How to improve your Gut Health
From inflammation to mood swings, an imbalance of gut bacteria can impact our long-term health in a myriad of ways.
Last time, we learned that there are 2 main kinds of bacteria in our gut:
Firmicutes, which store fat and threaten the microbiome; and Bacteroidetes, which aid in digestion and promote well-being.
To have a healthy gut you must have a high diversity in gut bacteria; and have more of the good kind over the bad.
So how do we increase the number of good bacteria and lower the amount of harmful ones?
Here are 10 tips to improve your gut bacteria:
1. Be careful with antibiotics
Antibiotics are sometimes a necessity, and we are not telling you to never use them. However, nowadays doctors tend to give antibiotics for anything and everything, and it isn't always the best solution. Antibiotics wipe out the bad bacteria, which is how they help your recover, but they also wipe out all your good bacteria. This is dangerous, because you are stripped of the beneficial bacteria in your gut that helps you stay healthy. If you do have to take antibiotics, be sure to supplement with probiotics afterwards to re-introduce the good bacteria in your gut.
2. Lower the amount of fatty foods in your diet
We know that fatty foods increase the amount of bad bacteria, the firmicutes; and an overgrowth of firmicutes is linked to obesity and inflammation. Because these systemic disorders can then turn into more serious health problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, there is real reason for concern. Studies have demonstrated that the problem with too much fat in the diet is that it inhibits the growth of healthy bacteria. Because carbohydrates are digested very easily and absorbed into our small intestine without any help from the microbes, the gut bacteria have nothing to digest and end up eating the mucus lining of our intestines — which is meant to be a strong barrier between the gut and the rest of the body. When the wall of the intestine is permeated, particles of food enter the bloodstream, and our immune system alerts our brain and other organs to attack the foreign substance, causing inflammation in various parts of our body. As we have discussed, inflammation is the root of a lot of health problems.
Similarly, sugar also feeds organisms like Candida Albican, a kind of fungus that grows in the gut and attacks the intestine wall.
If you want a healthy gut, you should try to keep fatty and processed foods to a minimum in your diet.
3. Consume less meat
Research has found that having a high amount of meat in your diet changes your microbial composition. In a study by Harvard scientists, diets containing high amounts of animal meat caused the microbiome to produce more of the bacteria Bilophila, which has been found to cause inflammation and intestinal diseases. In fact, animal protein from meat, eggs, and dairy products are metabolized in the gut and release a substance (trimethylamine-N-oxide), which has been linked to cardiovascular disease. Therefore, to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and chronic inflammation, you should maintain a balanced diet including whole grains and vegetables and moderate your consumption of meat.
4. Eat more vegetables and fiber
Unlike sugar and fatty carbohydrates, fiber (which is found in oatmeal, lentils, beans, and fruit) ferments in the colon and feeds the bacteria that live there, which keeps them happy and may improve their ability to control weight gain. Eating more dietary fiber keeps your intestinal lining intact and also helps you sustain a more varied collection of bacteria, which is paramount to good health.
Similarly, eating vegetables helps promote positive microbial diversity - especially dark leafy greens, which feed the beneficial bacteria and secrete bactericides that kill off harmful bacteria.
5. Try fermented foods
Fermented foods, such as Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Yogurt, Kefir and Kombucha teas, are great sources of beneficial bacteria. Just make sure it says “live cultures” on the labels. Those foods are natural sources of probiotics, and they will help increase the diversity of your microbiome.
6. Take probiotics
One fast and easy way to change your microbiome is to take probiotics supplements. These are beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, Bacteroides fragilis or Bifidobacterium. When you look at the specific strains of bacteria listed on the bottle, the probiotic strains are measured in colony forming units (CFUs). While there’s not currently a recommended daily value to follow, a supplement with 5 billion CFUs per pill is usually a dose that works well. Not all probiotics contain the same bacteria, so it’s possible to select a specific formulation depending on what you’d like to treat. When looking for a probiotic, choose one that has at least three varied types of bacteria.
7. And eat prebiotics
Prebiotics basically serve as the “food” for probiotics. They are un-digestible plant fibers that already live inside the large intestine. The more food, or prebiotics, that probiotics have to eat, the more efficiently these live bacteria work and the healthier your gut will be. There are many foods that contain prebiotics, such as raw artichoke, asparagus, onions, garlic and leeks, and bananas.
The more foods you eat that are rich in prebiotics, the more probiotics will flourish, and your overall gut health will improve.
8. Stop stressing!
Research has found that exposure to stress leads to an overgrowth of certain harmful types of bacteria while simultaneously reducing microbial diversity in the large intestine. When you feel stressed, your body will discharge natural steroids and adrenaline, and your immune system will release inflammatory cytokines. If you tend to be stressed all the time, your immune response never stops sending inflammatory signals to all parts of your body — your gut bugs included. While the microbiome helps keep our immune system in check, too much inflammation causes an array of health problems. Our gut is vulnerable to stress, so to heal it, we have to learn how to relax, with meditation for example, or any other hobby that helps us unwind.
9. Exercise more
Aerobic exercise induces changes in the microbiome as well. Research has found that athletes’ microbiomes are much more diverse than normal people. Interestingly, a study revealed that the number of beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and B. coccoides–E. rectale increased in groups of people who exercised compared to people that didn’t. The takeaway? Exercising helps increase the good kind of bacteria in our gut, so get a workout once in awhile!
10. Get plenty of sleep
A healthy sleep cycle helps the body produce the hormones melatonin and prolactin, which have been found to improve the bacterial balance and help with digestion. Moreover, Dr. Perlmutter, in his book Brain Maker, explains that “ when cortisol levels go up in the morning, the gut bacteria inhibit production of cytokines, and this shift defines the transition between non-REM and REM sleep. Hence, disruption of the gut bacteria can have significant negative effects on sleep and circadian rhythms.” It follows that insomnia and other sleeping problems can negatively impact your microbiome.
In conclusion, sleeping for about 8 hours each night and maintaining a regular sleep cycle can help balance your gut, improve digestion and even help your metabolism!
Here you go, 10 tips for a better gut health! By incorporating those foods in your diet and cutting out others, you will start to feel better and the bacteria in your stomach will change to a more diverse and healthy gut flora!