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  • Dr Amina Davison

5 Things that destroy your gut bacteria

Keeping your gut bacteria healthy is not always easy when life gets in the way. I have put together some simple tips to help keep your gut in the best health.

1. Antibiotics The discovery of antibiotics transformed modern medicine, allowing us to successfully treat infections that would have previously been deadly. They work by either killing bacteria or preventing them from multiplying and have saved millions of lives. However, antibiotics kill all bacteria in the gut, good and bad. Even one course of antibiotics in your lifetime is enough to cause significant damage to the gut microbiome. And with their increased use for minor infections this means that a lot of people will be affected. Studies show that in some strains of good bacteria don’t recover from a single course of antibiotics even after 2 years.

2. Not enough fibre In the UK most people do not eat enough fibre (the average intake is 17.2/day for women and 20.1g/day for men). The recommended average intake for adults is 30g per day. Prebiotics are a type of fibre that passes through the body undigested and promotes the growth and activity of friendly gut bacteria. Many foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains, naturally contain prebiotic fibre. Consuming enough prebiotic fibre every day has been shown to increase the amount of good bacteria in the gut.

3. Stress It’s no surprise that gastrointestinal disorders are worsened by stress. Studies have shown that stress exposure changes the composition of the gut microbiome. These changes promote inflammation and affect how food moves through the gut. Stress exposure also reduced the ability of good bacteria like Lactobacillus to protect against infections.

4. Sedentary lifestyle Regular physical activity such as walking, swimming, cycling and gardening promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. One study comparing physically active women to sedentary women showed that active women had a higher abundance of health promoting bacteria.

5. Processed foods Two recent studies have shown that ultra-processed foods such as crisps, chicken nuggets, fast foods and sugary soft drinks disrupt the variety and volume of good bacteria in our gut, promote the growth of harmful bacteria and promote inflammation.

How many of the above points can you identify with? Changing just one small habit at a time is a great way to get started on your path to a healthier gut.

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