Do probiotics really improve your gut bacteria?

Eoin Roe, Chiropractic

Call 087 958 2362

The benefits of probiotics depend on what you expect them to do. Most people think that probiotics will help them improve their beneficial bacteria in their gut and get rid of the bad bacteria. But there is no research showing that probiotics permanently change the gut microbiome (resident bacteria in the gut); they are more likely to have a transient effect meaning that, whilst you take them they are beneficial, but as soon as you stop they are no longer effective.

If you are using probiotics to help with gastrointestinal issues or just for general health, it is important to remember everyone has very different microbiomes, which will react differently to different strains of probiotic.  There is no such thing as a perfect strain of probiotic bacteria no matter how much manufacturers advertise that they have.  You will need to try a few and see what works best for you.

The balance of bacteria in your gut depends on your diet, environmental factors, other lifestyle factors and even genetic factors. In order for good health, you need to have a diverse range of good bacteria. Dysbiosis is a term used when there are more bad bacteria and less good bacteria.  

So what make bacteria good or bad? All bacteria produce by-products called post-biotics, or lipopolysaccharides (LPS). LPS from good bacteria dampen inflammation and help immune function, while LPS from unhealthy bacteria produce an inflammatory response. Therefore bacteria that promote an inflammatory response are considered bad bacteria, and bacteria that have an immune-modulating effect are called good bacteria.

The beneficial effect when you take a probiotic is that it may have some anti-inflammatory effects and beneficially support your immune system but it is not going to completely change your microbiome. As soon as you stop taking it, the benefits will go.

The only way to completely change your microbiome is through improving metabolic factors, diet and other lifestyle choices.  

Why would you want to improve your microbiome? Your gut microbiome has a huge impact on your health, mood and behaviour it can even effect your blood sugar stability, autoimmunity and some diseases.

Some Common Symptoms of Dysbiosis (too much bad bacteria) are Constipation; Lower abdominal pain; Alternating Diarrhoea and Constipation; Bloating.

So for those suffering with the gut symptoms outlined or worried about other health issues, taking a probiotic may well help but a better longer lasting approach is to change your diet.  

Achieving this can be different from person to person but the basics that will help everyone are as follows: Reduce or remove sugary foods, foods high in trans fats and processed foods; Increase the amount of vegetables in your diet, aim for five to six portions or more of different veg everyday; Increase fibre intake – eating more vegetables is part of this but you can also add more fibre into your diet by soaking chia seeds or psyllium husk in a glass of water and drinking this daily.

One of the reasons this approach is more beneficial than taking probiotics on their own is that eating a diverse range of vegetables, will increase the diversity of your microbiome and increasing fibre will help your gut bacteria survive as this is the fuel they need.  

As The Human Microbiome Research Project has found, the more diverse your gut bacteria is, the healthier you will be.

Eoin Roe is a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner and a Chiropractor based in Skibbereen. If you would like help with gut issues, autoimmunity, blood sugar issues or joint and muscle problems please contact him through our new website You can book a chiropractic appointment directly through the website or use the contact us form.

WCP Staff

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