Can You Take Probiotics for Gut Health?

Our gut health impacts more than just our gastrointestinal systems. Maintaining our gut health at an optimal level can also help the rest of your body stay healthy (and, in the case of our skin, radiant). 

The right probiotic for gut health can help support our bodies’ ability to keep its crucial state of balance, known as homeostasis. Here’s how probiotics work, what to look for and what to expect when you incorporate them into your wellness routine.

What Is the Microbiome?

Our bodies are home to some amazing features — and our microbiomes are one of the most impressive. The microbiome is a collection of trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, yeast, viruses and fungi, that live inside our bodies. Although we often think of these types of microbiota as being “bad,” they are crucial for helping our bodies through many of the normal processes of life. 

There are microorganisms throughout the body, but there are a few areas that have more concentrated communities of them, such as the gut, the skin and the hair. Each of these body parts has their own specific balance of microbiota. 

For example, your gut microbiome helps digest food and acts as a protective factor against many GI-related health conditions.

The majority of the microbes in the gut are found in one place called the cecum, which is a pouch located in the large intestines. As we age and grow, the amount and type of those microbes continue to evolve and change. 

Everyone’s microbiome is different — it’s just one more way that we’re all uniquely beautiful. But, regardless of how many different strains of gut bacteria we have, it’s the balance of those bacteria that makes the most significant difference. 

However, that delicate balance can easily be disrupted by factors like stress, illness, antibiotic use or immune system dysfunction. When the bad bacteria in your digestive tract start to outnumber the good bacteria, digestive issues can begin to surface or worsen. Keeping your gut microbiome in balance is crucial for not just the health of your GI system but your whole body's sense of health and wellness. 

What Are Probiotics?

So, how can you support and build up your crucial gut microbiome? That’s where probiotics come in.

Probiotics are a collection of beneficial microbes that can support the body’s overall microbiome. Probiotics for gut health are designed with strains of probiotics directly known for promoting GI health.

To be considered a probiotic, a microbe has to have several specific characteristics — it has to have been isolated from humans (meaning it is a microbe that is naturally present in the human body), survive in the intestine after being eaten, be safely consumed and have proven benefits. Some probiotics require refrigeration, so check the label so you can store them appropriately. 

A few groups of microorganisms commonly seen in probiotics are Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Saccharomyces boulardii. These beneficial bacteria can also be found in foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir. 

When taken in a daily probiotic, these live bacteria can help in a variety of ways — for instance, Bifidobacterium are excellent at helping digest dietary fiber, the rod-shaped (bacillus) Lactobacillus acidophilus can help with urinary tract infections and yeast infections and Lactobacillus rhamnosus can help support gut health. 

What Are Prebiotics?

You may have also noticed the term ‘prebiotics’ floating around in the discussion: here’s what they are and how they differ from probiotic supplements.

Prebiotics are foods or supplements that consist of specialized plant fibers or complex carbs that help create an optimal environment for the microbiome to thrive. They can be used with or without probiotics — there are even combination products known as synbiotics. 

Why Might You Take a Probiotic?

In general, probiotics are considered relatively safe for everyday use. Many people choose to take them as preventatives, much like multivitamins or other dietary supplements. 

When we look at probiotics for gut health, we look at not only how they can support digestive health but also how they may manage specific GI symptoms. For example, those of us who deal with occasional constipation (and related bloating or abdominal pain) may benefit from adding probiotics into their routines. 

The benefits of probiotics also mean they can:

  • Support immune function
  • Encourage easy digestion
  • Potentially aid in weight loss
  • Support healthy levels of stomach acid

Let’s look at a few more surprising benefits of taking probiotics for gut health. 

The Gut-Skin Axis

Although we are made up of many different body systems, each works together in unique and sometimes surprising ways. One of the perfect examples of this connection is something known as the gut-skin axis

It may not be obvious that the gut and skin communicate constantly, but they certainly are. In addition, the vast majority of the immune system is located inside the gut, which is also where many nutrients are made, pathogens are neutralized and enzymes are detoxified.

