Do you often suffer from stomach problems? Do you get sick more than others? Do you feel tired and out of sorts?
You may have an imbalance of the good and bad bacteria in your gut. This may sound surprising. Yet, current research points to a lack of beneficial bacteria as a cause for problems all over the body.
Continue reading to learn how to increase good bacteria in your gut naturally.
Why is There Bacteria in Your Gut?
Aren’t bacteria bad and don’t they cause infections? Yes and no.
Our immune system benefits from the bacteria and other microorganisms in the gut. There seems to be a symbiotic relationship between the body and the gut bacteria. They both play a part in each other’s health.
The good bacteria in the gut hide from the immune system by coating themselves in sugar molecules. This way the immune system will not see them as a threat and attack.
Research has found that the gut flora are key to maintaining health and fighting disease. It is now believed that they impact disease not only in the gut but also in other parts of the body.
Good gut flora works with the immune system to fight disease. Thus, while bacteria in many parts of the body leads to illness, bacteria in the gut can lead to health.
Do Low Beneficial Gut Bacteria Levels Cause Problems?
Lower than normal amounts of bacteria in the gut can affect your health and wellness.
In fact, patients who have severely decreased bacteria levels can become very sick. One disease, called Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, causes severe diarrhea that is challenging to treat. This occurs in patients taking high doses of antibiotics that kill the gut bacteria while fighting the infection.
Let’s Take a Closer Look at Our Gut
The medical term for the gut is the intestines. They are divided into the large and small intestines.
Food enters the intestines from the stomach. After the food is “processed”, the unused parts leave the body.
There are more bacteria present in the large intestine than in the small intestine. The stomach does not normally have bacteria because the high acidity kills bacteria.
- Contributing to digestion
- Destroying poisons in the large intestine
- Limiting harmful bacteria growth
- Making chemicals, such as dopamine, GABA, and serotonin, that help to regulate your moods
- Making vitamin B12 and vitamin K
Gut bacteria is our friend. Our body can’t survive without it.
How Does Bacteria in the Gut Help with Digestion?
When food enters the stomach the process of digestion begins. The acid in the stomach starts breaking down the food. If food is not broken down, it can’t absorb into the tissues and blood cells for use in the body.
As food travels through the intestines, water is taken up into the body. Peristalsis, the squeezing motion of the intestines, compresses the food and moves it along.
Not all parts of the food are absorbed and used by the body. This includes fiber and some types of starches and sugars in the food you eat. The unusable portion then leaves the body.
About one-third of the gut bacteria produce enzymes that help the body digest carbohydrates. Without these enzymes, you would not be able to digest plant foods such as lettuce.
What Causes Your Gut Bacteria to Become Out of Balance?
Numerous habits and conditions can decrease your gut bacteria.
- Do you take antibiotics often?
- Does your diet lack foods high in fiber and complex carbohydrates?
- Do you feel like you are in a bad mood a lot?
- Do you seem to get sick often?
- Does your skin have frequent breakouts?
- Do you have trouble maintaining a healthy weight?
- Do you feel worn out even after a good night’s sleep?
- Do you have short bouts of diarrhea, bloating, constipation, gas, or cramping?
If you answered yes to several of these questions, talk to your doctor and discuss a treatment plan.
How to Increase Good Bacteria in Your Gut Naturally
If your gut bacteria is out of balance, it is important to restore gut health quickly to avoid serious effects. Here are things you can try to restore your balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.
Get up and go. People who are more active tend to have healthier intestinal bacteria.
Eat a healthy diet. Eating nutrient-rich plant-based food helps keep your whole body going strong. Many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provide prebiotics. Prebiotics are fibers that help the beneficial bacteria grow in the intestines.
Limit foods that destroy good bacteria. This includes genetically modified organisms (GMOs), processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and refined sugars.
Quit worrying about germs. Evidence shows that our body needs a healthy amount of contact with dirt and bacteria so that your immune system can learn to fight it.
Relax. Stress makes your gut more permeable which can cause you to lose helpful bacteria.
Don’t take antibiotics if you don’t need them. Too many antibiotics can kill the beneficial gut flora. Always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions when taking all medications.
Some other medications that can harm good bacteria include steroids, antacids, birth control medications, hormone replacements, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Foods that Promote Good Bacteria in Your Gut
There are several foods you can add to your diet that will promote good gut flora.
Yogurt contains Lactobacillus which is one of the good guys.
Naturally fermented foods contain live good bacteria. Examples include sauerkraut, miso, pickles, kimchi, tempeh, some kinds of yogurt.
Prebiotic foods such as bananas, dandelion greens, asparagus, and oats.
High fiber foods including artichokes, beans, broccoli, chickpeas, green peas, lentils, raspberries, and whole grains.
Is Your Gut Happy?
If you do not feel like you are at your best, take action. Be active, decrease your stress, and eat foods that add healthy bacteria to your gut. Contact your doctor if you continue experiencing problems.
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