Probiotics: Benefits, Side Effects, And More

The human body is a pool of countless things combined. Everything is interconnected and has a role to play. One such essential component is probiotics.

Probiotics are good bacteria and are said to be naturally present in our bodies. Their presence is in such large amounts that it may outnumber the cells present in our body.

An estimated 39-300 trillion active microbes are present in our bodies. Such a massive presence of these living bacteria and yeast is validated by several roles they play in our bodies.

Some may cause a little harm while most are involved in beneficial roles. Talking about probiotics specifically, about 500 species are thriving in our bodies.

They are claimed to have benefits, so people are curious to know more about them. If you also wish to know everything about probiotics, follow the article till the end.


What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live cultures that are claimed to have several benefits for the body when consumed. They can be active bacteria or yeast.

Out of all the microorganisms present in the body, good or bad, about 500-1000 species are of probiotics that are viewed as good or helpful bacteria.

They are often confused with prebiotics but both have a considerable amount of difference.

As we know probiotics are live microorganisms that provide benefits to the body, and prebiotics is plant fibers that sustain the growth of good bacteria in the gut.

The bacteria feed on prebiotics and sustain themselves. Foods that are a source of both prebiotics and probiotics are called synbiotics.

Even though the benefits may vary according to the species, there is no denial of the fact that they may be useful for the body.

You can find both natural sources and supplements of probiotics. The most common types of probiotics known are lactobacillus, bifidobacteria, and streptococcus thermophilus.

What Do Probiotics Do?

Probiotics play a key role in the management of several important functions. According to studies, they are claimed to improve digestive health, combat inflammation, and strengthen immunity.

Although some of its functions lack evidence, there is numerous research being conducted to know more about its role in managing digestive disorders, cancer, and allergies.

Probiotic Benefits

These healthy microbes are widely popular for a reason and their consumption may be useful for the body in several ways. Some of them are-

  • They May Aid In Better Digestion

    Our body requires healthy bacteria and yeast to keep up with gut health. Probiotics contain enough of these live microorganisms that are vital for digestion.

    It may restore the initial gut balance of microbes that might have been disturbed due to illness, medication, or poor nutrition.

    Since it may improve digestion, it has the potential to eliminate the risk of several related problems like bad mood, poor immunity, and deficiencies.

  • They May Help Improve Certain Mental Conditions

    Several studies have established a relationship between probiotic consumption and improved mental disorders.

    The two most common types of probiotics i.e bifidobacteria and lactobacillus may aid in curing anxiety, autism, loss of memory, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

    Not only this, but probiotics may also improve mood and depression. A study involving 40 people with depression was conducted. It showed improvement after 8 weeks of probiotic supplementation.

    The levels of C-reactive protein and depression are reduced while also lowering insulin levels.

  • They May Reduce Or Treat Diarrhea

    Diarrhea may be caused by several reasons like medications, traveling, digestive disorders, and infections. Be it for any reason, probiotics may reduce the extent of diarrhea or help prevent it.

    One case of medication-induced diarrhea is antibiotic use. Antibiotics may mess up the bacteria balance in the gut causing diarrhea.

    According to a study, probiotics may be considered effective in lowering antibiotics that cause diarrhea or Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD).

    Besides, diarrhea caused by other reasons may also be controlled. The probiotics linked with this benefit are Saccharomyces boulardii and lactobacillus.

  • These May Also Prove To Be Heart Healthy

    High blood pressure and bad cholesterol (LDL) are two major concerns for the heart. Probiotics may help by lowering both high bp and LDL levels.

    Probiotics such as those that produce lactic acid may reduce cholesterol levels by breaking down bile.

    As bile is mainly made from cholesterol, once it breaks down, it cannot be absorbed back into the bloodstream as cholesterol.

  • They May Strengthen Immunity

    Probiotics fight bad bacteria, viruses, and other microbes for space. Thus, it does not let them settle in the gut. This might be the potential reason for its immunity-strengthening properties.

    Besides, it may also lower the risk of respiratory infections. According to studies, a strain of probiotic Lactobacillus crispatus may lower the risk of urinary tract infections to about half.

  • They May Lower The Risk Of Obesity

    Huge chunks of belly fat and rapidly increasing weight are neither rare problems nor new. Difficulty losing weight also possesses problems and increases the risk of additional health issues.

    Probiotics may come in handy in such cases. They are claimed to possess weight loss ability as they may block the absorption of fat in the intestines.

    Thus, it is excreted rather than stored. Alongside cutting short the stored fat, it may also improve digestion. Thus better nutrient absorption is favored by increasing healthy live cultures.

    Bowel disorders and digestive problems are many. A few of them that may benefit from probiotic consumption are inflammatory bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis.

    Besides, people suffering from Crohn’s disease may benefit to some extent from probiotics. Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria are the ones that may lower the risk or extent of digestive disorders.

  • They May Lower The Risk Of Allergies And Skin Problems

    Probiotics may prevent or cure problems like dermatitis. So far, the effect has been observed on infants and children.

    Probiotics also have allergens that may reduce hyperactivity and inflammation, and lower interleukins and eosinophils. Thus, it holds the potential to be a treatment for allergies.

Natural Probiotics

Numerous foods are natural sources of good microbes called probiotics. Their regular consumption is enough and you may not need any probiotic supplements to fulfill your needs. Some of them are-

  • Kefir

    This fermented milk drink( sometimes prepared from water) is a rejuvenating probiotic source. The live cultures present are of about 60 types. It is a safe option for lactose intolerant people with a probiotics percentage more than that of yogurt.

  • Kimchi

    This strong-flavored dish is also a power pack of probiotics. Since it is also made by fermentation, the live cultures present in it may benefit your body.

  • Kombucha

    Kombucha, a healthy fermented “tea” is not only a fun replacement for sodas and alcoholic drinks but also a probiotic shot. The natural carbonation and presence of sugar and yeast enrich its probiotic properties.

  • Yogurt

    Yogurt is a widely known probiotic source. It is an accessible and affordable source of probiotics made from the fermentation of milk.

    The lactic acid and bifidobacteria may provide you with several benefits listed above. It may provide up to 500 billion CFUs per serving.

    Greek yogurt is an even better alternative with more protein and less sugar and carbs.

  • Pickles

    The pickles made from fermentation in salt and water contain probiotics. Pickled cucumbers might be great for digestion and may also contain other nutrients.

    There is one important point to remember pickles made from vinegar do not provide the advantage of probiotics.

Other Sources

Some varieties of cheese, sourdough bread, miso, buttermilk, natto, and majorly all fermented foods may also act as a probiotic source.

Side Effects Of Probiotics

Probiotics are generally safe to be consumed, especially the ones from natural sources as they are also present in our bodies. But sometimes overconsumption of probiotics may lead to-

  • Bloating
  • Infections
  • Allergic reactions due to increased histamine levels
  • Diarrhea
  • Flatulence
  • Upset stomach
  • Constipation
  • Thirst
  • Headaches

Some people may be highly prone to these side effects due to an underlying condition. These might be-

  • People with a weak immune system
  • People suffering from chronic illness
  • Recently undergone a surgery
  • Sick infants


Probiotics are healthy microorganisms present in the body and also consumed for their benefits. There are thousands of strains of probiotics, each linked with certain advantages and side effects.

Their health benefits are linked to better digestion, heart health, and immunity. Their downgrades might be mild gut-related problems, headaches, and allergies.

Thus, it could be concluded that probiotics might be safe to be consumed if you have no past prolonged illness or recent surgery.