Open a PDF version to print this topic

HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury


Rongoā whāngairopi

Probiotics are living micro-organisms (bacteria) that can help improve your health when taken in the right amounts.

Probiotics can be found in supplements and in some fermented foods such as:

How probiotics work

Probiotics combine with other good bacteria and yeasts that naturally live in your digestive tract (gut). Taking probiotics can increase the number of good bacteria, while decreasing the growth of bad bacteria. Probiotics also work together with your immune system, which can help fight off some illnesses and may reduce gut inflammation.

Probiotics work by:

Health benefits of probiotics

We are still exploring the health benefits of probiotics.

Not all probiotics have all these health benefits, but certain probiotics may help:

Types of probiotic supplements

Image of probiotic foods and supplementsThere are different types of probiotic supplements available. They come in capsule or powder form. You can buy them at the pharmacy and supermarket.

Some probiotics need to be stored in the fridge because they're sensitive to heat and moisture. Others are OK to keep at room temperature. Make sure you follow the storage instructions on the label.

Not all probiotics are the same. Different probiotics contain different types of micro-organisms and have different health benefits. It's important to choose a probiotic that is useful to the health condition you want to treat.

You may not respond to probiotics the same way as others. This is due to differences in genetics, what you eat and the micro-organisms currently living in your gut. Try a probiotic for a month. If it doesn't help, it may not be the right one for you.

Tips for choosing a probiotic supplement

Probiotics are generally safe for most people to take. If you're pregnant, have a low immune system or want to give probiotics to an infant, ask your doctor first.

If you get side effects such as stomach upset, fever or an allergic reaction, talk to your doctor immediately.


Prebiotics are a type of fibre found in some foods and supplements. They feed the good micro-organisms in our gut. For more information see Prebiotics.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2022.


Page reference: 703586

Review key: HIHEI-34305