Everyone has healthy bacteria in their gut, but it can become out of balance, with the "bad" bacteria taking over. Things like stress, illness, and antibiotics can disrupt the levels of good bacteria. The bacterial balance (called your microbiome) in our intestines is a pivotal factor in our wellness. Our guts are responsible for producing most serotonin, a primary feel-good chemical needed for emotional wellbeing. The link between wellness and our intestines is irrefutable for physical and emotional health.
The "good" bugs in our gut are known as probiotics, and they keep us healthy in countless ways, including important ones like preventing cancer. That's why you've undoubtedly heard you should be consuming them regularly, either as a supplement or in foods like yogurt, kombucha, and kimchi.
What's less well known is that to replenish your probiotic supply, your probiotic colony needs food. Rather than eating and taking probiotics nonstop, you can give them the food required to multiply independently. They eat insoluble fiber, which our guts don't digest or get nutrients from it. Before recent years, prebiotics wasn't something you could ingest on their own. We got them solely through the food we eat. Foods high in prebiotics include onions, jicama, and bananas, to name a few. Once people became more aware of prebiotics' importance, we began to add them to processed foods to increase their nutrient value; prebiotics are typically labeled as "inulin" in packaged goods.
In recent years the food, beverage, and supplement markets have been flooded with powders, capsules, bars, chips, drinks, and more touting prebiotic fiber benefits. Because our digestive system can't break down insoluble fiber, the fiber enters the latter stages of our digestive system intact. There, probiotics eat it, and as that happens, the fiber ferments and pull water into our intestines. That fermentation—which occurs quickly despite sounding like something that takes months, not minutes or hours—creates gas.
It is this gas that can create a problem. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Through the years, I have had patients who have had their back pain solved by taking a probiotic because it balanced their microbiome, and I have had patients that had gotten back pain because the probiotic threw off their digestive balance.
Most importantly, it would be best if you balanced your individualized gut and microbiome. Pay to how you feel when ingesting foods or supplements and pay attention to your shit - it is a vital way to evaluate your digestive system.