Probiotics and intestinal health effects: a clinical perspective. British Journal of Nutrition. 2002;88(1):S51–S57.
Trapp CL, Chang CC, Halpern GM, Keen CL, Gershwin ME. The influence of chronic yogurt consumption on populations of young and elderly adults. International Journal of Immunotherapy. 1993;9(1):53–64.
Hirayama K, Rafter J. The role of lactic acid bacteria in colon cancer prevention: mechanistic considerations. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. 1999;76(1–4):391–394.
Kumar M, Kumar A, Nagpal R, et al. Cancer-preventing attributes of probiotics: an update. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 2010;61(5):473–496.
Sanders ME. Probiotics. Food Technology. 1999;53:67–77.
Falagas ME, Betsi GI, Athanasiou S. Probiotics for the treatment of women with bacterial vaginosis. Clinical Microbiology and Infection. 2007;13(7):657–664.