Most people flinch at the very mention of the word bacteria. But not all bacteria are disease-causing or broadly put – bad.
Our digestive systems harness about 100 trillion bacteria, good and bad, and are collectively called microbiome or microbiota. It is but logical to think that diet affects our microbiome, considering they both have something in common – the digestive system.
Let’s take a look of some dietary changes you can make to ensure you have more good gut bacteria and less bad ones.
Ways To Improve Gut Bacteria
1. Eat Different Types Of Foods
Dietary diversity increases the richness of your gut bacteria. More healthy bacteria means more health benefits.
The bacteria in your gut are exposed to whatever you ingest. The most obvious component is food.
Different bacteria have different nutritional needs. This means the greater diversity in your meals, the greater the diversity in your gut bacteria as well.1 This is good for your immune system as each bacteria improves your health in a different way.
2. Go Organic
Along with food, you also expose your gut microbiome to antibiotics that may have been used as growth promoters for livestock or pesticides used to grow plants.2 Yes, your steak could be contaminated with antibiotics and your salad with pesticides. While these may not cause you any direct harm, they will deter the richness of your gut bacteria.
The best way out is to go organic.
3. Fill Up On Fibers
Bacteria in the large intestines help ferment undigested food like
It not only self-stimulates the growth of bacteria by providing energy, but it also leads to the production of vitamins and short-chain fatty acids that play key roles in our immunity.3 By eating fiber-rich fruits and veggies you will, thus, be able to fight disease-causing bacteria with a stronger immunity.4
Consume lots of fiber-rich foods like legumes (peas, beans, lentils), whole grains, raspberries, broccoli, flax and chia seeds, oats and oat bran, and artichoke.
4. Eat Naturally Fermented Foods
A dietary practice
Diversify your intestinal residents by eating different fermented foods.5 These include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and tempeh. They vary in the type of bacteria they carry and together can tremendously enrich your gut microbiome.
5. Snack On Plain Yogurt
Also a probiotic-rich food, yogurt deserves special mention. While increasing your intestinal lactobacilli (good bacteria), yogurt also impairs the growth of inflammation-causing Enterobacteriaceae.6
Have about 200 gm of plain yogurt every day.
It’s important to pay attention to the word plain as flavored yogurts often have high levels of sugar disguised as flavoring agents.
If you’re lactose intolerant and thinking about skipping this step, hold on. Bacteria in yogurt have been shown to improve the symptoms of lactose intolerance in both children and adults.7 So, there’s no need for you to refrain.
6. Steer Clear Of Artificial Sweeteners
As we now know, the food you eat determines which bacteria grow in your gut. Your intention should not only be to increase healthy bacteria but also discourage the growth of disease-causing ones.
Artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin have been seen to alter the gut microbiome in
7. Avoid Red Meat
It is common knowledge that you should limit your red meat intake to avoid heart disease. While it was previously believed to stem from red meat’s high saturated fat and cholesterol content, the true culprits seem to be gut bacteria.9
In another attempt to prevent bad bacteria from growing in your gut, it’s best you avoid red meat. Red meat contains carnitine, a small protein, which is broken down by gut bacteria to form compounds implicated in the clotting of arteries.
A diet high in carnitine can promote the growth of gut microbes that like
8. Try Plant-Based Foods
To further improve your gut bacteria, switch to a vegetarian diet. It has been found to reduce gut inflammation by pleasantly altering the gut microbiome.10 The fact that plant-based foods are also rich in fibers may have something to do with this bacterial advantage.
9. Breastfeed Infants Less Than 6 Months Old
A baby’s microbiota expands and diversifies mostly after birth. Breastfeeding your baby will help promote the growth of good bacteria like Bifidobacteria that grows in response to sugars in breast milk. They help digest these sugars.11 Depending completely on formula milk will deprive your baby of some healthy gut bacteria, among other heath complications.
We hope that by now you’re convinced of the importance of your microbiome. By taking control of your diet, you will protect yourself from a host of diseases while also helping your body systems function normally.
|↑1||Heiman, Mark L., and Frank L. Greenway. “A
|↑2||Heiman, Mark L., and Frank L. Greenway. “A healthy gastrointestinal microbiome is dependent on dietary diversity.” Molecular metabolism 5, no. 5 (2016): 317-320.|
|↑3||Conlon, Michael A., and Anthony R. Bird. “The impact of diet and lifestyle on gut microbiota and human health.” Nutrients 7, no. 1 (2014): 17-44.|
|↑4||Klinder, Annett, Qing Shen, Susanne Heppel, Julie A. Lovegrove, Ian Rowland, and Kieran M. Tuohy. “Impact of increasing fruit and vegetables and flavonoid intake on the human gut microbiota.” Food & function 7, no. 4 (2016): 1788-1796.|
|↑5||Chilton, Stephanie N., Jeremy P. Burton, and Gregor Reid. “Inclusion of fermented foods in food guides around the world.” Nutrients 7, no. 1 (2015): 390-404.|
|↑6||Alvaro, Elise, Claude Andrieux, Violaine Rochet, Lionel Rigottier-Gois, Pascale Lepercq, Malene Sutren, Pilar Galan, Yvonne Duval, Catherine Juste, and Joël Doré. “Composition and metabolism of the intestinal microbiota in consumers and non-consumers of yogurt.”
|↑7||Brown-Riggs, Constance. “Nutrition and health disparities: the role of dairy in improving minority health outcomes.” International journal of environmental research and public health 13, no. 1 (2015): 28.|
|↑8||Taking a New Look at Artificial Sweeteners. NIH Director’s Blod. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑9||Red Meat-Heart Disease Link Involves Gut Microbes. NIH Research Matters. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑10||Kim, Min‐Soo, Seong‐Soo Hwang, Eun‐Jin Park, and Jin‐Woo Bae. “Strict vegetarian diet improves the risk factors associated with metabolic diseases by modulating gut microbiota and reducing intestinal inflammation.” Environmental microbiology reports 5, no. 5 (2013): 765-775.|