One of the most important parts of your body isn’t actually part of you. Human cells make up your stomach and intestines, but the microbes living within your intestinal tract outnumber them by a huge margin. Today we’re going to talk about the importance of healthy gut flora, and how to keep them that way.
Your gut microbes live in symbiosis with you. You give them a place to live that is ideal for them, and they provide energy for you by digesting food. You couldn’t live without the microbes in your digestive system. So keeping them healthy is vital to keeping you healthy. Here are five things you can do to maintain a healthy gut – and two you should avoid.
Pile On The Fruit
Yes, fruit contains fructose, a sugar. However, it contains other substances that outweigh the extra sugar, unless your doctor has you on a severely low-carb diet. First, research suggests fruit reduces food cravings. And fruits that contain a great deal of fiber, such as strawberries, may help reduce the effects of sugars. So plan on adding several servings of fruit to your daily diet.
However, this doesn’t mean fruit JUICE – which isn’t a healthy choice as the sugars are concentrated and the fiber has been removed.
Speaking Of Fiber: Add More
Vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds are all rich in fiber. Your gut flora will love it, and fiber can make you feel full, which helps reduce food cravings. Fiber actually slows the uptake of sugars into your bloodstream, which prevents spikes in glucose. If your glucose levels spike, it typically falls off quickly, which signals your body that you are hungry again. This is why sugary foods can lead to overeating. So add fiber, a simple step toward building and maintaining a healthy gut!
Use the Right Cooking Oils
Cooking oils such as canola contain Omega-6 fats, linked to inflammation in your digestive tract. Healthy substitutes are avocado oil and coconut oil.
Add Fermented Foods
Sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir or any other fermented food helps feed the good bacteria in your digestive tract. In fact research shows that yogurt, rich in probiotics, may contribute to weight loss. Plain Greek yogurt is best; you can add seeds or fruit for additional flavor and fiber. Always check the label, and don’t buy yogurt or kefir with added sugar.
Supplement With Probiotics
Probiotics are valuable contributors to good gut bacteria. Research suggests Lactobacillus, commonly available in probiotic liquids, is vital to a healthy digestive system. The flavors of probiotics leave much to be desired, but you can take them in a capsule form, or add them to smoothies. (Which gives you another way of adding plenty of fruit to your diet!)
Avoid Antibiotics Unless Your Doctor Prescribes Them
Antibiotics don’t discriminate between harmful bacteria and the good bacteria living in your gut. So use antibiotics only when necessary. Anti-bacterial creams and soaps should be avoided. Keep in mind, most common illnesses such as the flu or cold are caused by viruses. Less common illnesses such as Bronchitis and sinus infections are also caused by viruses. Antibiotics do nothing against them and may simply make you more ill in other ways by damaging the flora in your gut.
And Finally: For A Healthy Gut, Avoid Alcohol and Sugar
The bad microbes in your gut — including firmicutes, found in considerable numbers in overweight and obese individuals — love sugar and alcohol. But sugar and alcohol are toxic to good gut bacteria. Eliminate these, or reduce their consumption as much as you can. This simple dietary change can have a dramatic impact on your gut flora.