Antibiotics Versus Probiotics: A Microcosmic Example of a Macroscopic Belief System

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.


I recently gave a professional friend of mine some probiotic samples, suggesting that he take them regularly as a way to shore up his immune system during cold and flu season. Probiotics are friendly and safe bacteria that have the ability to not only keep our immunity in good working order, but also to kill pathogens. He was discussing my suggestion with a friend of his, who has a degree in microbiology. We’ll call him Fred. Fred cautioned my friend about the use of probiotics, saying that they could be dangerous.

At first I was astounded by this response, especially having just been to Copenhagen to visit one of the largest producers of probiotics in the world and having seen the lengths to which this company goes to make sure their product is both safe and effective. Fred’s reaction was a reminder that we have a way to go before our culture truly understands the concept of an ecosystem in our body in which bacteria, yeast, and the immune system all coexist in balance and health.

As a microbiologist, Fred has been trained in pathogenic bacteria with a disease focus—everything that can go WRONG. My aunt was a bacteriologist back in the 1940’s. She was so concerned about germs that she wouldn’t allow anyone to pick up her firstborn child, which left a mark. Back then, hospitals were a fortress against germs. Notice what has happened with that approach. Hello super bugs. My favorite line in Jurassic Park is “Nature always finds a way.” What we push up against gets stronger. Always. It’s a law of nature.

Probiotics favor everything that can go RIGHT. Probiotics help maintain the ecosystem of the gut, respiratory tract, and urogenital tract. They are the opposite of pathogens. All world cultures have fermented foods as part of the diet. Cheese, cottage cheese, tempeh, tofu, sauerkraut, sour dough bread, and yogurt all contain probiotics.

This discussion is a good example of the paradigm shift that is now happening in health— moving from a pathogenic anti-life (antibiotic) to a pro-life (probiotic) focus. It’s the movement from a “war on something” metaphor to a partnership metaphor.

On the macrocosmic levels, I’ve spent the first half of my life researching and footnoting everything that can go WRONG with the female body—knowing all along that there had to be a better way. Now I’m dedicating the rest of my life to focusing on everything that can go RIGHT with the female body—and teaching women how to make this their reality, starting with myself, of course, she says as she gracefully steps down off her soapbox.

Last Updated: December 30, 2010

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.


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  1. antonieta
    7 years ago

    which brand of probiotics do you recommend? please let me know which multivitamin is good for me, i am 73 years old

  2. guthealth
    8 years ago

    What is a “high quality” probiotic? I see them everywhere in drug stores, health food stores, some are refrigerated, some are not. What are “look for’s” in a high quality probiotic?

  3. Donnell
    9 years ago

    I love this conversation about probiotics and a balanced gut. I have been battling Candidiasis for a few years. It’s mostly under control but aside from all the sugar, bread, etc. I have completely removed from my diet I miss having a social drink once a week. What are your thoughts about eventually being able to do this? Also is there a prescription drug you recommend I should take to take out the last of the yeast overgrowth in my system. I know there is no confirmed research about the length of time I will need to do this diet. I feel so good without the sugar in my diet and have no problem with continuing that for the rest of my life. I do hope I can have a glass of wine or cocktail again though without immediately feeling itchy. Thanks for your time!

  4. Coleen
    13 years ago

    Probiotics play an important role at my house. My birds get them when needed, my dog gets them and my husband & I take them always after an antibiotic and that is rarely. It’s the partnership we enjoy as a healthy family. Stay on that soap box, I love it!

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