Probiotics: What You Need to Know?

Probiotics are supplements or food products that are infused with bacteria that are considered good and healthy for consumption. In addition to bacteria, certain other microorganisms such as yeast can be also used in a probiotic.

Microorganisms were thought to be considered ‘bad’ for the human body since they have caused several diseases that have severely affected the health of living beings. But, since the discovery of good microorganisms, their application has made a huge impact on the benefit of human beings.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are similar to the good bacteria found naturally in the human gut. They are often consumed as dietary supplements or found in fermented food products such as yogurt, kefir, and pickles. Probiotics are believed to have various health benefits, such as improving digestive function, boosting the immune system, and potentially reducing the risk of certain diseases. However, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of probiotics on human health.

History of Probiotics

The first probiotic to be discovered was lactobacillus bulgaricus which was used in Bulgarian yogurt. Bulgarian microbiologist Stamen Grigorov discovered this in 1905. The history of probiotics can be dated back to the beginning of fermentation in food preservation techniques.

The modern concept of probiotics is contributed by Elie Metchnikoff, a noble laureate, and Russian scientist who realized the necessity of probiotics for human consumption.

How Probiotics Work

Microorganisms used in probiotics are those that belong to the human body. The microflora of the human body helps with the proper functioning of the various systems in the body. Probiotics aid the immunity of the body by fighting harmful microorganisms.

Adding probiotics to your diet helps replenish the microbiota of the body that are harmed by pathogenic microorganisms. Certain foods that are labelled as probiotics include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, pickles, cheese, etc. This is because the production of such foods requires microorganisms to perform certain functions, most commonly, fermentation in the making of these products.

The most common group of bacteria used in the production of probiotics are lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Other microorganisms such as the yeast saccharomyces boulardii have been used widely in probiotics.

Traits of a Probiotic

Not all microorganisms can be termed a probiotic. There are several conditions or characteristics that the particular microbe must exhibit to be called a probiotic. These are listed below.

  • The microbe must be beneficial for human health.

  • It must be safe to consume and not cause any adverse effect.

  • The microbe must be isolated from the human body since all microbes do not reside there.

  • It must survive in the human body or digestive system when consumed to exhibit its role.

Microflora of the Human Body

The human body is a network of complex mechanisms and consists of various organs. Probiotics are not just present in the digestive system but also reside in the mouth, skin, lungs, urinary tract, and vagina. The different host locations for probiotics are linked to their role involved in maintaining a healthy environment for the organ. For instance, the microflora in the oral opening helps prevent gum inflammation whereas the microflora in the vaginal cavity of females helps prevent genital yeast infections.

Another important thing to note is that the same group of microbes may be found in most organs but their functions vary. This variation is due to the species or strains present.

For example, Lactobacillus spp. found in human breast milk offers health-promoting factors to infants whereas Lactobacillus spp. Living In the vagina competes with other harmful microorganisms by inhibiting them from getting into contact with the epithelial cells of the area. Their mechanism works by producing lactic acid that kills or restricts the multiplication of bad bacteria.

Research on Probiotics

Certain rules and regulations are followed when research studies and testing are conducted on probiotics. These are,

  • The bacteria or microorganism used must be alive to work as a probiotic

  • The microbe should be evaluated completely to produce health benefits at the site of the host that is being targeted by the probiotic

  • The microbe used as a probiotic must be characterized and identified and given a taxonomical name.

  • The probiotics used must be safe to consume. This implies that all necessary tests must be conducted to evaluate the metabolic activities, antibiotic resistance, toxin production, side effects, or any after-effects of the microorganism strain used.

Future of Probiotics

The future of probiotics is promising and there is a growing interest in their potential health benefits. Research in this area is ongoing and new findings are continually emerging. It is expected that the use of probiotics will continue to increase in the coming years, especially as consumers become more aware of the impact that gut health can have on overall well-being. Additionally, advances in technology and manufacturing processes may make it easier to produce and distribute probiotics in the future. Probiotics have taken over the market of the health sector during the 21st century. The business has grown to the value of a billion-dollar industry. Consumption of probiotics has rapidly increased in the Asian, European, and American continents. Their health benefits have increased the demand for probiotic supplements and foods.


Probiotics have been consumed for their contribution to health. It has not caused any adverse effects as of yet but before adding probiotics to your diet, it is always recommended to consult a doctor.

Probiotics may cause side effects for people who have a weak immune system or suffer from other diseases. Sometimes, probiotic products may contain other microorganisms as well that may be due to contamination. These harmful microbes may cause infections. Also, there might be higher risks of antibiotic resistance gene transfers from microbe to microbe posing a threat to human health.

Updated on: 20-Mar-2023


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