Probiotics come from a Greek word that can be broken down to:

  • Pro: to promote
  • Biotic: life

The medical community refers to probiotics as living microorganisms that offer several health benefits to the host when consumed appropriately.

Over the years, these supplements gained massive popularity, as millions of dollars are spent annually on advertisements to showcase the best probiotic supplements.

When people first hear about probiotics, they find it challenging to believe that consuming products with live bacterial microorganisms is beneficial to the body, which is quite understandable.

The logic is that we often take antibiotics to kill bacteria that trigger infections, so why would we consume these microorganisms willingly?

By the end of this article, you will get the answer to this question, as well as a comprehensive understanding of the ins and outs of probiotics.

Does everyone need probiotic supplements?

Despite how companies are trying to advertise that everyone needs probiotic supplements to optimize their health, solid medical and scientific data suggests otherwise.

You see, our gut has trillions of microorganisms that help the gastrointestinal tract in several functions, including the breakdown of indigestible foods, protecting the body from pathological organisms, and producing some nutrients (e.g., vitamin K).

Generally speaking, there is a balance between the gut flora and the immune system, which is referred to as symbiosis. However, when this equilibrium gets disrupted, problems begin.

The main way to maintain a healthy gut flora and prevent infections is by consuming a balanced diet that’s rich in fiber and good probiotics.

Fiber is typically found in green leafy vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, which is the reason that vegans rarely need to take probiotic supplements.

As you probably deduced, the answer to our main question is no. Not everyone needs to take supplements, especially if they’re on a healthy, balanced diet.

When should you start taking probiotic supplements?

To understand when you should start taking probiotic supplements, we first need to tackle the causes that may disrupt gut microbiome balance.

Digestive milieu

Microorganisms have specific environmental characteristics that make them flourish in the intestinal flora. For instance, water availability, carbohydrates, PH, certain medical conditions can cause the microbiome to either prosper or get disrupted.

For this reason, your diet and the type of foods you eat may contribute to healthy gut flora (e.g., fiber, probiotics) or the overgrowth of certain bacterial species (e.g., carb-rich diet).

Antibiotic abuse

With the constant rise of self-medication and the abuse of antibiotics, more resistant strains of bacteria and fungi are starting to surface. This is especially true for broad-spectrum antibiotics, which are designed to kill a wide range of germs.

When you think about it, that’s the best choice, right? You want to take the antibiotic with the largest spectrum that is capable of killing any germ that’s causing your infection.

However, that’s not the full story.

When you take large spectrum antibiotics, the drugs will kill everything in their way, including harmless bacteria and fungi (i.e., good probiotics) found in your gut flora. Consequently, the competition that prevented certain germs (opportunists) from growing and becoming pathogenic is no longer there, leading to recurrent digestive issues, which can be corrected by:

  • The interruption of self-medication
  • Taking probiotic supplementation


This is one of the most common causes of gut flora dysbiosis.

Your immune system is the regulator of the balance in your gut flora, and any germ that tries to escape this equilibrium will have to deal with an arsenal of immune cells and antibodies.

However, in the case of immunosuppression, your immune system is no longer competent enough to fight growing pathogens, which leads to the rise of opportunistic infections and symptoms of indigestion.

The primary conditions that may lead to immunosuppression include:

  • Advanced age
  • Unbalanced diabetes
  • Organ transplantation
  • Chemotherapy (treatment of cancer)
  • Acquired or inherited immune disorders

The benefits of taking probiotic supplements

Taking probiotic supplements offers several health benefits that involve most organ systems, including the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, liver, brain, and cardiovascular system.

However, the most prevalent health effects are seen in the digestive system, which is the focus of this section.

Gastrointestinal health

As you regularly consume probiotics, your body will restore the gut microbiome symbiosis, leading to the following benefits:

  • Improved gastrointestinal motility
  • Enhanced digestion
  • Detoxification of the intestines from chemicals and toxins
  • Decreased risk of digestive infections caused by E.coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and Campylobacter.
  • Decreased risk of digestive diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.

Overall, you will notice that your GI tract is able to breakdown different foods without experiencing any symptoms of indigestion (e.g., diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, gas).

General Health

Scientists keep discovering new findings that advocate for the impactful role of the gut microbiome in optimizing the function of the brain, metabolism, and immune system.

In fact, evidence suggests that a balanced gut microbiome significantly reduces the risk of infectious and inflammatory processes.

Key points to keep in mind when buying a probiotic supplement

It might be confusing to buy probiotic supplements due to the diversity of the available products and the health benefits they offer.

However, there are some basic properties that you need to inspect before making a purchase. These include:

  • The product must contain multiple strains (e.g., Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria)
  • The product must possess a balanced formula (low ratio between strains)
  • Colony-forming units (CFU) between 15 billion and 50 billion
  • The product must be allergen-free
  • The product must be shelf-stable (protection against ambient air and humidity)

Takeaway message

Probiotic supplements offer a myriad of health benefits, especially for people suffering from dysbiosis and symptoms of indigestion.

Hopefully, this article helped clear out the picture of the hype behind probiotics and the reality of the claims made.

If you still have questions regarding this topic, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section below.