Probiotics are all the rage right now, but can they actually be harmful to your microbiome?

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about probiotics. Some people say they’re essential for gut health, while others claim that they can actually damage your gut flora.

So, what’s the truth? In this blog, we look at how probiotics interact with your microbiome and discover some of the research being carried out.

How can probiotics impact the microbiome?

The human microbiome is a complex ecosystem that lives in and on our bodies. It can be found anywhere from the skin’s pores to the gut to the mouth and includes trillions of microorganisms such as bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi and protozoa.

Although we only know about 10% of these microbes by their scientific names so far, they are essential for maintaining health because they regulate many body processes including digestion and immune function. This means that probiotics may have an effect on your health.

Can probiotics change the microbiome?

As it turns out, probiotic consumption can change your gut microbiome! This happens because Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium (the main types of bacteria in probiotic supplements) are included among the thousands of species that make up the microbiome.

The effects depend on what strains are used and how much of each strain is consumed. In fact, some strains have been shown to increase the microbiome’s biodiversity while others have been linked with decreased microbial diversity.

How do probiotics interact with your microbiome?

The human gut microbiome, which is the collective genomes of all microbes in your digestive tract, has been shown to play an important role in many aspects of health. One way that probiotics may interact with the host microbiota is through competition for nutrients and epithelial adhesion.

For example, certain strains of Bifidobacterium produce enzymes that can break down polysaccharides like pectin and starch into smaller molecules like sugar or short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).

These sugars and SCFs are food sources for other commensal bacteria such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.[1] The production of antimicrobial substances by some probiotic strains also helps them compete against pathogens. For example, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium produce bacteriocins and hydrogen peroxide to kill commensal bacteria with similar susceptibilities.

Human microbiome large intestine filled with bacteria - your microbiome
Human microbiome large intestine filled with bacteria

Cross-feeding is another way that probiotics can compete against pathogens. For example, Lactobacillus reuteri secretes succinate, which allows the growth of bile salt-degrading commensal bacteria such as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii.

Another example of cross-feeding is the production of SCFAs and polyamines by some strains of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. These SCFAs and polyamines are food sources for other beneficial gut bacteria such as Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis.

The inhibition of harmful bacterial toxins is another way that probiotics compete against pathogens. For example, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have been shown to inhibit the production of the toxin from some pathogenic Clostridium and Bacillus species, respectively.

There are also a few examples of probiotics producing toxins that can kill pathogens. For example, Bifidobacterium breve produces a neurotoxin that can kill Clostridium perfringens and Enterococcus faecalis.

In addition to competing with pathogens for food sources, some probiotics can also inhibit the growth of potential pathogens. For example, Saccharomyces boulardii has been shown to prevent the overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter in animal models.

Are there any risks associated with taking probiotics

The number one question people ask about probiotics is whether or not they have any risks associated with taking them. When it comes to the human body, there are always going to be some risks involved in anything you do, but for most people who take probiotics, these risks are minimal and often nonexistent.

What kind of things should you look out for when deciding if probiotics are right for you?

  • Firstly, make sure that whatever brand of probiotics you’re looking at contains live bacteria strains that have been clinically proven to help with whatever health issue you’re dealing with.
  • Secondly, keep your eye on how many billion CFUs (colony-forming units) per serving each product has because this will tell you how each product measures up to the others.
  • Third, determine whether or not there are any additives in whatever probiotics you’re considering taking that could be harmful to your health if taken at high dosages. And finally, consult a doctor before trying out any new supplement, including probiotics.

Can you still take probiotics if you have a compromised microbiome

It is a common misconception that if you have a compromised microbiome, then taking probiotics will make things worse. This is not the case. Rather, taking probiotics can help replenish your gut with good bacteria because it can be difficult to get enough in your diet when you are constantly eating food that kills off the good bacteria.

The best thing about this type of treatment is that there are no reported side effects and they are incredibly affordable when compared to other treatments for GI issues like antibiotics or prescription drugs.

