Dysbiosis means that you have an imbalance in the different types of microscopic organisms living in your body. If there are too many of some types and not enough of others, they don’t work with you as they should, and they might work against you. In particular, dysbiosis in your gut may have broad effects on your health.


What is dysbiosis?

Dysbiosis is an imbalance within a community of microorganisms living together — a microbiome. Our bodies are host to several distinct microbiomes — communities of microorganisms that live with us and assist us in various ways. A balanced microbiome is one where there’s a healthy diversity of microorganisms, where no single bacteria, virus or fungus dominates. Dysbiosis means there’s a lack of diversity and balance. When they’re imbalanced, it changes how they function in your body.

How does dysbiosis affect me?

In any microbiome, a lack of diversity and balance can pave the way for one type of microorganism to take over. Dysbiosis makes us more vulnerable to infections from germs living inside and outside of our bodies. It can also interfere with other important services that our microbiomes normally provide for us. For instance, your gut microbiome provides you with many services by interacting with your body in a multitude of ways.

What can gut dysbiosis lead to?

Bacterial dysbiosis in your gut is directly involved in various gastrointestinal (GI) diseases affecting your digestive system, including:

But your gut microbiome also interacts with your brain and with many of your other body systems, including your:

Gut dysbiosis may be indirectly involved in a variety of other conditions, including:


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Symptoms and Causes

Dysbiosis can affect your gut, skin, mouth or genitals.
Dysbiosis may cause different symptoms in your gut, mouth, genitals or skin

What are the signs and symptoms of dysbiosis?

You might have dysbiosis in your mouth, on your skin, in your intestine or in your urinary system if you have signs or symptoms of a bacterial, viral or fungal infection or overgrowth there. These might include:

Intestinal dysbiosis, in particular, may have broader effects — though it’s hard to tell when symptoms outside of your gut relate to your gut microbiome. If you’ve recently developed intestinal symptoms together with other symptoms, like mood changes or weight changes, they might be related.

What causes dysbiosis?

Different things in your internal and external environment can affect your microbiomes, including:

  • Antibiotics and antimicrobial agents.
  • Other drugs and medications.
  • Smoking and alcohol use.
  • Environmental toxins.
  • Physical and psychological stress.
  • Chronic inflammation.
  • Chronic diseases.
  • Food choices.

Microbiomes are resilient overall, but heavy or long-term exposure to one of these factors, or a combination of several, could cause significant changes. Environmental factors can harm some types of microorganisms while encouraging others, leading to an imbalance. Helpful types of microorganisms might not be able to do their jobs well enough, while the unhelpful types might do more damage.


Diagnosis and Tests

Is there a test to diagnose dysbiosis?

Healthcare providers can diagnose infections with various lab tests. They might take a sample of your blood, poop or urine (pee) or take a swab from your skin, mouth or genitals to test for infection or overgrowth. A pathologist examines the sample in the lab to make the diagnosis. For gut dysbiosis, sometimes a breath test is enough to tell providers about the types of bacteria dominating in your gut.

Management and Treatment

What is the treatment for dysbiosis?

Treatment for dysbiosis depends on the cause. If an underlying disease or condition causes it, you’ll need specific treatment for that condition. If environmental and lifestyle factors contribute to your dysbiosis, your healthcare provider will work with you to change these factors. Environmental and lifestyle changes can usually benefit anyone with dysbiosis, regardless of other causes involved.

If you have an infection or overgrowth, your healthcare provider might need to target it directly with antibiotics, antivirals or antifungals. These medications can diminish the infection or overgrowth, but they can also diminish the helpful types of microorganisms. Some microbiomes will bounce back after treatment, but others might need more follow-up care to help restore their diversity and health.

This might include:


Living With

Can I fix gut dysbiosis naturally?

With the right environmental conditions in place, most microbiomes can recover from dysbiosis naturally. You can help it along by making some long-term lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Reducing substance use.
  • Changing medications if necessary.
  • Reducing exposure to environmental toxins.
  • Managing stress and addressing its causes.
  • Feeding your gut microbiome healthy foods.
  • Using probiotics or other supplements, if recommended.

A healthcare provider can help you isolate the factors influencing your microbiome and what it might need to recover. They might recommend specific probiotics or supplements to support your gut health.

What kind of diet helps heal gut dysbiosis?

The simplest way to improve your gut health naturally is to make sure you’re feeding it a diverse and plant-rich diet. Different types of gut bacteria need different types of plant fibers and micronutrients to thrive, so diversity in your diet promotes diversity in your gut microbiome. Whole foods, like plants, also tend to be anti-inflammatory, which makes conditions in your gut friendlier to the friendly bacteria.

Foods to include:

  • A variety of whole fruits and vegetables, rich in prebiotic fiber.
  • Fermented foods, like yogurt, pickles, miso soup or sauerkraut, rich in probiotics.
  • Healthy sources of fats, like fish, nuts and plant oils, which are anti-inflammatory.

Foods to avoid:

  • Fast and fried foods, high in inflammatory saturated fats.
  • Candy, soda and sweets, high in added sugar.
  • Packaged and convenience foods, high in additives and preservatives.

Additional Common Questions

Is dysbiosis related to leaky gut syndrome?

Leaky gut syndrome isn’t yet a recognized medical diagnosis. But the theory does involve bad bacteria in your gut. Certain types of gut bacteria will attack and erode your gut lining, weakening your gut barrier. And certain types will produce toxins as byproducts. If these toxins leaked through your weakened gut barrier into your bloodstream, theoretically they might cause an inflammatory response.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

We’re still learning about the many ways that gut dysbiosis might affect our health. Beyond everyday gastrointestinal conditions, your gut microbiome may play a part in a wide range of chronic diseases. We don’t have it all figured out yet. But we do know that diet and lifestyle factors can have a major impact on your gut microbiome. If you think you might have gut dysbiosis, this is a great place to start.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 04/16/2024.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Appointments 216.444.7000