We are often taught to believe that all bacteria are bad for us. So our society constantly tries to kill all bacteria with antibacterial hand sanitizers and soaps. But some bacteria are crucial for our survival and well-being. Trillions of probiotics (good bacteria) and thousands of strains (types of good bacteria) naturally live in our bodies. They are in our guts, vaginas, mouth, nose, skin, and more.

Babies get healthy bacteria from their mother’s vagina when they are born. They get more probiotics from breastmilk, soil, other people, and the environment. Throughout life, we accumulate a diverse microbiome.

Benefits: Studies have shown that probiotics have many benefits. They are good for digestive health, helping us absorb nutrients, preventing inflammatory bowel diseases. Due to a brain-gut connection, they may benefit mental health and reduce depression symptoms. They are anti-inflammatory. Probiotics promote healthy skin and may help with eczema. Helping babies develop a diverse gut microbiome can reduce their risk of developing allergies. They are also thought to help with weight loss. Probiotics are beneficial for overall health.

In the olden days, our ancestors got plenty of bacteria since they did not have the antibacterial products and antibiotics we do today. They fermented their foods to keep them from spoiling, which created probiotics as well. Studies have shown that kids who grew up on farms or around animals have more diverse microbiomes, and have lower rates of allergies and eczema. Today, our culture is obsessed with cleanliness and sanitation. Many of our foods have antibiotics that kill our bodies’ good bacteria.

What destroys our probiotics? Antibiotics, over-sanitation, smoking, stress, alcohol, poor sleep, poor diet.

Foods: So what can we do to get more probiotics in our body? We can eat fermented, probiotic rich-foods: yogurt, kefir, kombucha, apple cider vinegar (with the mother), sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, miso, kvass.

Supplements: You can also take probiotic supplements. This can be very helpful after taking antibiotics, which can destroy your microbiome, leaving you deficient in probiotics. When considering buying probiotic supplements, think about the CFU count (number of probiotics). It should be at least 15 billion. It should have a higher number of strains (at least 10). Buy from a good brand.  Some good probiotic strains start with Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Bacillus. S. boulardii is also very good, especially for digestive health. I recommend Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra. It has 15 billion CFU and 13 strains of homeostatic soil organisms. It also contains organic barley grass, oat grass, and ionic plant based minerals.

Side Effects: Sometimes, probiotics can have side effects like diarrhea. Like with all supplements, start small and don’t overdo it. Consult your health care provider (physician, NP, PA) before taking any new supplements.