The bacteria in your body outnumber your body’s cells 10 to one. Most of these bacteria reside in your gut, and the majority are quite harmless. 

Having the right gut bacteria is even linked to numerous health benefits, including weight loss, improved digestion, enhanced immune function, healthier skin and a reduced risk of many diseases. 

Probiotics, which are a certain type of friendly bacteria, provide health benefits when Eaten. 

They are often taken as supplements that are supposed to colonize your gut with health-boosting microorganisms. 

This article examines the health benefits of probiotics. 

What Are Probiotics? 

Probiotics are living microorganisms that, when ingested, provide numerous health benefits. 

They’re usually bacteria, but certain types of yeasts can also function as probiotics.

You can get probiotics from supplements, as well as from foods prepared by bacterial fermentation. 

Probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh and kimchi. Probiotics should not be confused with prebiotics, which are dietary fibers that help feed the friendly bacteria already in your gut. 

Dozens of different probiotic bacteria offer health benefits. 

The most common groups include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Each group comprises different species, and each species has many strains. 

Interestingly, different probiotics address different health conditions. Therefore, choosing the right type — or types — of probiotic is essential. 

Some supplements — known as broad-spectrum probiotics or multi-probiotics — combine different species in the same product. 

Although the evidence is promising, more research is needed on the health benefits of probiotics. 

Importance of Microorganisms for Your Gut 

The complex community of microorganisms in your gut is called the gut flora or microbiota. 

In fact, your gut contains hundreds of different types of microorganisms — as many as 1,000, according to some estimations. 

This includes bacteria, yeasts and viruses — with bacteria making up the vast majority. Most of the gut flora is found in your colon, or large intestine, which is the last part of your digestive tract. 

Surprisingly, the metabolic activities of your gut flora resemble those of an organ. For this reason, some scientists refer to the gut flora as the “forgotten organ”. 

Your gut flora performs many functions that are important for health. It manufactures vitamins, including vitamin K and some of the B vitamins.

It also turns fibers into short-chain fats like butyrate, propionate and acetate, which feed your gut wall and perform many metabolic functions. 

These fats also stimulate your immune system and strengthen your gut wall. This can help prevent unwanted substances from entering your body and provoking an immune response. 

However, not all organisms in your gut are friendly. 

Your gut flora is highly sensitive to your diet, and studies show that an unbalanced gut flora is linked to numerous diseases. 

These diseases include obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, colorectal cancer, Alzheimer’s and depression. 

Probiotics — and prebiotic fibers — can help correct this balance, ensuring that your “forgotten organ” is functioning optimally.