Ready to know more about San Diego?


I Tried It: Custom Floré Probiotics to Heal My Gut

Could bespoke supplements from San Diego company Sun Genomics banish my chronic stomach issues?
Courtesy of Sun Genomics

I just wanted clear skin, a face that looked like glass or a donut or whatever people are calling smooth, unblemished complexions nowadays. I didn’t expect it to kind of ruin my life.

I’d struggled with breakouts since middle school. One thing that didn’t plague me, though? Stomach problems. Spicy food, fried snacks, ice cream, raw veggies… I could scarf it all without complaint. So, two years ago, when a dermatologist recommended long-term antibiotics to banish my acne, I didn’t even think about the potential impact of systematically razing all my gut flora

I quit doxycycline after two months (it worked on my breakouts, but I was getting nasty sunburns from the increased photosensitivity it causes). I don’t remember exactly when my now-chronic tummy issues started to manifest. I do know they got worse over time. The occasional constipation or rumbly gut when I went too hard on a kale salad eventually turned into near-daily stomach aches that worsened with certain foods and drinks: alcohol, legumes, coffee, almost anything with sugar (though not cheese, thank the heavens). Over-the-counter probiotics only seemed to exacerbate the problem, and I cut many a hangout short to go home and wallow in tummy pain.

I started to resign myself to the idea that I might be dealing with gut problems for the rest of my life. Then I heard about Floré. 

A product of San Diego–based company Sun Genomics, Floré is a customized probiotic and prebiotic blend. Scientists at the start-up test your gut flora and develop a unique combo of good bugs, packing it into capsules you take once per day. “Between two individuals, we can be as much as 90 percent unique in our gut microbiome,” says Sun Genomics founder Sunny Jain. “[So we get] a true picture of what’s going on inside your body and what you’re exposed to.”

I tested Floré for about six months to see if the product could banish my stomach issues for good. Here’s what happened:

Custom Probiotics Floré supplement from San Diego company Sun Genomics featuring a stool sample kit for determining gut health
Courtesy of Sun Genomics

Healing Gut Issues: The Prep

My first shipment from Floré didn’t include any pills. Instead, a microbiome test kit arrived in my mailbox, complete with everything I needed to collect a “sample” for Sun Genomics’ scientists. This is the most awkward and, frankly, gross part of the process—you’ll need to mail a very small amount of stool in a few plastic vials to Sun Genomics’ scientists so they can suss out what’s up with your gut. 

Once my sample was in transit, I registered it on the Floré app and filled out a health and diet survey, giving the company deets about my symptoms, food sensitivities, health goals, eating habits, lifestyle, and medical history. 

If some questions and options seemed out there—I expected to report my bloating, nausea, and stomach pain, but not my painful periods, anxiety, or “brittle” hair—it’s because a lot more than just tummy aches are linked to an unbalanced microbiome, according to Jain. “You’d be amazed at how [gut health] plays in your circadian rhythm, your energy levels, your sleep,” he says.

I got my report back about two weeks later. Considering all my troubles, I was surprised to see that my “microbiome score” was a 66 out of 100—just barely in the green zone of a “balanced” gut. According to the company’s analysis, only about two percent of the critters in my intestines were considered harmful, but another 21 percent were “variable,” meaning that a disruption like an infection or a new medication could have upset their balance and driven negative symptoms.

I scheduled a call with scientific liaison Shirin Treadwell to go over the results. She pointed out that my microbiome was also low in healthy probiotic organisms, which could be contributing to my issues.

My Floré formula would aim to bring my microbiome into better alignment and put a stop to my frustrating symptoms. The probiotics included, Jain explains, are intended to “trigger the growth of good organisms. The prebiotics are the food for those microbes.”

Custom Probiotics Floré supplement from San Diego company Sun Genomics featuring gut health supplement pills next to food

Healing Gut Issues: The Process

My formula arrived about a month and a half after Sun Genomics received my test kit. You’re encouraged to keep them in the fridge (though you can cart them on the go for up to a month as needed) and take one pill a day 20 minutes before your first meal (if you forget, like I sometimes did, you can pop one three hours after eating). 

Doing too much, too fast can sometimes make things worse, which is why Sun Genomics eases you in with five low-dose pills. Because of this, I didn’t expect to see results right away—Sun Genomics suggests you should start to notice changes within about two weeks. Nevertheless, that first day, I scarfed tons of fruit and didn’t feel a single pang.

The following day, I did experience some stomach pain after breakfast, but it disappeared pretty quickly. As I continued to take the probiotics, working my way up to a full daily dose, my once-chronic tummy aches got fewer and farther between—occuring only briefly every few weeks, no matter what I ate.

But then—disaster struck. I came down with a UTI and had to take a round of antibiotics. I kept taking my probiotics, hoping to counter its effects, but I noticed my stomach was still more sensitive and prone to upset in the weeks after.

About eight weeks in, I was still sometimes bloated, with bowel movements that alternated between too often and not often enough. Since two months is well beyond the window in which I should’ve seen these symptoms shift, I reached out to the Sun Genomics team to request a reformulation that addressed those issues more directly (typically, reformulations have to be requested within six weeks, but the team was kind enough to make an exception). 

Overall, neither formula led to worsened tummy issues, like over-the-counter probiotics I’d tried. It does feel important to note that I suffered a handful of migraines while taking Floré—I don’t typically experience them, but it’s unclear whether they’re linked to the supplement (a liaison for Sun Genomics said the side effect would be unusual but not impossible).

When I retested at the three-month mark, I wasn’t shocked to see that my microbiome score had dropped to a 45 out of 100—I figured the antibiotics had wreaked havoc. While only one percent of my microbiome makeup was harmful, my “variable” percentage had jumped to 51. 

I scheduled a call with scientific liaison Shirin Treadwell to check in on the new results. “It’s the antibiotics, isn’t it?” I asked her. 

“Actually, it looks like your microbiome recovered quite well from the antibiotics,” she said. The culprit for my lower score? Bacteroides vulgatus. This variable microbe—sometimes found in overabundance in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis—had shot up in prevalence from 10 to 23 percent. It should be, Treadwell told me, around nine percent. 

To drop that number, “eat less saturated fat,” Treadwell advised, adding that sat fats can feed that particular microbe. “Cheese, coconut oil, things like that.” I didn’t have to give up everything, she assured me. If half-and-half in my coffee kept me going, by all means, keep sipping.

Custom Probiotics Floré supplement from San Diego company Sun Genomics featuring supplemental pills for gut health
Courtesy of Sun Genomics

Healing Gut Issues: The Results 

So, did I quit crushing brie for breakfast? Well… not really. After all, one of my goals for taking Floré was to be able to eat whatever I want. 

A new formulation based on my retest returned me to what I consider my new baseline: stomachaches are rare, but bloating and other annoying but painless symptoms still occur at least a few times a week. 

I decided to take a break to see if I can hover at that baseline without a daily pill. (Jain says that some Floré customers, like pro athletes and people with chronic conditions, stay on the supplements indefinitely to optimize their health or manage their illness, but others call it quits when they’ve returned their gut to a state of balance.) 

After a week of no pills, my stomach is still holding strong, and I’m still a bit more energetic than I used to be. The less obviously gut-related issues—moodiness, acne, PMS—fluctuate, like they always have, with my cycle. And I haven’t had a migraine, though they tend to be unpredictable and far between for me, so I remain unsure whether they’re connected to the supplements. If I decide to add Floré back into my routine, the Sun Genomics team might be able to address these with future tweaks… and I guess I could cut back on my charcuterie board habit, if my lingering tummy troubles start to feel more annoying than the concept of changing my diet.

As it stands, the results, while imperfect, have still been life-altering. I may never again chow down with the same teenage breeziness, but at least a raw brussels sprout isn’t public enemy number one for me anymore. Spared from night-ruining stomachaches, I can stay out with friends as long as I want… at least until my self-imposed 9 p.m. bedtime.

Floré custom probiotics cost $79 per month.

By Amelia Rodriguez

Amelia Rodriguez is San Diego Magazine’s Associate Editor. The 2023 winner of the San Diego Press Club's Rising Star Award, she’s covered music, food, arts & culture, fashion, and design for Rolling Stone, Palm Springs Life, and other national and regional publications. After work, you can find her hunting down San Diego’s best pastries and maintaining her three-year Duolingo streak.

Share this post

Contact Us

1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800,

San Diego, CA