There has been an increased interest in gut health over the past few years.  Becoming more aware of what a healthy gut means and the benefits of it are important.  Maintaining the proper balance of your gut microbes (bacteria, viruses, archaea, and fungi) is important for healthy aging and developing fewer diseases. In hopes of ensuring a healthy gut, many people turn to probiotic supplements.  Unfortunately, taking these supplements can have the reverse effect.

If you already have a healthy gut, taking probiotic supplements can throw off the delicate balance of microbes in your gut. It can alter the composition of your microbiome and reduce the diversity that makes a healthy gut. If the proportion of good and bad bacteria gets knocked out of balance it creates a condition known as dysbiosis. Probiotic supplements usually only contain a limited number of the bacterial strains needed by your gut. Taking a concentrated does of these, especially when your gut is already healthy and balanced, can throw everything off creating a dysbiosis of too much of a good thing.

There is a group of people who may benefit from taking probiotic supplements.   If you have gastrointestinal ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease, it may be beneficial to take supplements.  Probiotics may help prevent traveler’s diarrhea and may help reduce some effects of antibiotics but always check with your doctor before adding it to your diet.

If you want to establish and maintain a healthy gut, your best bet is to eat foods that contribute to good gut health.  Foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and wholegrains provide the fibre (prebiotics) that microbes require to thrive, ultimately turning the fibre into healthy “postbiotics”. Eating fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir contain probiotics (live microbes), prebiotics (fibre), as well as postbiotics (vitamins and nutrients produces by microbes) making it very effective for maintaining a healthy balanced gut.