For example, one study found that people who took probiotics had significantly fewer bowel movements per day than those who didn’t take them, which reduces gastrointestinal distress in general because you don’t have as many loose stools or painful cramps, which is the result of too much fluid in your colon.

Probiotics are safe even if you have low immunity because they support immune function rather than inhibit it. However, this doesn’t mean that they will strengthen every aspect of your immune system. If you have an autoimmune disease then taking probiotics might not be the best treatment option for you.

Understand whether a probiotic scan hurt your microbiome
Understand whether a probiotic scan hurt your microbiome

How do you know if your microbiome is healthy?

A healthy microbiome, or gut flora, is essential for many aspects of your health.  It regulates immune system responses and the production of vitamins and other nutrients that your body needs to function properly.  A balanced ecosystem in your intestines can also protect you from infections by harmful bacteria like E-coli, Salmonella, and Clostridium difficile (C-diff). 

The best way to determine if you have a healthy microbiome is through stool testing. This test will evaluate the microbes living in your digestive tract by analyzing faecal matter samples collected during a 24 hour period. You needn’t be concerned about preparing for this procedure as it’s very simple: just collect all bowel movements over the course of a day.

People with healthy microbiomes have more microbes living in their intestines than people who experience gut dysbiosis or an unhealthy microbiome.  A recent study published in the journal Genome Biology reports that the average adult has 39 trillion microbial genes compared to only 20,000 human genes! These microbes greatly outnumber our own body cells.

The study, published by Dr Jeff Leach of the Human Food Project, revealed that people who live or eat in industrialized countries have a microbiome with less diversity than those living in developing nations.

What can you do to improve your microbiome if it’s not healthy

Your microbiome is the community of microorganisms that live in and on your body. They play a crucial role in your health, affecting everything from your immune system to your mood. If your microbiome is not healthy, it can cause a wide range of health problems. Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve your microbiome if it’s not healthy.

One thing you can do is eat probiotic foods. Probiotics are bacteria that have beneficial effects on the gut microbiota. They help to restore the balance of good and bad bacteria, and they have been shown to be effective in treating a variety of health problems, including diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and Crohn’s disease.

Another thing you can do is take probiotic supplements. A recent study shows that oral probiotics may be effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In addition, a review of previous studies indicates that certain strains of bacteria might play a role in decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety. The authors concluded that “probiotics have shown efficacy for the treatment of psychiatric disorders, particularly those that are accompanied by GI symptoms.”

So, do probiotics hurt your microbiome?

There is no evidence that probiotics can hurt your microbiome. In fact, there is some evidence that probiotics may actually help to improve the health of your microbiome.

A study published in 2016 found that probiotics were associated with a reduction in the incidence of Clostridium difficile infection, which can cause serious health problems.

A study in 2014 also found that the use of probiotics was associated with beneficial microbial changes. But, in both studies, the authors state very clearly that it is unclear whether these benefits are due to the presence of probiotics or if they are due to other factors (diet, antibiotic use etc.)

So remember – if you’re getting sick way more often than you’d like, and constantly battling colds and flu, it may be time to take a closer look at your microbiome.

In conclusion

The human microbiome plays an important role in many aspects of health. By helping compete against harmful bacteria, probiotics may play an important role in maintaining a well-functioning microbiome.

A number of factors can cause your microbiome to become unhealthy, such as a poor diet or an imbalance in good and bad bacteria. In addition, medical treatments such as antibiotics can affect the microbiome. If you’re experiencing problems with your health and think it might be caused by an unhealthy microbiome, there are things you can do to improve your microbiome.

If you’re not sure how to care for and nurture your microbiome, talk to a doctor about the best way to keep it healthy. However, even if you’re not experiencing any health problems right now, there are steps you can take now that will help create a strong and healthy microbiome. Eat a wide variety of probiotic foods, and take a probiotic supplement if necessary.


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