What is your gut microbiome?

The digestive system contains trillions of helpful bacteria. The benefits of taking probiotics include improved digestion, oral health, and vaginal health.
The digestive system contains trillions of helpful bacteria. The benefits of taking probiotics include improved digestion, oral health, and vaginal health.

If you have unexplained stomach trouble, allergies, or fatigue, you might have problems with your gut microbiome. You have a delicate ecosystem of microorganisms in your gut that helps maintain wellness. If your microbiome is unbalanced, your health may suffer. Add probiotics to your diet to support gut health.

Your gut consists of many of your internal organs. It includes the whole length of your digestive system. This system breaks down food and processes it into forms that your body can use as energy.

The digestive system contains trillions of helpful bacteria. These make up your gut microbiome. Your microorganisms feed on sugars and fibers in your diet and make it easier to process foods. It would be best if you had a combination of microorganisms for optimal gut health. An imbalance in your gut microbiome can lead to health problems.

Research links gut function to overall immune function. Your gut removes waste material as well as harmful microorganisms like viruses or disease-causing bacteria from your body. If the gut isn't working efficiently, it may limit immune function or trigger reactions to substances that linger in your system.

Health issues related to gut microbiome imbalances

A gut microbiome imbalance can lead to symptoms, including:

Probiotics for gut microbiome imbalances

You can also introduce beneficial microorganisms into your gut by eating probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms that live in some types of food or supplements. There is some evidence that adding them to your diet can improve your gut health. 

Common sources of probiotics include:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha

You can also buy supplements that contain probiotics. Probiotics are often sold as dietary supplements, so they are not regulated by the Food and Drug 

Digestive issues

Improving the health of your gut microbiome can have a positive effect on digestive issues. Probiotics may ease constipation. In some studies, researchers found that taking probiotics improved bowel movement frequency and softened stools, so they were easier to pass.

Probiotics can also help reduce diarrhea caused by antibiotic medications. Antibiotics can deal with harmful bacterial infections, but they also damage the good bacteria in your gut. Adding a probiotic may limit those effects and reduce stomach upset due to antibiotics.

Limited studies suggest people with chronic conditions such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis benefit from probiotics. Probiotics may help prevent relapses of symptoms once the conditions are under control.

Oral health

Research suggests probiotics may improve periodontal disease. Infections or inflammation in the mouth and gums can cause significant dental problems. In some studies, people who took probiotics in addition to other treatments had better recovery from gum disease. The probiotics may help reduce the number of harmful bacteria in the mouth.

Allergies

Adding a probiotic to your diet may help reduce the symptoms of allergies or eczema. There have been a few small studies that indicate probiotics can improve seasonal allergy symptoms and lessen the effects of eczema in adults.

Vaginal health

The vagina, like the gut, has a microbiome of bacteria. The microorganisms in the vaginal tract keep the delicate tissue healthy by protecting it from harmful bacteria. When the beneficial microorganisms are out of balance, you may be prone to yeast infections, urinary tract infections, or bacterial vaginosis.

Adding foods or supplements with a probiotic called lactobacillus may improve symptoms of these conditions. Probiotics cannot replace conventional treatment for UTIs and bacterial vaginosis. Those illnesses can get worse if a doctor doesn't treat you.

Choosing a probiotic

There are many different strains of probiotics available in supplement form. The different strains have different health effects, so it's essential to understand which type of probiotic will best address your health concerns. Your doctor can help you decide which types of supplements might be helpful.

If you prefer to get probiotics from food, look for labels that list live, active cultures in the food. Make sure any new food you add is safe for you to eat. If you are unsure about trying a new type of food, ask your doctor. They can tell you if it's safe to add it to your diet.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/9/2021
References
SOURCES:

Harvard Health Publishing: "Health benefits of taking probiotics."

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Probiotics: What You Need To Know."

Orlando Health: "Gut Health: Why It Matters."

Piedmont Healthcare: "Signs of poor gut health."