What happens in the gut can have repercussions for the skin, especially when it comes to digestion issues. Without a healthy gut, it’s hard to have healthy skin. The opposite is also true — if you’re noticing an increase in skin-related problems, you may have an imbalance in your gut. 

The Gut-Brain Axis

Another interesting and unique connection the gut has is with the brain via a channel known as the gut-brain axis. The theory behind this channel is that the foods we choose to put into our bodies are, of course, broken down for nutrition, but they can also impact our mood, brain health, memory and how we react to stress.

For instance, some of the chemicals that are produced through the process of fiber digestion (called short-chain fatty acids) can impact brain function, as can irritation in the gut. In fact, gut issues and harmful bacteria can also impact the vagus nerve, which has been tied to multiple digestive disorders.

How Can You Choose a Quality Probiotic?

There are potentially thousands of different microorganisms that make up our microbiomes, so how can we pick out which of them we should look for in a quality probiotic?

One of the first factors to consider is your goals for taking a probiotic. Are you looking to manage current GI issues or prevent them? Are you looking to keep your skin looking fresh and glowing or support your immune health?

With your answer to that question in mind, your next step is to look at which strains of live microorganisms the probiotic contains and how many of them there are. Probiotics are measured in CFUs (colony-forming units), and it’s not uncommon for there to be billions of each strain in the best probiotics. You may want to look for Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in a gut health probiotic, as these groups of microbes are specially tailored to manage GI symptoms. 

For instance, our Probiotic+ formula features both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains of bacteria, with different sub-strains that can colonize your digestive tract to help support digestion. With 35 billion CFUs, this probiotic is here to make a difference.

You’ll also want to be mindful and aware of potential side effects — although probiotics are safe, some people do experience some mild GI symptoms as their body adjusts. Taking them with a full glass of water or even a (gut-healthy) meal or snack can help reduce the likelihood of discomfort.

If you’re not sure exactly what strains or strength of probiotics you should be looking for, it doesn’t hurt to contact your healthcare provider. Depending on your concerns, they can help point you in the right direction. For instance, the strains you’d want looking for a vaginal health supplement versus a gut health supplement would be completely different.

How Else Can You Support Your Gut Health?

Taking probiotics for gut health is an excellent way to keep your gastrointestinal system strong and healthy, but it’s not the only thing you can do to support it. 

Here are a few other ways that you can support your gut health:

  • Focus on eating a gut-healthy diet — Your diet can play a huge role in your gut health, especially if you take the time to track any symptoms you may be having. Monitoring your gluten and sugar intake can also be helpful, as these components often trigger bloating and other GI issues. Luckily, gluten-free foods are far more prevalent now, so it’s easier to adjust your food choices. 
  • Manage your stress — Stress is no fun, and it can take a massive toll on your physical and mental health. Unfortunately, stress can also play a role in lowering your immune system, leaving you far more susceptible to developing infections.
  • Exercise more — We know exercise is crucial for maintaining a healthy diet, but did you know that it can also help with your gut health? Exercise can encourage blood flow to the body, which can help it perform peristalsis (the muscle contractions of the intestines that push food through the digestive process). 

The Bottom Line

Probiotics for gut health can be an excellent addition to your regimen — even if you don’t have any pre-existing digestive issues. Keeping your digestive system strong and healthy is not only good for your gastrointestinal tract but can also have health benefits for your skin and even support your mental health and overall wellness. 

Choosing the right probiotic strains for your specific needs is crucial. At JSHealth, we are here to help you every step of the way.


Microbiome | NIH

Gut–Skin Axis: Current Knowledge of the Interrelationship between Microbial Dysbiosis and Skin Conditions | PMC

Gut-Brain Axis | Psychology Today

Colony Forming Unit - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics