Understanding Gut Bacteria
You have ~ 100 trillion bacteria living inside your digestive system, referred to as “gut microbiota.” We rely on gut microbiota to digest our food and protect us from infection. Research has linked the gut to various organ functions throughout the body — so much so that the gut has earned the nickname “second brain.”
Imagine you are walking through a tropical rainforest. You find yourself surrounded by millions of plant and animal species, each with their own role to play. They each have their own food preferences and survival methods. Through their interactions with each other, populations are kept in check and the circle of life continues. Our gut microbiota are very similar to that of a tropical rainforest. As the old idiom goes “You are what you eat.” What you feed your gut matters, as each microorganism requires fuel to survive. When left unchecked, populations can grow out of control and we experience illness as a result.
Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Gut
Supplement Smartly only when it is needed.
Antibiotics can deplete good bacteria; do not overuse them!
Fiber can improve immune function and reduce inflammation/chronic disease.
Exercise often to improve sleep and reduce stress.
Improved Gut Health Leads to Improved Weight Loss
Certain changes to one’s food intake can improve gut health and facilitate weight loss. By increasing your intake of whole, unprocessed, and unrefined foods you may decrease body fat and improve gut health. With a healthy gut, hormones that stimulate appetite, hunger, and fullness are released in required amounts at appropriate times. Maintaining a healthy gut may also decrease your risk for infections and irritable bowel symptoms.
What to Eat?
There are two terms everyone should learn as they start their journey for a better gut: Prebiotics and Probiotics. STOP! Before you rush to the store to pick up a bottle of probiotics, here is what you should know. Prebiotics serve as food for probiotics, and a balanced diet can provide you with both. Fermented foods may serve as a rich source of probiotics, but not all fermented foods contain them. In fact, prebiotics and probiotics found in food may be more effective than supplements. To achieve this goal, you will want to limit sugary foods, artificial sweeteners, unhealthy fats, and processed foods. These foods do not carry enough nutrients to maintain a healthy gut.
Here is a short list of foods that can boost your gut health right away.
Foods That Include Prebiotics and Probiotics
- Whole grains
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Nuts and Seeds
- Polyphenol-rich Foods
- Flaxseed, ginger root, cloves, dark chocolate (70% or higher)
- Probiotic Fermentable Foods
- Yogurt, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi
“Our bodies are our gardens, to which our wills are our gardeners.” – William Shakespeare
Photos courtesy of Anna Ivanova from Noun Project
Michael DeCaro is a Registered Dietitian. He earned a Master’s Degree of Nutrition from Appalachian State University and currently works for Total Nutrition Technology. As a young adult, he understands the challenges of eating healthy on a budget. Michael endorses a non-diet approach through intuitive eating. He supports Total Nutrition Technology’s mission to assist individuals in obtaining optimal health and/or sports performance goals, resulting in healthier, longer, and stronger lives. You can contact Michael at email@example.com or 704-608-9351.
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