Gut Bacteria: Maintaining The Good Guys
Did you know that you have a complex ecosystem of 100 trillion microbes living inside of you?
These little organisms make up our gut microbiome. The balance between good and bad bugs inside of us plays a huge role in our ability to thrive.
Unfortunately, everyday life can easily throw this ecosystem off balance, leading to things such as digestive issues, lowered immune systems, mood swings, inflammation and even the development of chronic disease.
Want to ensure you’re keeping your gut balance in check?
Simply put: our food, is their food! Numerous studies have shown that our gut microbiome adapts to what we eat, even within a few days to a few weeks.
Here are the yes and no's to tip the scales in your favour:
Yes: Resistant Starch and Fibre
These bypass our digestion and go straight to our large intestine, where our microbiome does the hard work. Gut bacteria ferments these into short chain fatty acids (SCFA).
SCFA’s are shown to have a positive impact on our heath—e.g. reducing inflammation, improving our gut lining, and reducing the rate of some cancers.
Where to get it? Make sure you are eating unrefined grains like those in wholemeal breads, raw oats and barley. Other great sources: nuts and seeds, carrots, broccoli, brown rice, cooked and cooled potatoes and under-ripe bananas.
If your tummy isn’t up to snuff, probiotics can be a great way to get it back on track. Fermented (and tasty) foods such as sauerkraut and kombucha are easy ways to get them into your diet. If you’re going the supplement route, don’t be afraid to invest in a good quality, shelf-stable one.
Not only do legumes such as lentils and beans provide fibre and resistant starches, but they are packed with nutrients and clean protein.
Many studies have shown that this type of protein not only supports healthy gut bacteria, but lowers the risk of Irritable Bowel Disease, and decreases TMAO levels— a compound associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
If you’re new to this food group, you—and your gut bacteria—may have to adapt to digesting them.
Start in small amounts (no more than 1/3 cup cooked at a time) and make sure you soak dried legumes overnight and rinse before cooking. If you’re opting for convenience, try canned options but wash them well!
No: Excessive alcohol
No need to ditch Friday drinks, but research shows that chronic alcohol use can throw our gut bacteria out of whack by decreasing the number of good guys and allowing the bad guys to flourish.
Next time you’ve had a big night out, make sure you give your gut some loving the next day!
No: Artificial Sweeteners
Some evidence shows that sweeteners such as aspartame can negatively impact our good gut bacteria. Sugar alternatives might not be so healthy after all! If you need something sweet, stick to the natural stuff like fruits, maple syrup and coconut sugar.
No: Antibiotic abuse
Doctors are often quick to prescribe antibiotics—and there is no doubt that they can be life-saving. But be cautious when deciding whether to start a course as they are known to be detrimental to gut and overall health.
Know the risk and weigh up your options. Consult with a holistic health practitioner for a natural alternative where possible.
Each step you take towards supporting your good gut bacteria, supports you as well!