The good bacteria in your gut is absolutely vital for your health, and helps pretty much every system in the body, including your digestive, immune and endocrine (hormonal) system!
So, keep reading to learn about the microbiota, and what you can do right now to promote your health!
What is the microbiota?
We have around 40 trillion bacteria living in our guts. Some bacteria is beneficial to us because it helps us to digest and absorb nutrients. On the other hand, some of the bacteria is detrimental and can cause illness if it overgrows.
Therefore it is vital to keep the good bacteria healthy in the gut to keep us healthy!
Why is it important to my health?
The good bacteria in the gut actually helps us to make, digest and absorb nutrients. For example, bacteria in the intestines makes the majority of vitamin K2 our body needs for blood clotting and wound healing.
Having a healthy microbiota also keeps the cells in the gut tight, preventing inflammation and symptoms such as bloating, cramping and constipation.
Furthermore, bacteria in the gut helps to strengthen our immune system by training immune cells to recognise pathogenic bacteria, viruses and fungi.
Research has shown an association between an imbalanced microbiota and certain conditions. This can include IBD, atherosclerosis, type 1 and type 2 diabetes and liver disease. This shows why supporting ur digestive system is so important.
What damages it?
Damage to the microbiota essentially means that the bad bacteria has become favoured. This can result in digestive issues such as:
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Excess flatulence
The following points contribute towards imbalanced bacteria in the gut:
1.High refined sugars/ processed foods: When we eat a diet high in processed foods, it feeds the bad bacteria in the gut and causes them to outgrow the good bacteria. So make sure you have a diet high in whole foods and have processed foods as a treat on the occasion!
2. Antibiotics: antibiotics are used to kill off bad bacteria that cause infection, however antibiotics are broad and will kill any bacteria in the gut whether it is good or bad. So if you need to take some antibiotics, it is good to be aware of this to prevent any digestive issues after taking them. Keep reading to see how to support your gut bacteria!
3. Stress: When our sympathetic nervous system is activated (think flight or flight) blood is directed away from the digestive system. This can cause a favourable environment for the overgrowth of bad bacteria. Therefore, it is a wise idea to practice activities that help you to relax and to keep your gut healthy!
4. Alcohol/smoking: chemicals from smoking and consuming alcohol is toxic to bacteria in the gut. Alcohol and smoking also causes inflammation in the gut which may lead to leaky gut syndrome.
Finally, if you have coeliac’s or have a gluten sensitivity it is important to avoid gluten. This is because gluten will begin to damage the lining of the intestine which will impact good bacteria. This can eventually impact the absorption of nutrients and lead to leaky gut syndrome.
How you can support your gut bacteria
- Take a probiotic supplement to help reestablish the beneficial bacteria in your gut. I would definitely recommend taking probiotics for at least a month after finishing antibiotics.
2. Eat prebiotic and probiotic foods. Prebiotic foods contain nutrients that feed good bacteria in the gut that are already there. Probiotic foods contain live bacteria that helps to maintain and improve colonies of good bacteria in the gut. Try to have at least one of the following foods from the examples below.
Prebiotic food examples: onion, garlic, leeks, artichoke, oats, apples, flaxseeds. – bacteria feeds off of the fibre and short chain fatty acids in these foods.
Probiotic food examples: Kimchi, Kefir, kombucha, seaweed, yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh and miso (anything fermented will contain live bacteria cultures).
Remedy is a fantastic company to check out to try Kombucha and Kefir probiotic soft drinks! My favourite flavour is the passion fruit, but they have a variety of flavours that is perfect for everyone.
3. Avoid processed sugars. Eating a lot of refined sugar feeds and favours the bad bacteria in the gut. So make sure you prioritise having natural, unprocessed foods in your diet.
4. Keep stress levels low. I know this is easier said than done, but when we are stressed blood gets directed away from the gut to prepare us for fight or flight. When we are continuously in fight or flight mode it can result in digestive issues as there is not enough blood to nourish the gut and microbiota.
Thank you for reading Microbiota 101! I really hope you learned something new and it helps you to make positive changes to your lifestyle. Be sure to subscribe and follow me on Instagram!