Probiotic supplements can have many functions. Diversifying the gut is a big one, Gandhi says, which helps to maintain or restore balance in the gut microbiome.*
“Probiotics create an environment favoring a healthy-functioning gut with minimal inflammation,” Davar adds. “If you have a damaged gut, probiotic supplements can help restore a healthy gut barrier.”*
While supporting gut health is one obvious benefit, studies have also shown changes in the microbiome can help manage depression, autoimmune disease, heart disease, and more, depending on the strains, Gandhi says.
As for probiotic foods, “Ideally we should always be eating probiotic-rich, fermented food daily,” Gandhi says, “but even more so if you are not taking a supplement.” These foods introduce multiple new strains of good bacteria to the gut, optimizing the GI tract and diversifying the microbiome, she explains.*
One way to get gut-friendly benefits, while also extending the life span of seasonal produce, is to preserve vegetables. “Making and eating traditional foods such as sauerkraut, pickles, natto, kombucha, and beet kvass is a delicious and fun way to optimize your gut health and strengthen immunity,” registered dietitian Ella Davar, R.D., CDN, says.
As a general rule of thumb, Davar recommends getting probiotics from a variety of sources. “Those who don’t have time for cooking, or don’t like the taste of probiotic-rich foods, might greatly benefit from the supplement,” she explains.*