Bacteria is a cringe worthy word, no doubt. But it is important to know that not all bacteria is bad. In fact, the gut microbiome houses both good and bad bacteria where the balance between the two needs to be in sync for optimal digestive functioning. In cases where the good bacteria outnumbers the bad ones, the person enjoys good health, mental clarity, a healthy weight and no serious digestive issues.
On the flip side, when there is more of the harmful bacteria, it starts to raise concerns like unwanted weight gain, susceptibility to digestive issues, brain fog and overall malaise. To improve this balance of gut microbe (if you don’t like calling it bacteria!), there are a few simple things you can do.
· Watch your diet
Food choices have a huge impact on the health of the digestive system. This is also important as gut microbes respond to what you feed them. Diets that limit themselves to processed foods with synthetic ingredients promote the growth of harmful microbes in the gut. The result is experiencing unpleasant issues that do not restrict themselves to the stomach alone, but can actually reach all other areas of the body. But when the diet is made up of real foods coming from different sources and free of any artificial ingredients, it is a total game changer. The more variety of foods, the healthier the gut microbes, and the better your health.
· Follow a plant based diet
Just like you, your gut microbes also get their best nutrition from fruits and vegetables. Along with nutritional value, fruits and vegetables also offer a lot of fiber which does not get digested by the body. Instead, this fiber content gets digested by the good gut microbiota, promoting their growth. At the same time, a vegetarian based diet has also been linked with lower levels of disease causing bacteria while an animal based diet has been seen to promote increases in the number of harmful intestinal bacteria. You can also throw in some lentils, beans and whole grains for power-packed plant based nutrition that your gut microbe will love!
· Try some fermented foods
Fermented foods contain lactic acid-producing bacteria which promote an acidic environment in the digestive tract. Higher levels of lactic acidity keep a check on the growth of harmful microbes but let their helpful counterparts flourish instead. So go ahead and enjoy foods like kimchi, pickles, kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut to give good gut bacteria a boost!
· Don’t forget the probiotoics- and prebiotics
Probiotic-fortified foods like yogurt are a given when you think of improved gut health. These contain live bacteria that colonize the lower gut and yield beneficial effects there. If lacking in your diet, probiotics can also be taken in supplemental form. Many people find this a far easier option as supplements are ready to take as is and do not require any preparation.
Prebiotics are another way to care for your gut microbiome and are actually very different from probiotics (despite sounding very similar!) Prebiotics are specialized plant fibers which do not get digested and remain unchanged in the stomach. Once they reach the colon, prebiotics become food for the good colon microbes where they are broken down and are used as fuel. This results in better gut health and improved digestion, a win-win situation for everyone!
So, make sure you are putting in effort to take care of that gut!