Probiotics: What you need to know

Probiotics: What you need to know

Thanks to the recent uptick of interest in gut health, scientific research in the area is booming, and with that comes an increase in the availability of probiotic products, including pills, drinks, powders and fortified foods. A quick scour of the internet and you’ll find their benefits touted in almost every facet of health; from improving the appearance of skin to boosting mood and cognitive function, seemingly probiotics can promote wellbeing and relieve almost any ailment or health complaint. But how much of what we read online is the truth? Can probiotics really support so many aspects of health, or is it simply a case of clever marketing? In this article, we’ll be diving into the research around specific strains of probiotics and their effects to find out.

What are probiotics?

The World Health Organisation describe probiotics as ‘live microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts confer a beneficial health effect on the host[1] – Interestingly, the term probiotic is derived from the Greek language meaning “for life”. There are thousands of species and strains of probiotics and millions of bodies living on planet Earth which co-exist with humans in our daily lives. In marketing, you may see probiotics described as ‘friendly’ bacteria, because of their health-promoting benefits. Alongside being available in supplement form, naturally-occurring probiotics can also be found in foods such as live yoghurt, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, miso and sauerkraut[2].

Why do probiotics matter?

A healthy gut is crucial for our overall health. To maintain a healthy gut, we need the epithelial lining to be strong and intact, and we need it to contain a large and diverse range of microbes – this is where probiotics come in. Regularly consuming probiotics can increase the plethora of microbes within our gut, encouraging the growth and proliferation of friendly bacteria and reducing the risk of microbiome dysbiosis. In turn, our body can create metabolites, such as acetate, propionate and butyrate, to support the health of the gut, ensuring functional integrity of the epithelial lining[3]. Let’s explore some of the research-backed health benefits, beyond the gut, of probiotic use:

Treat gastrointestinal conditions

Seeing as probiotics support gut health, it is no surprise that they have been found to exhibit beneficial effects in several gut-related conditions, including IBS, ulcerative colitis, constipation and acute diarrhoea. Both traveller’s and antibiotic-associated diarrhoea have been well documented to improve with probiotic use; a recent trial of 1,900 infants also found Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) supplementation to be effective at reducing the severity and duration of acute diarrheal episodes[4]. While conclusive evidence of their benefits for the specific inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Crohn’s disease is currently lacking, a promising 2014 review of studies indicated that adding probiotics, prebiotics, or synbiotics to conventional treatment could be helpful in inducing or maintaining remission of another debilitating IBD, ulcerative colitis[5].

Improve immune function

As most of the immune system is located in the gut, its health has a direct impact on levels of systemic inflammation throughout the body and therefore plays a key role in overall immunity. Probiotic bacteria can interact and stimulate intestinal immune cells and commensal microflora to modulate specific immune functions and immune homeostasis[6]. Specifically, LGG probiotic supplementation has been associated with significantly higher levels of antibodies, suggesting support for immune health[7]. Due to its beneficial effects on immunity, research suggests LGG may also reduce the risk of neuropsychiatric illness development in children.

Reduce allergy symptoms

Several studies have explored probiotic use for the prevention and treatment of allergy-related conditions and symptoms including allergic rhinitis (hayfever), asthma and atopic dermatitis[8]. In a 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis, probiotic strains within the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium groups in particular were found to be effective in ameliorating allergic rhinitis symptoms and improving the quality of life of those with the condition[9]. Furthermore, a review of 13 studies (4,755 participants) concluded that probiotic exposure during pregnancy or early infancy lowered the risk of atopic dermatitis development in infants, especially if exposed to a combination of probiotic strains[10].

To learn more about how probiotics work to confer health benefits, click here.

Incorporating probiotics

Probiotics can be consumed in particular foods, as well as in supplement form. When buying foods containing probiotics, be aware that many shop-bought varieties are pasteurised due to safety concerns, killing off much of the friendly bacteria. When shopping, aim for the products in the chilled section, ideally marked as non-pasteurised, to guarantee the presence of live probiotic strains. Homemade probiotic foods are also a great option for some, though it is important to note that you cannot be sure what strains and in what amounts you are receiving; while probiotic-rich foods are a great addition to the diet to promote overall well-being, they may not be the best option for managing specific conditions.

Instead, supplementation can offer a simple and effective option for those wishing to manage or treat conditions such as those mentioned above. When choosing a supplement, strain type and quantity of live bacteria in the supplement are both important factors to consider. As the best-studied and most extensively documented probiotic lactic acid bacteria strain in the world, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG would be a wise recommendation for a strain-specific supplement, while our Pro-otic capsules, containing four probiotic strains, would be a sound choice for general maintenance of healthy gut flora.


[1] International Probiotics Association (2023) About Probiotics, International Probiotics Association. Available at:’s%20(WHO,health%20effect%20on%20the%20host.%E2%80%9D (Accessed: 23 December 2023).

[2] Harvard Health Publishing (2023) How to get more probiotics, Harvard Health. Available at: (Accessed: 23 December 2023).

[3] Markowiak, P. and Śliżewska, K. (2017) ‘Effects of probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics on human health’, Nutrients, 9(9), p. 1021. doi:10.3390/nu9091021.

[4] Sanklecha, M. et al. (2022) ‘Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG evaluation in acute diarrhea (lead): An observational study’, Cureus [Preprint]. doi:10.7759/cureus.24594.

[5] DuPont, A. et al. (2014) ‘Systematic review of randomized controlled trials of probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics in inflammatory bowel disease’, Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology, p. 473. doi:10.2147/ceg.s27530.

[6] Kechagia, M. et al. (2013) ‘Health benefits of probiotics: A Review’, ISRN Nutrition, 2013, pp. 1–7. doi:10.5402/2013/481651.

[7] Segers, M.E. and Lebeer, S. (2014) ‘Towards a better understanding of lactobacillus rhamnosus GG – host interactions’, Microbial Cell Factories, 13(Suppl 1). doi:10.1186/1475-2859-13-s1-s7.

[8] Lopez-Santamarina, A. et al. (2021) ‘Probiotics as a possible strategy for the prevention and treatment of allergies. A narrative review’, Foods, 10(4), p. 701. doi:10.3390/foods10040701.

[9] Luo, C. et al. (2022) ‘The efficacy and safety of probiotics for ALLERGIC RHINITIS: A systematic review and meta-analysis’, Frontiers in Immunology, 13. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2022.848279.

[10] Zuccotti, G. et al. (2015) ‘Probiotics for prevention of atopic diseases in infants: Systematic review and meta-analysis’, Allergy, 70(11), pp. 1356–1371. doi:10.1111/all.12700.

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Elisabeth Philipps

Karen Devine

Karen Devine

Shelley Harvey

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