How May We Improve Gut Bacteria?

How may we improve gut bacteria and so lend a hand to overall health and wellbeing?

By Dr Sonja Kukuljan and Dr Tim Crowe

You are what you eat, and so are the bacteria that live in your gut. The different strains of bacteria change depending on the types of food eaten. We have some way to go before we know what the ‘perfect’ diet may be for gut health, and it will likely be very individual. However, the dietary pattern linked most to an adverse change in bacterial species is the highly refined typical Western diet low in fibre and high in sugar. The good news is that a shift to a healthier diet, rich in a diverse range of dietary fibers, can change the bacteria mix in a few days.

So the best advice at the moment is that we should concentrate on getting a healthy diet, full of the fermentable fibers that feed the good gut bacteria. Foods especially rich in fermentable fibers include foods rich in resistant starch, galactooligosaccharides and fructooligosaccharides, such as Barley+ muesli and snack bars, firm bananas, legumes, cooked and cooled potatoes, el dente pasta, cooked and cooled rice. Try not to eat too much protein either, as excess protein ends up in the large intestine, where it will also be fermented by some bacteria: we actually want more of the fiber fermenting bacteria to proliferate in the large bowel, rather than the protein fermenting bacteria, so stock up on fermentable fiber rich foods.

In addition, healthy levels of exercise have also been shown to have a good influence on gut bacteria, so at the risk of being boring, the age old advice to get plenty or good exercise and food seems to be the same old, go-to advice to get yourself a good and healthy gut bacteria population.

So, while the composition of the gut bacteria and the way they behave is more or less stable over time, and while we know the gut bacteria can be influenced by various factors including our age, our lifestyles, our individual immune system mechanics, the use of antibiotics (of course!) and even our unique, individual metabolism, a healthier eating pattern can change our gut bacteria profiles for the better, virtually overnight, so it’s a no brainer that we should aim to get more of the good stuff into our bodies. So, without further ado…

Oh and by the way, it’s always best to start with a medical opinion, to exclude any underlying medical condition which may be contributing to poor gut health (e.g. celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome).


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