Why should you care about some bacteria? Bacteria are everywhere – in the kitchen, on your desk, in your coffee, and we all know that – on your phone. They are also in and on your body. You are a walking colony of microbes. Scientists tell us bacteria cells outnumber human cells 10 to 1.
You are never alone; about 100 trillion bacteria are always with you. They are your real friends, not the three thousand people who ‘friended’ you on Facebook. The microbes are always there for you. So, you might want to be nice to them. You also might want to influence who you hang out with, what kinds of microorganisms inhabit your body and especially your gut.
Did you know?
- an average person has about 3 pounds of bacteria in their body
- bacteria is crucial to digesting food
- good bacteria helps us use nutrients from the food we eat
- bacteria influence our immune system, brain, mood, hormones, metabolism and more
- disturbance or imbalance in bacterial flora, especially in our gut, leads to disease
The food we eat greatly influences the species of bacteria that live in the intestines. If you eat a lot of processed food the diversity of microbes is reduced and your body becomes more prone to illness such as cancer, diabetes, colitis, obesity, hypertension and autism. Some scientists believe that relatively recent changes in our dietary habits – eating more processed foods – have caused reduction in the variety of microbes and loss of the health-promoting bacteria resulting in the wide spread chronic disease and obesity.
How can I change my gut flora?
1. Clean up your diet
- Avoid processed foods as much as possible
- Reduce or eliminate processed sugar
- Eat lots of fresh vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, bok choy, etc. Notice the word ‘fresh’ – canned or frozed won’t cut it.
2. Add prebiotic foods
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are food for the friendly gut bacteria. It is a type of indigestible (for humans) fibre that is crucial for developing a thriving bacterial flora in the gut.
Some foods containing the prebiotic fibres include jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, garlic, leeks, onions, radishes, and tigernuts.
3. Add probiotic foods and supplements
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system.
If your gut (read: you) is fairly healthy adding fermented foods will probably be enough to keep your flora diverse and healthy.
Add fermented dairy foods such as kefir, yoghurt, raw milk soft cheeses. Other fermented foods that contribute to healthy flora in the gut are fermented vegetables that your grandma made – sauerkraut, dill pickles and various kimchi vegetables. Sauerkraut is especially easy to make – all you need is cabbage and salt. You can also buy fermented veggies at most health food stores but I assure you that home made is better.
Have you heard of kombucha tea?
It is a tasty and refreshing fermented drink made of green or black tea and sugar. It is fermented by a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) which turns the sugar into beneficial enzymes and probiotics. You can buy kombucha at health food stores or you can make your own (more about this at another time).
Get a good probiotic supplement
If you have some disposable income that you’d like to invest in your friendly bacteria you might want to buy some probiotic supplements. The good ones can be pricey but it’s an investment, right? A good probiotic supplement is also the way to go if you have taken antibiotics. It can take years to recover gut flora after antibiotic treatment and supplementing would definitely help.
What you want to look for is the count, number and kind or strains of bacteria in the supplement (L. acidophilus, B. Longum and B. bifidum). What is also important is how the supplement is stored, delivered and packaged. This is a huge topic and outside of the scope of this post or my knowledge. Learn more about How to Choose the Best Probiotic Supplement.
What do you think? Do you have some tips on how to keep a nice balance of bacteria in the gut? Do you have any questions or comments? Share below.
Updated on Feb. 5, 2017:
In case you get to go to space your gut flora might be affected (understandably): How a year in space affected the bacteria in Scott Kelly’s gut
- Dr Mercola: 100 Trillion Bacteria in Your Gut: Learn How to Keep the Good Kind There
- TED talk: The gut flora: You and your 100 trillion friends by Jeroen Raes a bionaut, who researches the human microbiome
- Microbiome Journal: Dysbiosis of gut bacteria in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Watch this lovely, kid friendly, animation
- WebMD: What Are Probiotics?
- Wellness Mama blog: https://wellnessmama.com