The buzz around probiotics is continually growing, especially when it comes to supporting your digestive health. But you may be asking yourself what exactly they are and how they affect your wellness.

A closer look

 “Probiotics are healthy bacteria that may be ingested to combat harmful bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract,” explains Miguel Regueiro, M.D., co-director of the IBD Center at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

"Though probiotics can definitely be helpful for many people living with IBD and IBS, it can still be difficult to manage these conditions."

By helping to balance the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the intestines, probiotics can ease symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)—Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis—and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), such as diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain, gas and bloating. More specifically, they help create a barrier against toxins in your intestine’s lining, relieving digestive discomfort.

Know your sources

Whether you experience digestive issues like IBD or not, it’s likely you can benefit from getting more probiotics since most of us don’t produce enough on our own.

“The most common types, acidophilis and lactobacillus, are found in natural yogurt products, especially Greek yogurts,” says Dr. Regueiro. You can also get your fix in sourdough bread, soft cheeses, miso and raw sauerkraut. Dr. Regueiro adds that probiotics can be taken in pill, powder or liquid form, but it’s important to speak with your doctor about which brands, strains and dosages are right for you. You can also get your fix in sourdough bread, soft cheeses, miso and raw sauerkraut. Dr. Regueiro adds that probiotics can be taken in pill, powder or liquid form, but it’s important to speak with your doctor about which brands, strains and dosages are right for you.

Though probiotics can definitely be helpful for many people living with IBD and IBS, it can still be difficult to manage these conditions.

“Don’t lose hope,” says Dr. Regueiro. “New treatments are emerging and non-invasive testing is becoming more common. We’re actually able to identify markers of these diseases using blood and stool tests—even scans that use very little radiation.”