The Impact Of Antibiotics On Gut Health
One reason your gut health may be poor is if you recently took a course of antibiotics. While taking antibiotics is often unavoidable, they unfortunately cant tell the difference between good bacteria and bad bacteria and can decimate the populations of good microorganisms in our guts. People commonly develop IBS after a course of antibiotics, with studies showing they can cause symptoms in people who have never experienced them before due to an increase in the permeability of the gut wall.
Diarrhoea is a common side effect of taking antibiotics, says Dean. Their use can have several negative effects on the gut microbiota, including reduced species diversity, altered metabolic activity and the selection of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms. Overall, this can negatively affect the balance of bacteria in the gut.
If youve recently taken a course of antibiotics, it may be beneficial to consume some of the foods above to help restore a healthy balance in your gut.
Gut Bacteria Chronic Disease And Obesity
Emerging reviews of research indicates that gut bacteria composition may greatly influence the development of chronic diseases . This includes cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, neurological disorders, Parkinsons disease, and type two diabetes, among others . One of the main targets of research is the connection between the gut microbiota and obesity. Some research suggests that people who are overweight may have a lower diversity of gut bacteria . However, other studies have failed to find this association. For instance, authors of one well known study observed no association between BMI and gut microbiota composition and diversity . Lack of diversity may lead to metabolic complications as well as altered regulation of hormones and energy, contributing to long-term weight gain . Ongoing research indicates that improving diversity in the gut through diet and fecal transplants in people with obesity could potentially improve metabolic markers and weight loss . However, human fecal transplant studies to decrease obesity have been largely disappointing. In two separate studies, obese subjects were given fecal transplants from lean donors but did not lose weight however, glucose metabolism was improved .
Give Your Gut A Rest From A Hard Days Work
Giving your body a break from digesting food could protect from metabolic diseases and restore gut health.
In fact, some beneficial bacteria, like Akkermansia muciniphila, actually enjoy a nice fast, and help strengthen the gut lining when they arent being fed by your food intake. Theres no need to be radical here, though, just lay off the midnight snacks and when you do eat, make sure you cram in wholesome plant-based carbs!
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Eat A Variety Of Foods
Diet diversity, or the variety of foods you eat, plays a huge role in the number of good bacteria in your gut. One of the best things you can do for your gut is get out of your dietary comfort zone and eat a wider variety of foods, from all different food groups.
The TL DR? The more diverse your diet is, the more diverse your gut microbiome will be. Try to switch up the types of foods you eat weekly.
Eat High Fibre Foods That Fuel Your Gut
To ensure your body can produce as much good bacteria as possible, make sure youre eating fresh fruits and vegetables and foods that are high in fiber.
Remember your gut bacteria is influenced by what you eat, so its important to give it the best fuel so good bacteria grow to fight off bad bacteria. Eat lots of prebiotics , the food source of probiotics that help to grow helpful bacteria in your gut.
Heres a list of some high fiber foods that help grow good bacteria:
Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, garlic, onion, leek, shallots, spring onion, asparagus, beetroot, fennel bulb, green peas, snow peas, sweetcorn, savoy cabbage
Chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, baked beans, soybeans
Custard apples, nectarines, white peaches, persimmon, tamarillo, watermelon, rambutan, grapefruit, pomegranate. Dried fruit
- Bread / cereals / snacks
Barley, rye bread, rye crackers, pasta, gnocchi, couscous, wheat bran, wheat bread, oats
- Nuts and seeds
Cashews, pistachio nuts
If youre looking for easy recipes that can fill your plate with good foods to fuel your gut check out our recent article here.
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How Do You Know If You Have A Healthy Gut
This has to be the most common question I get asked in my clinic and on social media, and its one I can never give a simple answer to, says Rossi, adding that theres no single measure to assess gut health. She does not recommend commercial gut microbiome testing kits. To establish a clients likelihood of having a diverse microbiome, she asks them questions about their plant intake, sleep quality, stress levels and exercise pattern.
Your gut microbiota changes as you age, but a review suggests it is not clear if these changes are due to physiological changes, age-associated inflammation, gradual deterioration of the immune system, diet, medications, or chronic health conditions.
Taking time for your gut will be a worthy investment, says Patel, adding you can never be too young or too old to ensure you are improving your microbiome.
The One Gut Bacterium You Have To Boost
Happy gut, happy life!
If youre experiencing some kind of negative health symptom, you might want to look to the gut as a major contributor.
The intestinal microbiota comprises of tens of trillions of microorganisms and more than 1000 different bacteria species have been identified. The species classification of gut community members is enormous because the distribution and composition of gut microbiota are varied at different intestine anatomical sites and are prone to be influenced by external and internal factors, including lifestyle, diet, mood, body condition, etc. This is one reason why its dangerous to take pro-biotics, because the probiotics will increase that bacterial strain everywhere in the gut, and not only in the specific area where its needed.
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Dont Believe Everything You See Or Hear
You may have come across a range of different fads and trends all promising better gut health on your social media feeds. Try not to get sucked into everything you see across Instagram and Facebook. From colon cleanses to manuka honey remedies, nothing beats a varied wholefood diet.
Prioritising gut health shouldnt cost the earth and be wary of anyone selling expensive supplements which promise to instantly fix your gut. There are many cheap and easy recipes that are far more beneficial to your gut than anything sold on the internet.
To recap, if youre looking at how to improve your gut health, there are easy, cost effective ways you can do so. A good place to start is to action the following steps:
Try To Cut Back On The Red Meat
Aside from the fact that these days, many meat brands are known for raising their livestock with antibiotics, which is detrimental to your gut, there have been several studies that show healthier microbiomes in vegetarians. A vegetarians gut for example, will have a significantly smaller number of disease-causing bacteria that an omnivores gut. However, it is still unclear if this is due to the lack of meat being consumed, or the fact that vegetarians and plant-based individuals tend to consume a great deal more fibre than the average person.
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You See How Important It Is To Have Diverse Gut Bacteria
Now that youve gotten a good look at the importance of a healthy and diverse gut microbiome, I strongly encourage you to follow the steps Ive given you.
A healthy gut has been linked to a longer, healthier life – something thats important to all of us. Youve now gotten the basic information you need for your gut, and hence you, to thrive.
Its time to take charge of your gut bacteria. Build the good microbes and minimize the bad.
Youll be glad you did.
Eat Foods Rich In Polyphenols
Polyphenols are plant compounds that have many health benefits, including reductions in blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol levels, and oxidative stress .
Human cells cant always digest polyphenols. Because they arent absorbed efficiently, most polyphenols make their way to the colon, where they are digested by gut bacteria (
Polyphenols from cocoa can increase the amount of Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in humans and reduce the quantity of Clostridia .
Furthermore, these changes in the microbiome are associated with lower levels of triglycerides and C-reactive protein, which is a marker of inflammation .
The polyphenols in red wine have similar effects and have even been shown to increase levels of beneficial bacteria in people with metabolic syndrome .
Polyphenols cant be digested efficiently by human cells, but they are efficiently broken down by the gut microbiota. They may improve several health outcomes related to heart disease and inflammation.
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Take A Prebiotic Or Probiotic
While research is ongoing, adding a prebiotic or probiotic supplement to your diet may help improve your gut health. Prebiotics provide food meant to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, while probiotics are live good bacteria.
People who have a severe illness or weakened immune system should not take probiotics. Also, not all probiotic supplements are high quality or beneficial for your health.
Its best to speak with a healthcare professional when choosing a probiotic or prebiotic supplement to help improve your health.
Cut Out Sugar And Avoid Processed Foods
Youre sweet enough already! Fast digesting sugars, otherwise known as Monnosaccarides, are digested so quickly that your little microbes dont get a chance to take a bite out of them! If you eat too many simple sugars too regularly, you run the risk of literally starving your microbiome to death. Additionally, hungry microbes will resort to munching away at the lining in your intestine, which can lead to inflammation. Try to alter your diet to include more foods with complex sugars, to ensure a happy and healthy microbiome. Heres a list of some sweet foods that will keep both you and your gut happy!
- Sweet Potatoes
Also make sure you keep out an eye for dreaded hidden sources of monosaccharides. Sugar can sneak into foods you would never expect them to be. Keep an eye on sugar levels in things like smoothies, nut butters, protein bars, salad dressings and even in a gut-favourite yogurt!
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Signs Of An Unhealthy Gut
When the microorganisms in your microbiome are out of balance, your body and brain are more susceptible to illness and chronic disease. The medical term for this is dysbiosis.
The most basic and most essential function of our gut is the digestion of our food. This includes the breakdown of ingested food, absorption of nutrients, and elimination of waste. When things are working properly, things are effortless and in rhythm, says Dr. B.
We are free to enjoy a diverse, abundant diet without restrictions or fear of symptoms. We also have regular, complete bowel movements to eliminate our waste, he adds.
But what about when things arent working properly?
As a gastroenterologist, I look for the earliest signs of a damaged gut digestive symptoms. This may include bloating, gas, abdominal discomfort, nausea, or a change in bowel habits that could be diarrhea, constipation, or fluctuations between both, he says.
