Probiotics: What are they, what are they used for and how to take them?

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Bacteria are usually associated with negative effects. While it is true that some can cause disease, not all do. There is a group, called microbiota, which is vital for the functioning of the body. In addition, there are foods that help improve the performance of these bacteria, known as probiotics.

What are probiotics, what is their function, and when should they be consumed? We will answer these questions below.

What are probiotics?

In general terms, probiotics are microorganisms. Their presence in the body is of great importance. They target the bacteria in the body to strengthen them. In this case, we are talking about the microbiota, or group of positive bacteria for the organism.

The body itself has the ability to produce them, but they can also be increased through the intake of some foods, especially those present in some dairy products. Among these, yogurt and kefir stand out.

The Spanish Society of Probiotics and Prebiotics highlights the basic characteristics of a probiotic

  • Capacity. It must be able to produce antimicrobial elements.
  • Resistance. Probiotics resist stomach acids and other similar substances. Thus they are able to enter the body and remain there.
  • Proof. If an element is believed to be a probiotic, clinical studies must be done to prove it. They must act as such both inside and outside the body.
  • Cultivation. Probiotics provide a great facility for cultivation.

what are probiotics used for?

Probiotics are frequently used in the field of health. Thanks to their presence, the following benefits can be enjoyed.

  • Strengthens defenses. The body’s defense system requires cells known as macrophages. Probiotics help to increase these.
  • Combats intestinal disorders. Among the diseases that yield to the presence of probiotics are: colitis, Crohn’s, inflammation of this area and the like.
  • Contributes to the digestive system. In addition to controlling the amount of acids in the stomach, it also helps to take better advantage of the nutrients in food.
  • Controls bacteria. As well as influencing the microbiota to increase, it also limits the production of harmful bacteria for the body.
  • Supports mental health. Probiotics promote the intestinal flora and, when this is functioning well, the possibility of suffering from mental illness is reduced.

Evaluations are still ongoing, but there is a real possibility that probiotic consumption may help minimize the effects of autism.

Use of probiotics

The amount of probiotics inside the body varies from person to person. There are two options for consuming it, depending on the circumstances. If the amount required is not that high, Mayo Clinic recommends eating foods containing these microorganisms. However, if the amount needed is large, supplements with a high concentration of these microorganisms should be used.

There are several foods that contain them, ideal to maintain a good amount of them in the body.

  • Yogurt. Although all its presentations have probiotics, the greatest amount is present in the natural one.
  • Kefir. It is a product prepared with yeast and bacteria. It is one of the foods with the highest concentration of probiotics.
  • Milk. There are fermented presentations. These are the ones that have these microorganisms.
  • Kombucha. It is black tea. Due to the fermentation process to which it is subjected, they are present.
  • Other foods. There are many fermented dishes that contain them in different quantities. Among these are sauerkraut and pickles.

Not all fermented preparations are good sources of probiotics. The best way to be sure is to read the label. It is also possible to get high concentrations in supplements

The presentation may vary, but the way to ingest them is the same: after mixing with a liquid, take the daily dose. In case you decide to use supplements, health experts recommend trying them for a month. Depending on the results obtained, it is decided to continue using it or to change it.

Types of probiotics

There are two types of probiotics. Depending on their characteristics, and the kind of bacteria they possess, they will fulfill a specific function. Here is the list.


Lactobacilli are the most frequent in yogurt. It is one of the most recommended to treat the presence of diarrhea. Thanks to its intake, the intestinal tract can better absorb nutrients from food and eliminate waste. In addition, it provides relief from intestinal inflammation or cholesterol problems, among others.


Bifidobacteria can be obtained by consuming yogurt and some cheeses. It has one of the most important functions within the probiotic group. It helps to keep alive, as long as possible, the microbiota. It also reduces the amount of harmful elements in the body.

In supplements

All of these can be obtained through supplements. Let’s see each of them in detail.

  • Bifidobacteria animalis. Helps strengthen the body’s defenses.
  • Bifidobacteria bifidum. Ideal for better digestion.
  • Bifidobacteria breve. Reduces the appearance of infections, especially in the intimate area.
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus. Helps to get the most out of food.
  • Lactobacillus fermentum. Works as a detoxifier.

Risks when using probiotics

Consumption is recommended for children and adults, as long as it is through food. The use of supplements in infants is only approved when it is a medical necessity. If used regularly in children, there is a risk of affecting their development.

Another precaution is to know the type of probiotics to be ingested. This may vary depending on the objective sought, otherwise, the desired effects will not be achieved. This is confirmed by Tatiana Zanin, graduated as a pharmacist.

They are not contraindicated for any person, but it is necessary to ask for the guidance of a specialist to know both the amount to ingest. You should also determine how long the supplement will be used. Otherwise, you run the risk of altering the values of the body, due to excessive consumption.

The use of probiotics in the right way provides many advantages to the body. To get the most out of them, it is important to do your research before taking them.

Carlos José Belmonte López
Carlos José Belmonte López
Degree in Pharmacy from the University CEU San Pablo and Master's Degree from the Universidad Pontificia Comillas de Madrid. Doctorate and committed to Human Health

Aunque pueda contener afirmaciones, datos o apuntes procedentes de instituciones o profesionales sanitarios y la información contenida en PharmaSalud esté redactada por profesionales en medicina, recomendamos al lector que cualquier duda relacionada con la salud sea consultada con un profesional del ámbito sanitario.

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