Not all bacteria are bad-in fact, many such as the “gut bugs” that live in your stomach are essential for good health. Maintaining healthy gut bacteria can improve your immune system, help balance your hormones, and reduce your odds of developing heart disease or diabetes. A change in your diet and lifestyle is required if you are to notice results, but the following tips will help you create the right balance.
Eliminate Sugar and Processed Foods
A study performed at the University of Oregon showed that mice who were fed a diet high in sugar noticed changes in their gut bacteria, and that those changes affected the rodents’ mental and physical functions. One reason may be because sugar leads to an increase in candida albican, a fungus that can attack the intestinal wall and cause a host of health problems. In addition, monosaccharides, which are found in many processed foods, are absorbed into the small intestine without being nibbled on by gut bacteria. Since gut bugs are unsatisfied, they may then begin consuming the lining of your stomach, causing permanent damage.
Eat Naturally Fermented Foods
Naturally fermented foods help keep the gut acidic, creating the perfect environment for healthy bacteria to grow. Fermented foods also help break down certain carbohydrates that are hard for the body to digest. Some examples of fermented foods include yogurt, whey, cottage cheese, lactic acid yeast wafers, and pickled vegetables. Just because fermented foods are good for you does not mean you should consume alcohol. Research suggests that drinking alcohol can disrupt gut bacteria, and may also be a contributing factor in the development of leaky gut syndrome.
Avoid Taking Antibiotics
Antibiotics kill bacteria, and do not discriminate between good and bad types. As such, they often eliminate healthy bacteria that are needed to fight other types of infections. Drs. Justin and Erica Sonnenburg, authors of The Good Gut: Taking Control of your Weight, your Mood, and Your Long-Term Health, claim that even one round of antibiotics a year can permanently change a child’s microbiota. That doesn’t mean you should never take antibiotics, but it does mean that you should limit the use of them whenever possible. If you do receive antibiotics, take measures to restore healthy gut bacteria immediately afterwards in order to ward off some of the negative effects.
A few other methods of maintaining healthy gut bacteria include:
- Using natural household cleaners rather than harsh disinfectants that can kill good bacteria.
- Avoiding alcohol-based sanitizers.
- Limiting your exposure to chlorine.
- Taking a probiotic supplement such as l-acidophilus, b-longum, or b-bifidum.
- Getting eight hours of sleep each night. A 2014 study showed that disruptions in the circadian rhythm can impact intestinal microbiota.
- Eating more green, leafy vegetables and fresh fruits.
- Reducing the amount of red meat you consume.
- Consuming fish oil, zinc, or l-glutamine supplements.
Low levels of gut bacteria have been associated with everything from depression to irritable bowel syndrome. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to maintain a healthy balance and improve your overall health. Even a few small changes can make a huge difference in the way you feel.