What Are Probiotics?

Published: August 20, 2014
Dear What Are Probiotics?,

What are probiotics? I always hear stuff about probiotics in yogurt and how you should eat probiotics. What are they exactly?

Dear What Are Probiotics?,

The word probiotic literally means “for life.” Probiotics are live microorganisms (either bacteria or yeast) that, when consumed in adequate amounts, have beneficial effects on the person consuming them beyond providing basic nutrition. These beneficial effects can include:

  • Adjusting the microflora in the intestines. This microflora consists of various microorganisms (bacteria, yeast, fungi) that live in the intestinal tract and that aid in the breakdown and absorption of certain foods. People will consume foods with probiotics (such as certain types of yogurt) in order to maintain a certain amount of healthy or “good” bacteria in the digestive tract.
  • Acting directly on body functions such digestion or immune function.

A food is considered a probiotic if it contains a sufficient quantity of probiotics and if all probiotic properties are maintained throughout the life of the product (essentially meaning that they are alive in sufficient quantities to provide beneficial effects).

If you have more questions about probiotics, or if you want to find out if you would benefit from eating foods with probiotics, TeenHealthFX recommends speaking to your doctor or school nurse about it. If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-5199 for an appointment with an adolescent medicine specialist or contact your local teen health center. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.

For more information on yogurts and probiotics, read: