While the bacteria and other microbes in your gut are commonly seen in a negative light, not all of them are detrimental to human health. In fact, many have forged a long and symbiotic relationship with your body. Your genetic material has actually evolved to cope with and even cooperate with these microbial residents. As unbelievable as it may seem, your body contains an equal amount of cells and microbes!
The healthy bacteria present in your gut can help treat rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and even strengthen your immune system.1 There are many ways to give your microbiome –the bacterial community located in your gut – a boost. And here are some of them.2
1. Eat Probiotics
Probiotics are live microorganisms or active bacterial cultures, which aid digestion and prevent allergies. Probiotic-rich foods include fermented soy and cultured dairy products. Cultured dairy products include yogurt, buttermilk, some cheeses and many other regional specialities around the world. Fermented soy products not only expose your gut to beneficial bacteria but also improve the digestibility of the legume. Some of the most widely consumed fermented soy products include tempeh, miso, soy sauce, and fermented bean curd. These have been shown to improve nutrient absorption from food and inhibit pathological bacterial overgrowth in your gut.3
2. Eat Fibrous Foods
Prebiotics are fiber-rich foods that nourish the microbes in your gut. They are found in almost all plant-based foods. To increase your intake of prebiotics, eat a high-fiber diet consisting of veggies, whole grains, and legumes on a regular basis. If you don’t consume enough fibrous foods, consider opting for prebiotic supplements.4
3. Reduce Your Sugar Consumption
If you frequently consume sugar-filled foods, then your gut health might suffer. Foods containing refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup promote the growth of disease-causing bacteria, fungi, and yeast. High sugar content also reduces water availability in the gut, thereby inhibiting the growth of “good” microbes.5 A sugar-rich diet is also believed to cause certain bacterial changes that may lead to loss of cognitive function and affect both long-term and short-term memory.6
4. Get Dirty
Do you remember the good ol’ days that you spent playing outside in the dirt? Although exposing yourself to dirt is considered unhygienic, the truth is that some of your best friends can be germs present in the dirt. Of course, we aren’t suggesting that you actually roll about in the mud, but perhaps snuggle with your family pet that loves the dirt or spend a day out in the park and do some gardening?
The intestinal bacteria acquired from the environment play an important role in training your immune system to function correctly. In fact, children raised in rural environments – where it was common to play in the dirt and be around farm animals – are known to have lower incidences of allergies and other autoimmune conditions. This could be because the people who live on farms have more exposure to a broad array of microbes from the soil.
Getting a regular 7–9 hour a day pattern of sleep can help you enjoy the benefits of a healthy gut. When you do not get enough sleep, your stress level shoots up. And stress can reduce the friendly bacteria in your gut. In a study that explored the effects of stress on gut bacteria, it was observed that university students had fewer lactobacilli (a friendly culture of bacteria) in their urine sample than they had during the relatively untroubled days earlier on in their semester. Hence, lack of sleep and psychological stress can suppress the healthy bacteria present in your body.7
6. Exercise Regularly
Really, there’s no shortcut to being healthy. Studies show that regular exercise can bring about a positive change in your gut bacteria and promote the growth of healthy microbes.8 So, make sure that you get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day to improve gut health.
|↑1||Can gut bacteria improve your health? Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.|
|↑2||Sender, Ron, Shai Fuchs, and Ron Milo. “Revised estimates for the number of human and bacteria cells in the body.” PLoS biology 14, no. 8 (2016): e1002533.|
|↑3||Probiotics: In Depth.
|↑4||Slavin, Joanne. “Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits.” Nutrients 5, no. 4 (2013): 1417-1435.|
|↑5||Goran, Michael I., Luc Tappy, and Kim-Anne Lê, eds. Dietary sugars and health. CRC Press, 2014.|
|↑6||Fat, sugar cause bacterial changes that may relate to loss of cognitive function.
|↑7||That gut feeling. American Psychological Association.|
|↑8||Monda, Vincenzo, Ines Villano, Antonietta Messina, Anna Valenzano, Teresa Esposito, Fiorenzo Moscatelli, Andrea Viggiano et al. “Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects.” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity 2017 (2017).|