Don’t get me wrong, we all get these symptoms from time to time. But there’s a difference between the occasional, rare event versus the person who has a pattern of recurrent symptoms. When a pattern of digestive symptoms emerges chronically, we know that the gut is struggling to keep up with the demands of digesting your food. Dr. Will Bulsiewicz
Avoid Sugar And Processed Foods
Over recent years, it has become more and more apparent that the modern Western dietlow fiber, high sugar, and high fathas a detrimental effect on health. In relation to the microbiome, high levels of sugar have been shown to increase levels of bad bacteria in the gut and decrease the good bacteria, leading to inflammation and reduced function.Highly processed foods lack many of the vital nutrients the body needs, including the fiber and probiotics that support a healthy gut. To maintain healthy levels of good bacteria, minimize your consumption of heavily processed foods and eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of vegetables and grains.
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Stock Up On Dietary Sources Of Prebiotics
Prebiotics are food for your microbiome! Its important to feed these little guys to give them the energy they need to complete their very important task of managing your enteric nervous system. Here is a list of dietary prebiotics that should be staples in your home kitchen:
- Whole Grains
- Green Tea Extracts
Ways To Increase Good Gut Bacteria
Did you know that the majority of your immune system is in your gut?1 Picture a lush, harmonious rainforest teeming with diverse forms of life this is what a healthy gut should look like at a microbial level. With more than 1,000 microbial species, most of which are bacteria, your guts microbiome makes up an essential part of your immune system.2 The good bacteria in your gut protect you from pathogenic invaders and keep harmful bacteria from growing out of control. The good bacteria that live in your gut are an essential part of your bodys microbiome. Here are 10 of the best ways to increase your good gut bacteria.
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Gut Health Hacks That Work
You can nurture a diverse gut microbiome for good gut health without supplements, fortified foods or microbiome tests. Experts say these six everyday strategies work:
1. Eat fermented foods regularly
People who had fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, the yogurt-like drink kefir or kombucha daily for 10 weeks increased the diversity of their gut microbiome in an August 2021 Stanford University study. But study participants who ate more high-fiber foods saw no increase in diversity, a finding that shocked the researchers, according to Wastyk, colead author of the study. No one expected the fermented foods group to have that response, she says. Everyone was like, ‘What the heck?’
Even more surprising: Just 10 percent of the good bacteria found in the fermented foods actually took up residence in participants gut. Wastyk thinks fermented foods may increase diversity by knocking the microbiome a little off-balance, giving small colonies of existing bacteria a chance to grow. Wastyk suggests finding several fermented foods you enjoy and having some daily. Look for yogurt with live, active cultures and for foods that havent been heat-processed, which would kill off the bacteria, she adds.
2. Eat a wider variety of produce
3. Toast your good bugs with a mug of tea or coffee
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It Increases Other Beneficial Gut Bacteria
Cross feeding is when the byproducts of one bacterium supports the growth of another. A. muciniphila and F. prausnitzii co-occurr in the mucus and has a syntrophic relationship with each other and both species are reduced in inflammatory bowel disease .
Akkermansia muciniphila also promotes the growth of a butyrogenic gut commensal named Anaerostipes caccae, which can also convert acetate and lactate into butyrate .
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The Role Of Probiotics
If microbiota are so vital to our health, how can we ensure that we have enough or the right types? You may be familiar with probiotics or perhaps already using them. These are either foods that naturally contain microbiota, or supplement pills that contain live active bacteriaadvertised to promote digestive health. Probiotic supplement sales exceeded $35 billion in 2015, with a projected increase to $65 billion by 2024. Whether you believe the health claims or think they are yet another snake oil scam, they make up a multi-billion dollar industry that is evolving in tandem with quickly emerging research.
Because probiotics fall under the category of supplements and not food, they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. This means that unless the supplement company voluntarily discloses information on quality, such as carrying the USP seal that provides standards for quality and purity, a probiotic pill may not contain the amounts listed on the label or even guarantee that the bacteria are alive and active at the time of use.
What Should You Eat To Improve Your Gut Bacteria
Every person is different, but if you want to improve your microbiome, some broad principles apply to all.
Eat a wide and varied range of plant-based foods. I recommend aiming for 30 plant points every week, says Rossi, which means eating 30 different plants. These should include fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices. A healthy gut has a diverse community of microbes, each of which prefers different foods, so the more variety in your diet, the more diverse bacteria will thrive in your gut.
Eat more fibre. Most people eat less than they should. Fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts and wholegrains feed healthy bacteria, which ferment the fibre and in the process produce substances thought to be protective, such as short-chain fatty acids. We are advised to eat at least 30g of fibre per day, but increasing fibre intake by as little as 6g a day has been found to have an effect on gut bacteria. If your diet is low in fibre, a sudden increase can cause wind and bloating, so make gradual changes and drink extra water.
Avoid highly processed foods. They often contain ingredients that either suppress good bacteria or increase bad bacteria.
Probiotic foods live bacteria found in fermented foods such as yoghurt, kimchi and sauerkraut might encourage more microbes to grow. Eat them if you enjoy them. Find out how to make ferments on BBC Food.