Does the word bacteria make you cringe? The truth is not all bacteria are harmful, and some are actually very good for you. You see, within each of our bodies lives a collection of trillions of bacteria, known as the microbiome. The heroes in this active community of tiny organisms are helpful bacteria called probiotics, which crowd out the bad guys and work with your own cells to maintain your overall health.
What’s more, a large portion of your microbiome is situated in the digestive tract, where nearly 80% of your immune system resides.1 So if your gut microbiome doesn't contain enough probiotics, you may not be feeling your best.
The tricky part of the gut health equation is that signs of an imbalanced gut aren't limited to tummy troubles. Here are five important signals that your intestinal balance may be out of whack:
1. You've lost that sunny disposition
Your head may be about as far from your gut as it can get, but according to recent research, your gut bacteria can communicate with your brain to influence your mood and emotions. This is because your friendly flora work to produce and regulate important mood-enhancing chemicals, such as dopamine, GABA, and serotonin.2
When your gut microbiome contains too few of these helpful bacteria, levels of your "happy" brain neurotransmitters may fall, making your mood tank.
2. You often feel under the weather
Since so much of your immune system is in your gut (where the majority of your beneficial bacteria live), when your gut microbiome is out of balance, it may affect your immune function and your resistance to inhospitable microbes.
So, if you seem to be constantly feeling out of sorts, the root of the problem may be an insufficient number of the good guys in your gut.
3. You don't like what you see in the mirror
When you're not comfortable in your own skin due to occasional breakouts, irritations, and itches, keep in mind that your gut may be the culprit. Research shows an association between too many undesirable intestinal bacteria and a less than optimal complexion.3
And, it’s not just your skin that’s affected—the makeup of your microbiome can be a big factor in whether you're able to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. 4
4. You just want to crawl back into bed
If your "get up and go" has got up and gone, consider what's going on in your gut. A deficiency of friendly gut flora makes it harder for your body to properly digest food and absorb nutrients, which can leave you feeling worn out before your day has even begun. And, a lack of microbial diversity has been definitively linked with low energy issues.5
So before you reach for yet another cup of coffee to help drag you through the day, you might want to think about supporting your zest for life at a gut level.
5. Your tummy is sensitive
Some signs of an out of balance gut do actually show up in the gut itself. If temporary bouts of constipation, diarrhea, gas, or bloating are cramping your style, it may be due to a shortage of friendly bacteria keeping the bad guys in check.
All that unrest in your gut can also contribute to bad breath, which is one sign of digestive issues that can wreak havoc on your self-esteem.
Gut TLC 101
If your gut has fallen out of balance, there's no need to resign yourself to not feeling on top of your game. These simple measures support a healthy microbiome from the inside out:
• Don't sit still: Active people tend to have more healthy gut bacteria than those who don't exercise, so get moving!6 Workouts don't have to be a chore; find a way to move that brings you joy, whether it's dance, martial arts, swimming, yoga, basketball, or another activity that's genuinely fun.
• Make healthy food choices: Eating a whole food diet (organic, if possible!) full of nutrient-rich plant-based foods will keep your entire system going strong, but your gut microbes will be especially happy. This is because many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—like bananas, dandelion greens, asparagus, and oats—are excellent sources of prebiotics, fibers that support the growth of friendly flora. Avoid GMOs, refined sugars, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and pesticides, all of which can destroy beneficial gut bacteria.7
• Stop obsessing about germs: It turns out all those popular anti-microbial cleansing products that make us feel safe may, in fact, be harmful to your microbiome. There's even evidence that our immune system actually learns to function effectively by getting a healthy exposure to dirt and bacteria.8 So when it comes to cleaning up, it's best to relax a little. Basic natural soaps and cleansers—plus a little elbow grease—are all you really need to get the job done.
• Commune with nature: One of the best ways to introduce your microbiome to a wide variety of friendly flora is to enjoy the outdoors and even get a little dirty. Throw a tennis ball with your dog, plant a tree, join a softball game, or spend a peaceful weekend camping in the woods for a healthy dose of microbial exposure.
• Mellow out: When you're stressed, your gut can become more permeable, which can tip the balance of intestinal bacteria in favor of the unfriendly guys. To protect your microbiome, find something that truly calms your soul, whether it be QiGong, meditation, yoga, journaling, or another relaxation technique.
• Avoid unnecessary medications: Antibiotics can be lifesaving when fighting severe infections, but unfortunately they indiscriminately kill off the good bacteria along with the bad. Other medications, including NSAIDs, steroids, antacids, birth control, and hormone replacers, can also harm those probiotics. If you need medicine to get and stay well, by all means, take it, but whenever feasible look for effective natural alternatives.
• Supplement with probiotics: A high quality all-purpose time-released probiotic like Hyperbiotics PRO-15 supports glowing health by supplying your gut with friendly bacteria to help create and rebuild an optimally balanced microbiome. Individualized formulas specifically tailored for kids, moms, women, and mature adults (and even pets!) can help your entire family cultivate optimal gut health.
Fortifying the ranks of your good gut guys encourages a lifetime of vibrant health for mind, body, and spirit. After all, a balanced, nourished gut can have you feeling like yourself again so you can enjoy your healthiest days yet!
1. Panda, S., Guarner, F., & Manichanh, C. (2014). Structure and functions of the gut microbiome. Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders Drug Targets, 4, 290–299.
2. Kato-Kataoka, A., Nishida, K., Takada, M., Kawai, M., Kikuchi-Hayakawa, H., Suda, K., . . . Rokutan, K. (2016). Fermented milk containing Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota preserves the diversity of the gut microbiota and relieves abdominal dysfunction in healthy medical students exposed to academic stress. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 82(12), 3649-3658.
3. Bowe, W. P., & Logan, A. C. (2011). Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis - back to the future? Gut Pathogens, 3(1).
4. Zhang, Q., Wu, Y., & Fei, X. (2016). Effect of probiotics on body weight and body-mass index: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 67(5), 571-580.
5. Giloteaux, L., Goodrich, J. K., Walters, W. A., Levine, S. M., Ley, R. E., & Hanson, M. R. (2016). Reduced diversity and altered composition of the gut microbiome in individuals with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Microbiome, 4(1).
6. Clarke, S. F., Murphy, E. F., O'sullivan, O., Lucey, A. J., Humphreys, M., Hogan, A., . . . Cotter, P. D. (2014). Exercise and associated dietary extremes impact on gut microbial diversity. Gut, 63(12), 1913-1920.
7. Shehata, A. A., Schrödl, W., Aldin, A. A., Hafez, H. M., & Krüger, M. (2012). The Effect of Glyphosate on Potential Pathogens and Beneficial Members of Poultry Microbiota In Vitro. Current Microbiology, 66(4), 350-358.
8. Arrieta, M., Stiemsma, L. T., Dimitriu, P. A., Thorson, L., Russell, S., Yurist-Doutsch, S., . . . Finlay, B. B. (2015). Early infancy microbial and metabolic alterations affect risk of childhood asthma. Science Translational Medicine, 7(307).
Roberta Pescow is a writer at Hyperbiotics and proud mom of two amazing and unique young men. Natural wellness is a subject she’s passionate about, so she loves sharing information that helps others discover all the ways probiotics support glowing health and well-being. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.