What is a Probiotic Culture?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 27 October 2018
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A probiotic culture is a collection of beneficial microorganisms consumed as a dietary supplement to promote digestive health. Probiotics, as they are also known, are usually available in health food stores, as well as big grocery stores with a natural foods section. They can also be ordered directly from companies that produce them, and can be cultured at home by people who are familiar with growing microorganisms in culture and know how to do so safely, without creating a contaminated environment.

People have been using probiotics for centuries, albeit not necessarily taking them directly as food. Many fermented foods like yogurt and traditionally cured pickles contain microorganisms that grow in the fermentation medium. The organisms preserve the food and are consumed along with the food when people eat it. In the digestive tract, they can multiply, and will help with digestion, as well as keeping populations of bad gut flora low.

These products are intended to be consumed while the bacteria are alive, although they may be in a suspended state. Probiotic cultures are usually kept under refrigeration, so the bacteria will be dormant, but not dead. Some companies sell probiotic powders and granules that are supposed to reactivate when consumed, although the reliability of such probiotic culture products varies considerably. When fresh, they can be very active, but older products or products handled and stored badly may contain dead microorganisms.


People may be advised to take a probiotic culture for the management of gastrointestinal conditions including difficulty digesting certain foods, as well as diarrhea or other problems. Regular consumption, along with a diet with an appropriate mix of foods that are high in fiber, can help people achieve more stool regularity and may improve digestive health. In addition, probiotics can fight off yeast infections, as they promote the development of acidity, creating an environment where yeast, along with other organisms that don't tolerate high acidity, cannot grow.

Before taking a probiotic culture or any dietary supplement, patients should consult a doctor. While such products are sold over the counter, they can pose health risks, and there may be cases when they are contraindicated. In addition, taking a probiotic culture for treatment of a stomach problem that has not been evaluated by a doctor may be dangerous, as there could be a serious underlying stomach issue that will not be addressed with the introduction of some beneficial bacteria, and taking dietary supplements could result in a delay in treatment.



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