What Is Your Microbiome?
Do you have a healthy microbiome? How can you find out? Why does it matter?
Bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microscopic living things are referred to as microbes. Trillions inhabit your mouth, nose, eyes, ears, digestive tract, lungs, skin and genitals.
Scientists estimate that there are more bacterial cells in your body than an average male adult’s 30-40 trillion human cells. However, our microbes only weigh two to five pounds! Most are in your gut.
There are thousands of species of bacteria in the human gut microbiome which play a role in our health or lack of health. It is mostly a symbiotic relationship. They keep us alive by:
- protecting us against germs
- breaking down food to release energy
- producing vitamins
We keep our microbiome thriving by providing food, warmth and our living host environment. After our death, most species in our microbiome die within two days. The rest help consume us.
Research is showing that a healthy microbiome also likely protects us against obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer and that the gut microbiome may affect the central nervous system, which controls brain function.
It is not surprising to find out that our bacteria control aspects of our mood and behavior.
Microbiome Analysis Organizations
There are several ways to analyze your microbiome. Direct to consumer options in this space include:
- Atlas Biomed (London) $159 GBP
- Biohm $129.99 USD
- My Med Labs $399 USD
- Ombre $99 USD
- Viome (gut) $129 USD (health) $199 USD — see Keep Health’s review.
Innerbody Research reviewed the above vendors in 2022. Viome is their top recommendation.
Microbiome testing companies available only through your physician include:
One direct-to-consumer company in this space suspended operations after a federal investigation for fraudulent billing practices. Ubiome was providing skin, nose, gut, oral and genital tests for $400 for 4 samples / year.
Once you have your microbiome baseline, you can use these 15 ways to boost it and then re-test to see if there was beneficial change. Additionally, some people choose to supplement with prebiotics and probiotics, especially during and after using antibiotics. Most antibiotics only wipe out some of your microbiome.
Microbiome Prebiotics and Probiotics
Probiotics are supplements of live bacteria and yeasts intended to provide health benefits when consumed by improving digestion and maintaining gut health as well as improving brain function. They are considered generally safe, but in rare cases may cause bacteria-host interactions and unwanted side effects.
The effectiveness of probiotics varies from person to person. Probiotics face a daunting challenge to survive stomach acid and their interactions with trillions of potentially hostile microbes. Since probiotic pills are merely billions of microbes, they are a tiny amount of intruders relative to their competitive environment. Also, new bacteria require specialized food and may starve without it. Thus, taking probiotics with prebiotics (food for probiotics) may be necessary. Here is Healthline’s list of the best 19 prebiotic foods.
There are over forty companies selling prebiotic and probiotic supplements which have been tested and approved by Consumer Labs. Here are a few with reputable science and scientists behind them.
- You know plaque builds up on your teeth; but did you know that plaque also builds up in your gut? It’s called digestive plaque. Bad bacteria and fungi hide within digestive plaque, making it difficult for ordinary probiotics to reach and control them, making digestive balance difficult to maintain. BIOHM is the first probiotic proven to break down digestive plaque, allowing it to balance gut bacteria and fungi.
- BIOHM has been thoroughly tested by independent experts at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, one of the top 50 medical research institutions in the United States.
- The leading professionally distributed probiotic line in the United States, Ther-Biotic®
- Recommended by Viome, a leading-edge direct to consumer microbiome analysis company
- Backed by a Scientific Advisory Board of scientists, researchers, doctors, and authors across the fields of microbiology, immunology, genetics, metabolomics, pediatrics, gastroenterology, molecular biology, and transcriptomics—including primary investigators from the NIH’s Human Microbiome Project. They lead labs, teach at world-renowned academic institutions, and have among them 2800+ publications and over 140,000 citations in peer-reviewed scientific journals and textbooks.
- Offer male and female probiotic formulations
- Some clever marketing. Once ordered, they send you an email letting you know that, “We got your bac. And it's on its way to you.”
Although you might not think reading about microbes would be interesting, we highly recommend the New York Times bestseller, I Contain Multitudes, a clever, fascinating and fun book about insights into life. Once you start reading it, your microbes will make it very hard to put down.