When Do You Really Need to Take Probiotics?

Every day we hear about the importance of taking probiotics for a healthy colon.  The truth is that the health of the gut microbiome requires conscious care because it performs important functions for the body's overall health, and a diverse flora with the right ratio of good to bad bacteria provides your body with the tools for a strong defence system.   However, experiments have shown that it is best to get probiotics from the foods you eat and only use probiotics in pill form on certain occasions.  Today I explain when, what type of probiotics and why.

The microbiome refers to the collection of genomes of all the microorganisms in your environment, in this case, your body. The microbiota, on the other hand, usually refers to the micro-organisms found in a specific environment. In this sense, microbiota can refer to all micro-organisms found in an environment such as the skin, for example, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

The gut has its own microbiome, a community of microscopic organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, that live within the intestinal tract. But the reality is that the human body has four main microbiotas that differ from each other: respiratory, skin, urogenital and oral. Together, these 4 microbiotas make up the human microbiome, i.e. the trillions of microbiotas that live in and on your body.

The microbiota, often also called the gut microbiome, is the habitat of millions of microorganisms throughout your digestive tract, not just the colon. 

Our microbiome shapes the health of the gut-brain axis by supporting functions such as hunger, mood, metabolism, and the immune system.  In fact, the gut microbiome would manufacture neurotransmitters that affect your mood and cognitive function.

Now, it turns out that your gut flora is unique because there are many factors that determine its uniqueness, not only the microbiome you were born with, but also your heredity, physical predisposition, the geographic location where you grew up, whether you had contact with pets at home, your current lifestyle, the way you eat, etc.  Probiotics are large families of bacteria that our microbiome must be nourished with in order to maintain its health and function efficiently.


Types of Microorganisms that Inhabit Your Microbiota

The most common bacteria present in the oral microbiota are Streptococcus mutans, Porphyromonas gingivalis, Staphylococcus and Lactobacillus.

In the skin, the resident microbiota is found in the upper parts of the epidermis and congregates in and around the hair follicles. This microbiota includes:

Staphylococci (of a dry nature, on forearms, hands, legs and feet).


Corynebacterium (moist in nature, present in body folds such as elbows, under breasts, between toes and groin).



Malasezzia (sebaceous in nature, present in sebaceous glands and on the skin).

The predominant intestinal microbial phyla in the gut microbiota are Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, Fusobacteria and Verrucomicrobia.

The pulmonary microbiome is composed of the main member species of the phyla Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, Actinobacteria, Fusobacteria and Proteobacteria, which are distributed in ecological niches throughout the nasal cavity, nasopharynx, oropharynx, trachea and in the lungs.


How Good is it to Take Probiotics? When to Take Probiotics and When Not to Take Them

It was through my personal experience due to a dental treatment for which I had to take antibiotics for two weeks that I realised two things: firstly, because the treatment was in the mouth, the oral microbiota differs from the gut microbiota and probiotics, if required, should be made up of microorganisms that help restore oral health, although they will of course have an effect on the gut flora.

Second, depending on the health of your gut, probiotics in pill form may do more harm than good. If your dietary routine includes good amounts of fibre, as well as fermented foods such as sour cabbage, kimchi, kefir that help you maintain a healthy gut flora but also adequate levels of vitamin K2 which is crucial for calcium to bind to the right places, your body may have enough defences for a speedy recovery after taking antibiotics.


Supposed Benefits of Probiotics

In general, a compound of good bacteria would provide vitamins and help balance the ratio between the population of good and bad bacteria of which the gut flora should be composed. 

Probiotics may also contribute to the movement of food through the digestive tract by affecting the nerves that control all kinds of movements in the gut.

Currently, many purported benefits of probiotics are still being researched but some of the benefits for which they are prescribed as discussed above include reducing inflammation, boosting the immune system, increasing metabolism, reducing appetite by increasing satiety or fullness, and improving mental health. There is some evidence to suggest that certain strains of probiotics may have the ability to produce compounds that can influence neurotransmitters and other signalling molecules involved in mood regulation. This communication between the gut and the brain is known as the gut-brain axis.


According to specialists from several universities the only cases in which probiotics should be prescribed are,

- At the end of a round of antibiotics,

- To balance a chronic infection,

- For people who need to balance their mood,

- People suffering from diabetes and cancer,

- People with allergies,

- People suffering from stomach disturbances such as constipation.


Potential Risks of Taking Probiotics

Probiotics may cause infections and allergic reactions in some people, especially those who are immunosuppressed. Because probiotics contain live microorganisms, there is a possibility of contamination of the blood with bacteria or fungi, which can lead to sepsis (blood poisoning), which can be fatal.


Effects of Taking Probiotics if You Already Have Well-established or Very Sensitive Gut Flora

In my personal experience the idea was to take probiotics for a month to restore and keep my gut flora strong. Initially it worked, but after 10-12 days I started to feel a build-up of phlegm in my throat and mucus.  I also had difficulty in performing my air retention exercises and sometimes even a slight skin reaction. 

For this reason, I suggest you consult your health care provider because if your diet contains sufficient probiotics as well as prebiotics (a non-digestible food ingredient that selectively stimulates the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon), it is possible that after taking antibiotics your body will have sufficient defences to restore itself.

In any case, if you feel you can use a course of probiotics and your doctor agrees, here is what you need to know about the probiotics you would require according to your individual needs.


Microorganisms From Which Your Probiotic Should be Composed Depending on the Body Part to be Treated.

Probiotics that would promote oral health:

Bacteria of the species Lactobacillus reuteri, which fight harmful pathogens, Streptococcus salivarius, Lactiplantibacillus plantarum potentially restoring oral balance. This balance is essential in the treatment of gum disease, so probiotics containing these strains could help treat periodontal problems and reduce inflammation.

Probiotics for gut health:

Organisms usually recommended for restoring gut health are S. boulardii (a yeast), Lactobacillus species and Bifidobacterium species.

Probiotics for lung health, especially in asthma and other inflammatory conditions:

In several studies reviewed, the strain of choice is Lactobacillus (plantarum, acidofillus and rhamnosus) which in some cases has been provided along with an herbal blend (vasaka root, holy basil or Tulsi and turmeric root) and has provided very good results. (study)

Finally, the best way to get your probiotics is by eating a balanced and diverse diet, primarily plant-based, prioritising ferments such as sour cabbage, kimchi, kefir and Greek yoghurt made from unpasteurised milk, miso (fermented soybean paste), tempeh and apple cider vinegar. In addition, high-fibre foods; konjac or glucomannan; psyllium husks, apple, artichoke and asparagus.

Be sure to consume a sufficient ratio of complete protein, according to your body weight. And fluids, especially drinks such as ginger tea, peppermint tea, coffee, water or fennel tea and, of course, filtered water.  


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