Tips for a balanced microbiome

Two people next to a representation of gut bacteria. A checklist reads "Good flora." Illustration.

Sept. 7, 2021—Each person's body is home to a multitude of tiny microbes. These bacteria, viruses and fungi can live inside the body or on our skin—and they make up the human microbiome.

These bugs are a natural part of your body's ecosystem. According to the National Institutes of Health, a healthy and balanced microbiome:

  • Supports your natural immune system.
  • Improves your overall health.
  • May reduce the risk of chronic conditions like diabetes.

So what steps can you take to baby your microbiome?

1. Follow a balanced diet. Keeping the microbes in your gut happy can improve your digestive health. Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fiber. Avoid too much sugar or carbohydrates, as well as artificial ingredients.

2. Talk to your doctor about probiotics. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can be found in foods like yogurt. Some research suggests they may help with gut health. If you're thinking about trying probiotic supplements, however, it's a good idea to discuss them first with your doctor.

3. Wash your hands regularly. Harmful bugs can disrupt your microbiome. To avoid picking them up, wash your hands whenever you might have come into contact with germs—before cooking a meal or after taking out the trash, for example. If you don't have soap and water handy, you can use hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 60%.

4. Avoid antibacterial soap. Healthy microbes live on the outside of our bodies too. Some of these help protect our skin. Antibacterial soaps can kill these healthy microbes, so it's best to avoid them. Regular soap is just as effective.

5. Use antibiotics as prescribed. Some antibiotics can lead to an imbalance in your microbiome. If you have a prescription, follow your doctor's instructions exactly. This will make the antibiotics less likely to cause issues for your microbiome.

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