Probiotics: What are the Health Benefits and Why are they Important?

Written by Allison Canty
on February 22, 2019

This article was medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, RDN, LD.

Did you know that your stomach contains more than 100 trillion bacteria cells? Some of them are your friends, while others are working against you. These nasty bacteria thrive on sugar and other dietary and lifestyle choices reduce healthy bacteria which encourages the growth of unhealthy bacteria.

So, within you is a bacteria war constantly being waged. Your good bacteria are valiantly trying to protect you from the negative effects of bad bacteria and keep your intestinal lining healthy. When you take probiotics you are boosting your good bacteria to help overcome the enemy and ensure that your immune system is working at peak efficiency. 

The standard American diet contains a lot of processed foods that are packed with sugar, additives like emulsifiers and proteins that can weaken intestinal permeability and gut bacteria. This is, of course, feeding the pathogenic bad bacteria in the digestive system. This sets the stage for a whole host of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, depression, and heart disease. It also suppresses our immunity, making us susceptible to the common cold and any other virus that happens to be floating around. 

Fermented foods which are rich in probiotics are the ideal food to boost your own internal probiotics. These foods also contain vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, antioxidants and may also contain prebiotic in fiber, the main bacteria to help your healthy gut bacteria thrive. 

Taking in the right natural foods will help to support your good bacteria. Examples of fermented foods are listed below:

  • Kimchee
  • Sauerkraut
  • Fermented carrots
  • Fermented zucchini and other vegetables
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Kombucha
  • Fermented garlic
  • Yogurt
  • Buttermilk
  • Kefir
  • Water kefir


Prebiotics are foods rich in fiber that selectively feed your probiotics. A diet rich in prebiotics will help increase healthy gut bacteria which in turn will affect long-term health. Examples of these foods include:

  • Green bananas
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Asparagus
  • Apples
  • Oats
  • Chicory root
  • Inulin
  • Resistant starches (starches that have been cooked, then cooled to refrigerator temperatures for at least 4 hours, then eaten. Reheating after the cooling process does not reduce the resistant starch amounts)

Probiotics Health Benefits 

Balancing Gut Bacteria

Ideally, of the 100 trillion bacteria cells in your gut, the majority of them should be good bacteria. In most people, it is nowhere near that. That’s because of poor dietary choices, illness, antibiotics, stress and a host of other lifestyle factors.[source][source][source]

In addition, healthy gut flora improves the gut barrier function and intestinal permeability. Abnormalities in intestinal permeability are associated with digestive diseases, allergic reactions, digestive symptoms, autoimmune disease and other health conditions. [source]

Improving Mental Health

Surprising as it may seem, there are a number of studies that link the health of your gut bacteria with the functioning of your brain and mood.[source][source][source][source][source][source][source][source][source]

Symptoms of Imbalanced Gut Bacteria

Imbalanced gut bacteria is also known as dysbiosis which, according to the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, may result or be associated with the following conditions or symptoms [source]:

  • Digestive symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea and constipation
  • Digestive disease
  • Diabetes
  • Food allergies
  • Lack of energy
  • Obesity
  • Skin problems
  • Chronic respiratory infections
  • Cancer


The health of your gut bacteria is highly influenced by your diet and lifestyle. Make sure that you are getting enough sleep, managing stress and avoiding antibiotic use when possible. It is while you are sleeping that the gut repairs itself. Get out in nature regularly in order to soak up plenty of Vitamin D. Flexibility and exercise are also important. Eating a balanced whole food, plant-heavy diet, rich in fiber and fermented foods, is essential.

If you are unable to get a good range of plant-based foods in your diet, suffering from a disease or chronic symptoms, or are taking antibiotics, look out for a quality, multi-strain probiotic supplement. Recommended dosages vary but range from 40 to 120 billion CFUs per day for most conditions. Fiber supplements containing prebiotics like chicory root or inulin will feed your good bacteria and help to bring about the ratio of bacteria that will ensure that your immune system is working at its best.


Learn More About Other Healthy Ingredients in Our Nut Butters or Read Our Ultimate Guide to Nuts.


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