Out of the trillions of bacteria in your body, the majority reside in your intestines. These are known as the ‘gut flora or gut microbiome’. They are essential to your system and many are beneficial to your health. However, like all things, there are some that are harmful and can cause problems if and when they multiply. Maintaining the right balance of these microbes is what is referred to as gut health.
These microbiomes are vital to your system, actually critically important. Your very survival depends on their being present in your system. Influencing your metabolism, immune system, weight, and mood; these microbiomes are crucial to keeping you healthy. Maintaining a healthy gut means increasing the good microbiomes in your system. One of the factors that influence the health of microbiomes is the food that you eat. Here are some tips to improve your gut health and maintain your colony of good microbiomes.
Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables are the Best!
Fruits and vegetables are best when consumed during the season of their growth, i.e. fresh and not stored. Eat as much as you can but also eat as many types as you can. The fiber content and beneficial nutrients differ with different fruits and vegetables.
Nutritional Value? Find it in Veggies
While lettuce may be part of your daily diet (sandwiches/salads), remember that it has little or no nutritional value or fiber content. Bananas, onions, artichokes, asparagus, chicory, and garlic contain probiotic fiber and should be a part of your daily intake.
Ramp up your Fibre Intake
The average fiber intake is around 20 grams per day. You should try and double that. In addition to helping improve your gut health, fiber also helps you to reduce weight and heart disease.
Say No to Snacking
Like all other parts of your body, your microbiomes also need some rest. Avoid snacking between meals and if you can, fast at least once a week.
Increase your Intake of Polyphenols
Antioxidants that work as fuel for microbiomes, Polyphenols are found in seeds, berries, nuts, brassicas, olive oil, and green tea. Increase the intake to give your microbiomes a boost.
Avoid Stress and Sleep Deprivation
Stress causes all sorts of problems with our system – including our microbiomes. Even short bouts of stress can negatively impact your gut microbes. Sleep deprivation causes the same problems. It is very important that these two factors are kept in check for your overall health. Practice techniques like deep breathing and meditation; listen to soft music before bedtime, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet to keep your stress under control.
Fermented Foods are Good
Fermented! Think yogurt and you have it. Kefir is even better – it contains nearly five times more microbes than yogurt. Other fermented foods that are good for you are sauerkraut, cheese made from raw milk, soya bean products, and kimchi.
Have a Drink
Alcohol in small quantities helps increase your gut diversity. However, large quantities have the opposite effect – both to your microbiomes and your health.
Reduce Your Intake of Artificial Sweeteners
Consuming high quantities of artificial sweeteners can cause an imbalance with your microbes. A study has revealed that aspartame, an artificial sweetener, helps increase the population of bacterial strains that have links to metabolic disease. Artificial sweeteners reduce microbiome diversity in the gut by disrupting their metabolism. A lower level of gut diversity leads to all sorts of health problems.
Consume Legumes & Beans Too
Fruits and vegetables, the most helpful sources of nutrients to keep your microbiota healthy, cannot be done without. Choose food items that have high fibrous content, especially the kind of fibers that can be digested easily by your system. Most fibers can be consumed and digested by specific kinds of bacteria present in your gut to stimulate their growth.
For instance, you may want to eat legumes and beans regularly as they boast of high fiber content. The other types of food items that make it to this category include artichokes, raspberries, broccoli, green peas, lentils, chickpeas, and so forth. You may also want to include kidney, pinto or white beans along with whole grains to your diet. As per a research-based study, eating fruits and vegetables curbs the growth and spread of specific disease-causing bacteria in humans. Blueberries, almonds, apples, and pistachios enhance the presence of Bifidobacteria in humans (14Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, etc.)
You may also want to take care of the nutrition of Bifidobacteria as it’s considered to be beneficial bacteria. This type of bacteria helps in preventing intestinal inflammation and making your gut health (15Trusted Source) better.
Cut down on Antibiotics
While antibiotics are now part of our fight against bacterial infections, according to the CDC, 30% of antibiotics prescribed are unnecessary. While overuse is a problem, it should be remembered that even limited use of antibiotics destroys both good and bad microbes in your system. It takes weeks for the microbes to recover and re-populate – in fact, certain research papers report that the gut lacks some species of good bacteria even after six months of taking antibiotics.
Try to Quit Smoking
While the harmful impact of smoking on your heart and lungs is well known; smoking also causes harm to your gut health. According to research conducted over a sixteen-year period, smoking increases harmful microbes and decreases the beneficial ones. One result from such a situation could be the risk of inflammatory bowel disease.
Make the Change
Vegetarian and vegan-based diets are known to improve the health of your microbiota. However, the positive effects of such diets may not be able to fill the gaps caused by the lack of meat intake. You may want to consult your health specialist or dietician to know more. Making necessary and correct changes to your dietary habits and lifestyle will help improve both the diversity and population of your gut microbes. So, go ahead, make the change and live a healthy life.