The adage “follow your gut” takes on a new meaning when it comes to health and nutrition. Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria, collectively known as gut flora, and your health and well-being depend in a large way on the condition and health of your gut flora.
What does gut flora do?
Bacteria live in different parts of the body, including the skin, mouth, nose and urinary tract, but most of them reside in your gut. These gut flora are mostly beneficial, but some can be harmful.
Good bacteria help you maintain and achieve good health by doing the following:
- They boost your immune system by producing antibodies that neutralize toxins and act against yeast and bad bacteria.
- They promote good digestion and the body’s absorption of nutrients.
- They promote the production of certain beneficial hormones, as well as nutrients and vitamins.
On the other hand, bad bacteria like salmonella and campylobacter can wreak havoc on your digestive system. If you often experience gas, indigestion, diarrhea and bloating, you may be suffering from attacks of the bad bacteria in your stomach.
What influences the composition of gut flora?
A healthy number and a wide variety of good bacteria are good for your health. The more diverse your gut flora, the more health benefits you can receive.
Generally, good bacteria greatly outnumber bad bacteria. However, the composition of your gut flora is determined by several factors. Caesarian birth, breast feeding and taking certain drugs can influence the kind of bacteria that thrive in your body. Age is also factor, as humans develop more diverse bacteria types as they mature. Illness can also cause an increase in bad bacteria.
Other major influences are the kinds of food you eat and your lifestyle. A bad diet, stress, and exposure to environmental toxins can deplete the number of good bacteria and allow bad bacteria to thrive.
How can you develop and maintain healthy gut flora?
Here are some of the things you can do to improve your gut flora:
- Have a fiber-rich diet
A well-balanced diet loaded with fiber-rich food, such as vegetables, fruits and legumes, will help promote the growth and diversity of good bacteria. Fiber cannot be digested by the body, but it is consumed by the bacteria in your stomach, providing them with nourishment and allowing them to thrive.
- Avoid sugary and processed foods
In contrast to fiber, our body can easily digest the simple carbohydrates in sugar and processed foods, leaving nothing for bacteria to feed on. Without food, the bacteria will turn to the intestines’ mucus lining for nourishment, which can then cause food to enter the bloodstream and lead to the inflammation of various body parts.
Moreover, bad bacteria like Candida Albican feed on sugar. With proper nourishment, these bacteria can proliferate, leading to conditions like bloating and depression.
- Take plenty of fluids
Keep yourself hydrated to help flush out toxins and wastes from your body, and to keep the bacteria moving through your intestines. Dehydration can cause bad bacteria to multiply, resulting in inflammation. As a rule of thumb, consume as many ounces of water a day as half of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 120 pounds, drink 60 ounces of water a day.
- Get enough rest and sleep
Get at least 7 hours of sleep every day, and avoid stress. Insufficient sleep and constant stress can cause the bacteria in your gut to work overtime and eventually weaken, leading to health issues.