Probiotics – Explanation, Function and Benefits

Probiotics – Explanation, Function and Benefits

Probiotics are fascinating microorganisms that play a crucial role in our health. These "good" bacteria and yeasts, naturally occurring in our digestive system, are microscopic helpers supporting digestion and strengthening the immune system. They also promote the balance of intestinal flora and can even improve our mood and general well-being. With growing research and awareness, probiotics are increasingly recognized as an essential part of a healthy lifestyle that goes far beyond the confines of the digestive system.

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE
Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach

Published in Nutrition
7 min read · Apr 08, 2024

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What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms, specifically bacteria and yeasts, that can provide us with significant health benefits as they are part of our natural gut flora. [1]

These microbes are often called good gut bacteria because they are key in maintaining healthy digestion, balancing gut flora, and enforcing a robust immune system.

By colonizing the gut, probiotics promote the balance of the microbiome, which in turn strengthens the intestinal barrier function and protects against pathogens. They can also help with the production of specific vitamins and are crucial for the processing and absorption of nutrients. [1]

Probiotics are often found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut or as dietary supplements. Such foods are often referred to as probiotic foods. [2]

For people looking to optimize their health, probiotics can be a valuable addition to the daily diet by supporting the balance of gut flora, promoting digestive health, and boosting the immune system. [1]

You want to find out how probiotics could improve your health? Our Health Coaches will take the time to answer all your nutritional questions.

Here is a list of the best-known and most common probiotics:

  1. Lactobacillus acidophilus is an example of probiotics that aid digestion and may help relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is commonly found in yogurt and other fermented foods.
  2. Lactobacillus rhamnosus is known for its positive effects on the immune system and supporting digestive health. This strain is often found in yogurt and probiotic supplements.
  3. Lactobacillus casei helps to support the growth of Lactobacillus acidophilus and can aid in digestion. It is found in fermented dairy products and some cheeses.
  4. Lactobacillus plantarum has a strong survival rate in the gastrointestinal tract and is known for its antioxidant properties. It is often found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi.
  5. Bifidobacterium longum supports detoxification in the gut and improves overall gut health. This strain is often used in supplements.
  6. Bifidobacterium bifidum supports the body's ability to digest and absorb important vitamins and nutrients. It is found in dairy products and probiotic supplements.

How Do Probiotics Affect Our Microbiome?

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Probiotics positively affect our intestinal flora by supporting and promoting the balance of microorganisms in the digestive tract. They help to displace harmful bacteria, strengthen the intestinal barrier, and modulate the immune response. This action of probiotics contributes to digestive and immune health.

CARE has broken down the greatest health benefits of probiotics for you in more detail below:

Probiotics Improve Digestive Health

Probiotics can alleviate the symptoms of digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. They support the breakdown of food and the absorption of nutrients. [1]

Probiotics Strengthen the Immune System

By interacting with the cells of the immune system, probiotics can improve your body's own defense against pathogens and promote the production of antibodies.

Probiotics Help in the Prevention and Treatment of Diarrhea

Probiotics can help reduce the duration and severity of diarrhea by restoring the balance of the intestinal flora, especially after antibiotic treatments or in the case of traveler's diarrhea. [1]

Probiotics Reduce Inflammation

Probiotics can have an anti-inflammatory effect and thus help reduce inflammatory bowel disease symptoms such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. [3]

Probiotics Promote Mental Health

Research shows that healthy gut flora positively impacts mental health through the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which improves mood and well-being. [4]

Probiotics Help in the Fight Against Allergies and Intolerances

Some studies show that probiotics can reduce the risk of developing eczema in children and alleviate symptoms of certain food allergies and intolerances. [5]

How Do You Take Probiotics?

A natural source of probiotics is fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and tempeh. These should be integrated regularly and in variety into your diet to consume different probiotic strains. Basically, the natural intake of probiotics through food is the best choice for reaping the probiotics benefits. [1]

Probiotic supplements, often referred to simply as probiotics, are an alternative to probiotic foods and are available in various forms. Your choice of supplements should depend on your personal preference and tolerance. Pay attention to the product's number of colony-forming units (CFU). A higher CFU count does not always mean better efficacy, but a sufficient amount is necessary for health benefits. The general recommendation is a dose of at least 1 to 10 billion CFU per day. Also, keep in mind that different strains of probiotics have different effects. So, choosing a product that contains the strains appropriate for your specific health goals is essential.

