By now you’ve heard that 80 percent of our immunity is living in our gut. What you may not know however, is that just about every aspect of wellness is somehow related to immunity, making those little bacteria living in our guts more important than ever. From mental-emotional to cardiovascular wellness, dialing in personalized probiotics could be what stands between developing a serious health concern or not.
And now, lucky for us, we can finally (and affordably) map our personal gut microbiome from the comfort of our own homes.
Making the case for personalized probiotics —
Some will argue that the best way to determine what each of our guts needs is by consuming exceptionally high amounts of fermented foods or diverse probiotic supplements to create a diverse gut microbiome that will make personalized findings unnecessary. While this can work for some, there are some holes to this theory, literally.
Maybe you’ve heard of a leaky gut? Leaky gut is where intestinal permeability exists. If enough inflammation is present from varying poor lifestyle factors (think bad diet, poor water quality, excessive alcohol or pharmaceutical drug consumption), the gastrointestinal lining becomes permeable — able to be penetrated — and cellular particles that belong in one particular location are now able to freely, and in most cases, harmfully pass through to the blood and be carried to locations in the body they do not pose any benefit to.
Theoretically, optimizing gut microbiome viability can decrease intestinal permeability or leaky gut. However, certain bacterial strains feed others or contribute to the proliferation of other microbial nuisances like candida albicans (stubborn yeast infections).
Consider kombucha. Because kombucha is produced through wild fermentation, in many cases they end up feeding a pre-existing candida or other bacterial condition they thought they’d be helping to eradicate with kombucha consumption. The same can be said of consuming a probiotic blend that is chosen arbitrarily.
Think about it. Can you remember a time where you purchased an over-the-counter supplement for an ailment, took it a few times, and then decided it didn’t work or made you feel worse? Maybe you were ingesting an incompatible form of vitamin, mineral, or herb? Maybe you weren’t taking the therapeutically compatible dosage? Perhaps you were already taking a medication and it was interacting? Or, you may have had a GI concern unbeknownst to you that was impeding absorption, etc. These are all variables that could be ruled out by personalizing your own wellness.
The science behind it —
The more we know about host-microbe interactions, the better we can dial in which probiotics are going to work best for each of us. And, it’s important to note, we don’t need an already labeled health concern to make the case for gut microbiome testing.
How probiotics are being investigated for personalization:
1 | The National Cancer Institute featured a study that showed specific gut bacteria can determine a patient’s responsiveness to certain immunotherapies. Every year immunotherapies are suggested to cancer patients with little help and big side effects. This type of data will lead the way in matching medicine to individuals.
2 | The EPMA Journal, a journal of predictive, preventive, and personalized medicine highlights findings that show the promise of personalized probiotic therapies to enhance the gut-brain axis, autoimmune concerns, diabetes, and cancer.
How to test —
While your integrative specialist will be able to order testing for you, grabbing your own at home may be a more cost-effective route. (UBiome or Viome are great options.) Once you’ve tested and received results, you can align your personalized probiotics on your own or with your provider. Check out Custom Probiotics to have a formula created according to your results. (Know though, that if you’re doing this on your own, you’ll need to pick and choose the strains yourself as the company does not provide a formula consultation, just the finished product.)
The culture club —
Once you’ve received results and have ruled out health concerns like candida, consider functional foods and beverages like kefir, kombucha, sauerkrauts, hot sauces, dips, and yogurt.
Have you tested your gut microbiome and if so, what did you learn and how is your health better for it? Are you a long time kombucha consumer that has experienced radical shifts in your health? Please share your stories below in the comments.
Christine Dionese, co-founder of flavor ID is an integrative health and food therapy specialist, as well as a wellness, lifestyle, and food journalist. She has dedicated her career to helping others understand the science of happiness and its powerful effects on everyday human health by harnessing the power of the epigenetic landscape. Christine lives, works, and plays in Southern California with her daughter and husband.