What the heck are probiotics and why do I need them?

Zest Nutrition Portland Oregon | What are Probiotics and Why You Need Them

Probiotic (as defined by Merriam-Webster) : a microorganism that when consumed maintains or restores beneficial bacteria to the digestive tract

gut health

So what are these beneficial bacteria actually doing in our gut anyway?

A LOT more than you might think. 

For starters, did you know ~80% of the human immune system lies in the digestive tract?! Well, it does. So, by keeping our gut healthy, we can impact many other aspects of our well being.

Some things we may be able to regulate with regular probiotic intake include:

  • Allergies
  • Digestion
  • Metabolism
  • Immunity
  • Vitamin Synthesis
  • The list goes on...

For more information regarding specific health conditions and probiotics, check out usprobiotics.org


So how do probiotics work?

The trillions of bacteria in our gut make up our microbiome. While some bacteria is beneficial, other strains can be harmful. Ideally we want 90% of the bacteria in our gut to be the good stuff. Probiotics improve the bacteria balance in our gut, helping the good guys to outweigh the bad guys. 

In order for probiotics to thrive, they need to be fed. What do they feed on you ask? Prebiotics. Think of prebiotics as fuel for the good bacteria. 

Prebiotic (as defined by Oxford Dictionary): a non-digestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines

Translation --> Fiber


Do you need to take a probiotic supplement?


Here's how to create a flourishing gut microbiome with whole foods: 

  1. Set your gut up for success with a high fiber diet, rich in prebiotics for the good bacteria to feed on (think fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, etc).
  2. Consume fermented foods rich in naturally occurring probiotics (see list below).
  3. Reap the benefits of a healthy digestive tract!


Foods rich with probiotics:

  • Kefir
  • Yogurt
  • Kombucha
  • Kimchi
  • Tempeh
  • Sauerkraut 
  • Miso
  • Pickles

Aim to incorporate at least one fermented food into your diet per day, more if possible!

Happy Digesting :)