Written for Mediaplanet’s Women’s Health campaign published in Maclean’s magazine in March 2016.

In the age of hand sanitizer and antibiotics, many avoid bacteria in order to stay healthy, but research indicates that not all bacteria are bad.

“A probiotic is actually a substance made by a microorganism including bacteria and even fungi,” says Dr. Marla Shapiro, an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto Medical School and medical expert for CTV News. “It is these substances that confer health benefits.”

Though studies are now investigating how probiotics, often described as the good bacteria, can help everything from depression to allergies, some key benefits are seen in the treatment of bacterial vaginosis and gut conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

For these conditions, Dr. Shapiro says that taking probiotics, in the appropriate doses, can be a proactive approach for maintaining and bettering a patient’s health.

Read the full story here.