For the past few years doctors and nutritionists have been recommending probiotics as way to control gut health. The little pills are filled with good bacteria, which have been shown to help improve digestion, boost mood and immune system and even help clear up skin. According to new research out of the University of Florida, some probiotics can even help curb allergy systems. But it turns out that most probiotics on the market are missing a key ingredient: fungus.
Enter scientist Mahmoud Ghannoum, Ph.D. The doctor, who’s a professor at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, has spent his career studying medically important fungi (yeast, mold, and mushrooms are all part of the fungi family) and believes it’s a vital part of gut health. “Fungi and bacteria are always living in our guts, but [in probiotics] we’ve only been addressing the bacteria,” he says. After many years of research, and publishing a paper in 2010 urging the medical and science communities to pay closer attention to our native fungal communities, Ghannoum developed Biohm, a probiotic that recently hit the market. Unlike the others on the on drug store shelves, this probiotic contains both good bacteria and good fungi that aim to give users a more balanced gut.
According to Ghannoum, the bad fungi in our guts can be responsible for aggravating digestive issues. It also works with the bad bacteria to form digestive plague. “Think of it like a dental plague,” he says. “The digestive plague forms a shield around the bad fungi and bacteria, which creates an imbalance in the digestive system.” Ghannoum says this new probiotic can help break down the digestive plague and help relieve digestive issues such as Crohn’s Disease and upset stomachs. For healthy people, taking the probiotic may result in less bloating and gas, as well as maintaining an overall improvement of digestive health.
Now that people are starting to pay attention how beneficial fungus can be to health and wellness, Ghannoum says we’re at the tip of the iceberg in how it can help in other ways. “I believe it won’t be long before we see some more scientific breakthroughs involving fungus and our bodies,” he says.
Kevin Aeh is a New York City-based writer and editor. He has written for Time Out New York, Refinery29, New York Magazine’s Vulture blog, Furthermore from Equinox and more.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.