Probiotic Foods

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  • Yogurt: Contains Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, which can aid digestion and boost the immune system. [1]

  • Kefir: Contains Lactobacillus kefiri and Saccharomyces kefir, which promote intestinal health, support the immune system and have protective effects against pathogenic microorganisms. [2]

  • Sauerkraut: Contains Lactobacillus plantarum and Leuconostoc mesenteroides, which promote digestion and have potential anti-inflammatory effects. [6]

  • Kimchi: Contains Lactobacillus kimchii and Weissella koreensis, which aid digestion, boost the immune system, and may have antioxidant properties. [7]

  • Miso: Harbors Aspergillus oryzae, which may support gut health, improve immune function, and provide digestive enzymes. [8]

  • Tempeh: Contains mainly Rhizopus oryzae, which aids digestion and supports healthy gut flora. [9]

You can find more prebiotic foods in this blog post.

Can Probiotics Have Side Effects?

Yes, probiotics can have side effects, especially at the beginning of their dietary intake. Some people may experience mild digestive discomfort such as bloating, cramping, or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually temporary and subside once the body gets used to the new microorganisms.

However, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider if your symptoms persist or your reactions are severe.

Who Are Probiotics Not Suitable For?

Probiotics are not always suitable for people with a weakened immune system, serious illnesses, or those undergoing treatment with immunosuppressive drugs.

In such cases, taking probiotics could increase the risk of infection. People with chronic intestinal problems or allergies to certain ingredients in probiotic products should also exercise caution before taking them and discuss this with a healthcare provider.

It is always advisable to consult your health coach or doctor before integrating probiotics into your diet or supplementation regime.

What is the Difference Between Probiotics and Prebiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when taken in sufficient quantities, provide health benefits by supporting the balance of intestinal flora. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are indigestible food components, often fiber, that serve as food for the good gut bacteria and thus promote their growth and activity. [10]

So, while probiotics are live cultures that directly influence the composition of the gut flora, prebiotics indirectly support intestinal health by feeding the good intestinal bacteria.

Below, we have summarized the individual definitions for you once again:


Probiotics are specific strains of bacteria or yeasts that positively affect the human body, especially the digestive and immune systems. They occur naturally in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut or are available as food supplements. Probiotics contribute to the health of the intestinal flora by helping to displace harmful bacteria and strengthen the intestinal wall. [1] [10]


Prebiotics, on the other hand, are not living organisms but soluble fibers and other indigestible carbohydrates that are fermented by the good bacteria in the gut. Foods such as garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, and whole grain products are rich in prebiotics. They promote the growth and activity of healthy gut bacteria, especially bifidobacteria, and lactobacilli, and thus contribute to a healthy gut microbiome. [10]

In summary, anyone looking to optimize their health and fitness should turn to probiotics. They directly support the balance and diversity of the gut microbiota, which in turn boosts digestive health and the immune system. Probiotics can help reduce inflammatory responses, improve post-workout recovery, and maximize nutrient absorption.

These effects help to increase your overall physical performance and support a healthy weight, making them a valuable component of a comprehensive health and fitness program for any health enthusiast.

CARE empowers you to take your health into your own hands

At CARE, you get a deep insight into your general state of health through health check-ups and thorough blood analyses. Our comprehensive medical evaluation enables us to give you individual and personal advice on the results of your health check-up.

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Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE

Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach at CARE Zurich

About the author

Elena is an enthusiastic Health Coach and blog writer at CARE, with a passion for holistic medicine and health. Previously, Elena worked for almost five years as a coach leading retreats, workshops, and seminars. These included mind-body therapy: breath work, meditation, and massage; as well as energy force therapy: reiki, and qi gong; and third expressive therapy: movement, writing and support groups. Elena shares exciting articles on the blog, on the topic of where the alternative and traditional medicine intersect with Western Medicine. Elena is also the driving force behind the CARE community. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling to remote locations and dancing. You might also see her on the lake of Zurich as a coast guard. Join her on her journey to learn more about health and discover the world of preventive medicine! Visit all articles written by Elena!