Trillions of bacteria live in your body, especially your large intestine. This community of bacteria in your colon, known as the gut microbiota, is vital to immune health, digestion, and other functions.

These friendly bacteria help:

  • Break down and digest food
  • Communicate with your immune system
  • Keep inflammation at bay

Research shows that an imbalance in the gut microbiota contributes to many health problems, particularly gastrointestinal issues, as well as immune dysfunction and infections. The bacterial balance is disrupted by medical conditions, emotional and physical stress, and, most notably, antibiotics, which destroy the good bacteria and the bad.

Your body needs a proper balance of good and bad bacteria to promote good health. Problems occur when this balance is off. That’s when probiotics can be helpful.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria similar to those generally found in your body. The various probiotic products on the market contain an even wider range of probiotic bacterial strains. To reap the benefits, you need to choose the right one to address your particular problem.

“If someone has disrupted his gut microbial balance, this is where a probiotic can be of benefit,” says Gail Cresci, Ph.D., RD, an intestinal microbe specialist with Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition.