How to boost gut bacteria with food.
Most us think taking a daily probiotic is the way to boost your gut bacteria. The food that we eat every day has the biggest influence on our gut bacteria.
Here are some tips on how to boost gut bacteria with food.
By now most of us have an understanding of how much influence good gut bacteria plays on our health. Gut bacteria, or more correctly termed, our microbiome, contains trillions of microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. All of this living with us in our intestinal tract.
Gut bacteria affects every inch of our body. From our immune system, mental health, digestion, skin, weight, nutrient status and levels of inflammation.
How does gut bacteria change?
Alterations in diet can have a temporary change in gut bacteria within 24 hours. This shows how significant diet is in relation to our gut bacteria. What we understand now is that certain foods make predictable shifts in our microbiome. Studies have shown that acute stress or inflammation can alter our gut bacteria in a negative way within 24 hours of insult.
Protein, fat, and carbohydrate all influence our gut bacteria. It is the source of these macro nutrients that determine if the effect is positive or negative.
Protein consumption positively contributes to microbial diversity. Diversity is a good thing as we want to have a wide variety of microorganisms in our digestive tract as they each have their own roles to play. What studies have shown is a diet high in protein from animal sources negatively influences microbial diversity, whilst plant-based protein can have a more positive influence. Something to note is that these studies have been conducted on participants being fed an extremely high animal protein diet with a low carbohydrate intake. This is not a realistic diet for most people.
TAKE HOME NOTE – eat protein from a variety of sources such as grass-fed animals as well as plant-based sources such as legumes, nuts, and seeds.
The main influence that fat has on the microbiome is that a reduction of good bacteria was seen in those who ate a diet high in saturated fat. Those who followed a diet such as the Mediterranean diet that contains healthy monounsaturated fats had a more diverse microbiome than the saturated fat eaters.
TAKE HOME NOTE – include healthy mono-unsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado and macadamia nut oils in your diet. Small amounts of saturated fats from coconut, ghee, and grass-fed animals all have a role in a well-rounded nutritious diet.
Carbohydrates are the biggest influence on our gut bacteria. The reason for this is that certain carbohydrates provide the food source that our gut bacteria require to stay alive and thrive.
Non-digestible carbohydrates such as fiber are not broken down in the small intestines, so they make it through to the large intestines where they undergo fermentation by resident microorganisms. This fermentation is an energy source for the microbes to survive and prosper. This food source for microbes is referred to as PRE-BIOTICS. Sources of these prebiotics include oats, sweet potato, potato, legumes, wheat, and inulin. A diet low in these foods is linked to lowered gut bacteria.
In order for gut bacteria to prosper, it is not just food that they need, but a healthy environment too. To support this environment, short chain fatty acids found in certain carbohydrates are the major food source for the cells that line our digestive tract. They also have a direct anti-inflammatory effect on the gut.
TAKE HOME NOTE – include healthy carbohydrates from sweet potato, beans, potato, rice, oats, seeds, quinoa, buckwheat, green bananas, and legumes.
Fermented foods are a powerhouse when it comes to boosting gut bacteria with food. They are a direct source of bacteria that will hopefully make it through your digestive system to colonize your large intestines. Including a variety of fermented foods will encourage a diverse array of microorganisms. Include water kefir, milk kefir, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, miso, tempeh, and kombucha.
Artificial sweeteners are linked with a negative change to gut bacteria, as well as contributing to gut permeability.
We now understand the importance of gut bacteria in human health. Positive manipulation of our microbiome may influence disease onset and progression. Whilst in healthy individuals, our microbiome is fairly stable, we can not ignore to influence that diet and lifestyle has on our gut bacteria.
What will you eat today to support your gut bacteria?
If you want to find out more ways to support your gut bacteria read this post.
Gut health is so important to our health. Find out more here in this post.