Probiotics are, technically speaking, defined as live, beneficial microorganisms designed for our consumption so they can “confer a health benefit” to us, “the host.” They can help inoculate your gut’s microbiome with helpful microbes when those populations have become depleted.
Because every person’s microbiome is unique, there is no model for an ideal microbiome—but we do know that a healthy one is a balanced one, with the beneficial, symbiotic microbe populations outweighing the populations with the potential to cause harm and disease. We also know that these populations can fluctuate, influenced by our environment and environmental inputs, the foods we eat, the medications we take, and even our exercise (or lack of) habits.
Maintaining this balance is important, but so are the key functions our symbiotic microbes perform, which includes all the enzymes, organic acids, and other bioactive substances they produce. Within and on the surfaces of our bodies, these substances help maintain acidic environments that discourage harmful bacteria from growing, moderate nutrient absorption, and communicate through neurotransmitters to the brain, impacting functions like mood, behavior, and appetite.
Probiotic Species for Your Gut Microbiome
There are anywhere from 10-100 trillion microorganisms—from thousands of different species—that can live in our gut microbiome alone.
Each of these different species groups has different functions and substances they can create to help our bodies function. When you’re evaluating a probiotic supplement or seeking to understand how probiotic biochemicals work, it can be helpful to understand the different benefits provided.