Probiotic supplements don’t boost gut health—do THIS instead

Ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine practitioners have always understood that good digestion is a key to good health. And digestion, of course, begins in the microbiome—the environment in your gut where billions of healthy probiotic bacteria thrive.

Fortunately, some modern scientists are finally beginning to catch on to what they’ve practiced in the mysterious East for thousands of years. In fact, researchers with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, recently looked at the effect of diet on the microbiome. And here’s what they found…

Diet influences bacteria in the gut

For this study, researchers took samples of the participants’ colonic mucosa (the cells that line the lower intestine) during routine colonoscopies. Then, they tested the samples for the presence of probiotic bacteria.

Researchers also surveyed the participants about their daily eating habits. But instead of focusing on particular foods, they focused on overall dietary patterns. And they defined a “high-quality” diet as having a high intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and an overall low consumption of sugar.

It turns out, participants who followed this “high-quality” diet had more beneficial probiotic bacteria, including those with anti-inflammatory effects.

On the other hand, participants who followed a “low-quality” diet had far fewer beneficial probiotic bacteria and more potentially harmful bacteria, such as Fusobacteria, which has been linked to colon cancer.

Now, I know some “natural-know-it-alls” and “johnny-come-lately” mainstream medical minions may see this study as another faulty reason to recommend probiotic supplements.

But as I’ve always reported, taking a probiotic supplement to support your gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome is a fool’s errand. They just don’t work. And some studies suggest they may even cause harm!

Instead, I always recommend following these five steps for building a healthy microbiome:

1.) Follow a healthy, balanced diet filled with “prebiotic” foods, which “feed” the probiotic bacteria in your microbiome. Of course, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are part of a healthy Mediterranean-type diet, which you should already be following anyway! This type of diet includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts, beans (legumes), grass-fed and free-range meat, wild-caught fish, and full-fat, organic dairy (such as butter, eggs, cheese, and yogurt) at every meal.

You can also learn more about specific prebiotic foods in the December 2018 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter (“WARNING: New research shows probiotic supplements may be doing more harm than good”). Not yet a subscriber? No worries, it just takes one click.

2.) Avoid processed foods made with sugar and refined white flour, as these foods disrupt the microbiome. These are the mass-produced, packaged, and ready-to-eat foods you find along the interior aisles of the grocery store. They contain “empty calories,” have very little nutritional content, and come with a long list of health risks.

3.) Avoid taking antibiotics, unless they’re absolutely necessary to prevent a more serious illness or disability. While antibiotics do help slow down potentially harmful bacteria (until your own healthy immune system can catch up), they also wipe out your supply of good bacteria, which damages your microbiome.

4.) Enjoy foods rich in polyphenols—such as beans, berries, coffee, dark chocolate, nuts, and wine—to boost microbiome health. These natural compounds have what I call good “biome-availability,” meaning they go to work right in your GI tract, before even reaching your bloodstream, to support your metabolism and immune system.

5.) Build a healthy immune system and naturally support your microbiome. In addition to the tips above, you’ll also want to avoid antibacterial soaps and gels, which disrupt your skin’s microbiome. (I’ll release more details on that topic in an upcoming Dispatch. So, as always, stay tuned!) And I recommend supplementing with B vitamins, vitamins C and D, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. All of which are easy to find at local shops. You can also search the “Shop” tab of my website,, for options!

And that’s basically it! Incorporating these five good practices into your lifestyle will do far more for your microbiome than any probiotic product ever could.


“Dietary quality and the colonic mucosa–associated gut microbiome in humans.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2019;  110(3): 701–712. DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz139