Bacterium: can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Bacteria is a classic gross-but-good entity. On the one hand, it can cause illness and infection–ew. On the other, though, certain strains can actually significantly improve both your physical and mental health. The most important factor?  BALANCE. When your bacterial balance is correct, your body will function optimally. Need some healthy bugs in your life? I’ve got you. Here’s your primer on good bacteria–three types of beneficial bugs, what they do, and where to find them.


  • What they are: Prebiotics are food for probiotics. They come in the form of non-digestible fiber/carbohydrates. These non-digestible carbohydrates nourish and fuel healthy gut bacteria in the large bowel and/or colon.
  • What they do: As mentioned above, the body doesn’t actually digest prebiotics–instead, they prebiotics promote the growth of good gut bacteria, which can be responsible for a variety of medically-proven health and digestive benefits. Notable effects include improved mineral absorption, regulation of hormones, help to correct leaky gut, and strengthen the immune system.
  • Where to get them: Prebiotics are found in the skin of many fruits and vegetables, including apples, bananas, onions, and garlic. You can find a complete list of foods containing prebiotics HERE. Since these foods offer only minimal amounts of the indigestible-but-beneficial agents in standard serving sizes, though, it’s almost impossible to reap the benefits of prebiotics through diet alone. Solution? Supplementation.


  • What they are: Probiotics are live, healthy bacteria found both inside and outside of the body. While many types of bacteria technically classify as probiotics, most of these come from two groups: lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.
  • What they do: Probuotics have a massive {positive!} impact on digestive health. They’ve been used to treat IBS, diarrhea, and other stomach conditions. They’re not just good for your tummy, though! Probiotics can also improve skin conditions, aid the immune system, boost urinary tract and vaginal health, and prevent allergies.
  • Where to get them: Probiotics occur naturally, 24/7 in your body. Of course, if you’re looking to increase your healthy bacteria count, they’re also available in a myriad of food items. Since probiotics are having a moment as of late, they’ve been added to everything from juices to chocolate. They also naturally occur in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, yogurt, miso, kimchi, and tempeh. You can also take a probiotic supplement. I swear by THESE.


  • What they are: Psychobiotics are the new kids on the block! Defined as “a live organism that, when ingested in adequate amounts, produces a health benefit in patients suffering from psychiatric illness” by the Journal of Biological Psychiatry, psychobiotics are specific forms of probiotics that influence the chemistry of the brain.
  • What they do: Psychobiotics are thought to be responsible for beneficial changes in the brain as they are capable of producing neurotransmitters–such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine–that boost the mood. According to Psychology Today, bifidobacterium infantis alters levels of serotonin, while lactobacillus reuteri increases levels of oxytocin. These varying chemical levels, respectively, work to lessen feelings of depression, boost mood, improve appearance, and increase general health. Still other forms of probiotics help to decrease anxiety, regulate appetite, and regulate pain! Talk about mind-body connection. Note: Since psychobiotics are a relatively new concept, much of the information about them is highly technical. Thankfully, this piece from SELF breaks things down nicely!
  • Where to get them: It’s possible that one day not-so-far into the future, psychobiotics will be marketed specifically for their therapeutic properties. Since psychobiotics are simply a classification of probiotics, however, they can be found through the above-mentioned food and supplement sources.

Healthy bugs = healthy bod.



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