Gut health is becoming more and more discussed. People are becoming aware that your gut bacteria play a huge role in your overall health. Because of this, many people are looking for ways to get a healthy gut.
What’s the best way to improve gut health? Are you stuck with the gut bacteria you were born with, or is there something you can do to change them?
Why should you try to get good gut bacteria?
Your gut contains trillions of microorganisms, mostly bacteria and fungi. These are collectively known as the microbiome or the gut flora, but are commonly referred to simply as the gut bacteria.
Your gut bacteria are important in the process of digestion, and they can also influence your general health. They synthesize certain vitamins and other substances, modulate the function of your immune system, and help to protect you from infections. Researchers are still learning about all of the ways that your gut bacteria influence the rest of the body.
The specific balance of species in the microbiome varies between individuals. Some species tend to cause more health benefits, while others might harm your health.
There’s a link between the bacteria in your gut and your risk of a huge variety of diseases. Some of these include:
Type 2 diabetes
Inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
Atopic diseases (eczema, asthma, and allergies)
Autism spectrum disorder
What is good for gut health?
In order to have a healthy gut microbiome, you need to feed your gut bacteria.
Your gut bacteria generally eat whatever is in your food that you can’t digest. In other words, they eat your leftovers. One of the most important foods for gut bacteria is fiber.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your own enzymes are not able to break down. This means that you can’t digest fiber and use it for energy. As a result, it passes through your digestive system, and your gut bacteria have access to it. Many species of bacteria are able to digest fiber through a process called fermentation.
How to have good gut health
The good news is that the balance of bacteria in your gut can change. This means that you have the power to improve gut flora and keep your gut healthy. Here are a few ways to do this:
Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. These contain a lot of fiber and other chemicals that are good for gut bacteria. Try to eat a lot of different types, to provide your gut bacteria with diverse food sources.
Eat fermented foods, like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi. These foods contain bacteria, which may be able to grow inside your gut.
Reduce sugar. A high-sugar diet has been linked to the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut. When you eat more sugar than your body can process, you’re feeding it to certain bacteria, which are linked to poor health outcomes. The less sugar you eat and drink, the better.
Reduce processed foods. Similarly, highly processed foods have also been linked to the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut. If it comes in a package and has more than a few ingredients, this is considered a highly processed food, and might have harmful effects on your gut bacteria.
Control your stress levels. When you’re stressed, this affects the function of your gut, and it can change your gut bacteria in a negative way. Make sure that you’re giving yourself enough time to relax and unwind. If this is challenging for you, you could consider seeking out the advice of a counselor or therapist, who can help you find strategies that will work for you.
Get enough sleep. When you’re not getting enough sleep, this also affects your gut function. Aim for 7 to 8 hours every night.
Most of these ways to improve gut health will also improve your health in other ways. If you try to do the things on this list, you’ll not only get a healthy gut, but it’s likely that you’ll be healthier overall.
If you’re looking to find out how healthy your gut bacteria are, you can order a home testing kit. This will let you know the balance of different species of bacteria and other organisms in your gut, along with recommendations for how to shift the balance towards a healthier gut microbiome.
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