It is now known that gut bacteria affect the entire body, including the brain. Good bacteria in the gut help to make vitamins, digest food, balance mood, reduce anxiety, and protect against infections and some forms of cancer. Certain types of good bacteria in the gut are also associated with lower rates of obesity, diabetes, and various gastrointestinal diseases. If there are too many bad bacteria or too few good bacteria in the microbiome, serious health problems can arise. Here are our tips on looking after your good bacteria.
1. Stay hydrated Hydration, is not just limited to water. Include any non-caffeinated drink free of added sugar such as herbal teas, and also high-water foods such as cucumber, watermelon and tomatoes. Aim for at least 2L daily if you are a woman, and 2L daily if you are a man .
2. Consume prebiotic and probiotic foods Probiotic foods are rich in beneficial bacteria. Fermented foods, such as yogurt, miso, and tempeh are food sources of probiotics. Prebiotics are a form of soluble fibre found in many foods that good bacteria like to eat. Prebiotics can be found in foods such as artichokes, garlic, leeks, onion, chicory, tofu and whole grains.
3. Eat your vegetables Plant foods are excellent sources of dietary fibre, the single most important nutrient for stimulating the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Other benefits of fibre in the diet include regulating bowel movements, controlling blood sugar and maintaining a heathy weight. Some people can be sensitive to eating a lot of fibre due to other gastrointestinal diseases such as SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
4. Avoid processed foods Highly processed foods tend to be low in fibre, high in sugar, artificial sweeteners and trans fats. All these foods can damage gut bacteria and promote inflammation leading to disease.
5. Uncover your sensitivities Many people with ongoing symptoms often don’t realise that they might have food sensitivities or intolerances. Some common examples are corn, dairy, eggs, fish and shellfish, peanuts, soy, tree nuts, and wheat (gluten). Doing an elimination diet can help you to find out which foods you may be sensitive to.
6. Limit antibiotic use Use antibiotics only when medically necessary as they work by killing all bacteria, good and bad. It is helpful to eat probiotic foods and/or take a supplement during and after a course of antibiotics, to help rebuild the population of healthy bacteria in your gut.