You need a probioticAfrica Studio/Shutterstock
If you experience gastric distress like bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, or even acid reflux, you could likely benefit from probiotics. “Daily probiotics support and rejuvenate the microbiome by helping to balance the gut flora, assist digestion, help your body make vitamins and absorb minerals, strengthen the immune system, and improve metabolism,” says Frank Lipman, MD, bestselling author and founder of Be Well and the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City. The gut microbiome is a collection of good bacteria that affect your digestive health and can be improved by eating yogurt and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir, or by taking a daily probiotic supplement. “Based on current research, find a probiotic that has as many different strains [of bacteria] as possible,” says Erika Angle, PhD, biochemist and CEO of microbiome fitness company Ixcela. “By taking a probiotic, you are skewing the Darwinian competition in your gut, giving different species an equal chance to survive and allowing for a more balanced and diverse microbiome.”
A diverse microbiome is a healthy microbiome. Watch for these silent signs that your microbiome could be in trouble.
You’re exposed to too many chemicalsKira Garmashova/Shutterstock
According to recent studies, gut microbiota dysbiosis can be induced by environmental pollutants. “Pain in the gut or bowel habits that are unusual are often signs of a damaged microbiome,” Dr. Angle says. Paying more attention to the health of your gut, she says, “begins with monitoring what we put in and on our bodies, because processed foods, chemical exposure through creams, lotions, and detergents, and medications can often have negative side effects that reduce or change the makeup of microorganisms in the gut.” Dr. Lipman says junk food, GMOs, conventionally or factory-farmed meats may also impact your inner ecology. “Almost no one reaches adulthood with their microbiome in tip-top shape—it picks up a few dents and dings along the way,” he says. Research is still emerging on exactly how these factors impact your microbiome, but eating a diet of whole foods—including pastured, free-range, and wild caught meats meats, eggs, and fish and organic produce whenever possible—and taking a probiotic may benefit it. If you need some motivation to improve your gut health, here’s how a healthy gut microbiome could add years to your life.