Awareness and popularity of probiotics in foods and as dietary supplements have increased significantly over the last 15 years. Although probiotics were discovered in the mid-19th century, research into the extent of their effectiveness continues to develop.

Exactly what are probiotics? Millions of bacteria — good and bad — live in our bodies and on our skin. The “good” kind are called “probiotic” (which means “for life”) and help us digest food. For the most part, they balance the “bad” kind (some forms of staph and e. coli fall in this category). But imbalances sometimes occur, for example when we get a bacterial infection and have to take an antibiotic. In the process of killing the bacterium that makes us sick, the antibiotic also kills some probiotics, which can cause side effects such as diarrhea and other ailments. Taking a probiotic while being treated with the antibiotic can sometimes relieve those uncomfortable symptoms and help replenish our bodies’ good bacteria.

In general, two strains of probiotics are linked to digestive health benefits and can be found in dairy products (yogurt, soy milk, kefir milk, some cheeses) as well as supplement capsules and powders, breakfast cereals, granola bars, and even baby formula. Probiotics can also be found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi (a popular Korean side dish), a special drink made from tea (kombucha), and miso (soybean paste). Supplements and fresh foods that contain probiotics are often kept refrigerated at the grocery store. Look for “live and active cultures” on the labels.

Recent studies indicate that some probiotics may also be helpful in managing weight loss, treating some forms of skin inflammation, or reducing upper respiratory infections. But some people should avoid probiotics, so be sure to talk with your primary healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet or wellness routine.

And here’s a tidbit about “biome,” a term often mentioned with probiotics. Simply put, a biome is a habitat for a community of organisms. Our digestive system (mouth, throat, stomach, colon, intestines, etc.) is considered a microbiome for the millions of bacteria that live within us. That was easy!

Your doctors at Teladoc wish you peak wellness and digestive health. But any time your tummy gets queasy or you start feeling less than your best, just reach out to Teladoc 24/7 through our mobile app, online, or by phone. Our board-certified physicians can diagnose your ailment, recommend treatment, and even prescribe medication if medically necessary. We’re always here to help you get and stay fit, active, and well!


This portion of the Teladoc website occasionally offers health, fitness and nutritional information and is provided solely for educational purposes only. You cannot rely on any information provided here as a substitute for or replacement of professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Teladoc cannot assure that the information contained on this site always includes the most recent findings or developments with respect to the particular subject matter covered.

If you ever have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical or health related advice from your health-care professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.

If you are in the United States and think you are having a medical or health emergency, call your health care professional, or 911, immediately.