The human gut is a complex ecosystem with trillions of microorganisms, many of which are beneficial to health.
These bacteria can be found in the stomach, small intestine, large intestine and other parts of our digestive tract.
The microbiome (the total number of microbes in an ecosystem) has been shown to be important for more than just digestion.
It helps our bodies fight off infections and contributes to brain development. There’s evidence that having a healthy microbiome may lower your risk for certain diseases like obesity or even cancer.
The best diets for cultivating healthy gut bacteria include high amounts of fibre from fruits and vegetables. Processed foods with added sugar or fat can disrupt the balance between good and bad bacteria.
The gut microbiome shows promise for future science and medicine.
The gut microbiome, or the community of microorganisms that live on and in your body, is a relatively new field of study. It’s only been studied for about 30 years but it quickly becoming one of the most researched topics in science.
The microbiome is still a mystery to many people. However, we must understand it because of its potential to help us to cure diseases like obesity, cancer and diabetes.
Impact of the gut microbiome
The genetic makeup of two human beings is more or less similar. But the human microbiome is the other way round and unique among individuals.
When you take the two identical twins, their genetic makeup is similar. Still, the gut microbiome is entirely different almost all the time.
This explains why one is thinner while the other is obese in identical twins. Or one has some disease, and the other does not have it.
What gut microbiome does
Gut flora supports the digestion and absorption of nutrients in the gut. For example, they help to digest breast milk in the early days of our life. The bacteria that first grow in babies’ gut digest the breast milk and absorb the nutrient.
Most of the foods we eat are digested in the small intestine, but the dietary fibres do not. Instead, they are passed down to the large intestine. The bacterial community in the large bowel ferment these fibres and produces a short-chain fatty acid known as butyrate.
Butyrate helps to prevent weight gain, diabetes, heart diseases and certain cancers.
The butyrate is responsible for the augmentation of the gut’s immunity. It promotes the development of the lymphoid tissues in the gut, regulates the production of immune mediators, and influences gut T cells’ composition. These are all factors vital for solid immunity.
Healthy gut microbiota positively influences gut morphology. These changes are essential to increase barrier permeability and digestive function.
Another effect is enhancing the nervous system functions and bone health by regulating bone density and calcium absorption from the gut.
Scientists have found that certain activities can promote gut flora, while some may demote them.
Therefore, you need to know how to take care of your gut microbiome and good foods to eat. These 8 lifestyle measures are recommended for a healthy gut microbiome.
1. Eat a wide range of healthy foods
There are 1000s of species of bacteria in the gut. Their effect is different, and their nutrients requirement are also different.
So, to cultivate a good gut flora (high number and diversity), you need to provide the nutrient required for all the species of bacteria by eating a wide range of healthy foods.
Scientists have shown that people (who are in villages) who eat a wide variety of plant food have a good gut microbiome. Conversely, people ( busy and live in cities) who eat more fast foods & fewer plant-based foods have a poor microbiome.
2. Eat more plant-based foods, including vegetables, fruits, legumes and beans
Fruits and vegetables are good for health in many ways.
Fibres are rich in vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes. Gut microbiota ferments these fibres to produce butyrate, which promotes good health. Consider eating the following food types more often to augment the gut flora.
- Whole grains
- Legumes – Chickpea, Lentils, Beans
- Green peas
3. Add more fermented foods and probiotics to your diet
Fermented food production involves bacteria or yeast. These microorganisms convert the sugars in food to organic acids or alcohol. In addition, many of these fermented foods have lactobacilli, a friendly bacteria.
Yoghurt is a commonly consumed fermented food that promotes the growth of the gut microbiome, it reduces inflammation in the gut and several other chronic diseases. It also helps to reduce lactose intolerance.
When selecting yoghurt, you need to be careful because many have added flavoured and high amounts of sugar, which are not suitable for the gut microbiome. So, you need to eat plain yoghurt.
Examples of fermented foods apart from yoghurt include:
- Fermented soybean milk
4. Cut down sugar and sweats
A high amount of sugar or sweeteners resulted in skewness or imbalance in the gut microbiota.
Artificial sweeteners are widely used to replace sugar, especially in diabetes patients. But these are negatively affected the gut flora.
These negative effects were attributed to the negative impact on the gut flora of these sweeteners. This means that artificial sweeteners may increase blood sugar despite not actually being sugar.
Taking sweat is not a good idea for gut flora. So what are the options left? You can switch to honey, dark chocolate, apples, berries, mango, sweet potatoes & coconut flour as alternatives.
5. Eat whole grain
We have heard that whole grain is good for our health. But how?
Whole grain has lots of fibres that cannot be digested using enzymes in our gut. So, these fibres passed into the large intestine from the small intestine without digestion.
There is fermentation of these fibres is done by the gut bacteria and produces butyrate, which has numerous health benefits.
The fibres also promote the growth of certain beneficial bacteria. Namely Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli and Bacteroidetes.
6. Use antibiotics rationally
Antibiotics are essential to use when there is a bacterial infection. But often, antibiotics are used irrationally for common viral infections.
Irrational use of antibiotics leads to many adverse outcomes, such as damaging the gut microbiome and antibiotic resistance.
The unnecessary use of antibiotics has to stop, and it is worth exploring alternative treatments before starting to take antibiotics.
7. Engage in regular physical exercises
Regular physical exercise is recommended for good health all the time. It helps to lose weight and control obesity.
Studies have shown that they have a good microbiome. However, those who eat an unhealthy diet have a poor gut microbiome. Exercise can enhance the number of beneficial microbial species, enrich the microflora diversity, and improve the development of commensal bacteria.
Engaging in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day for at least 5 days a week and 2 days of muscle-strengthening exercises are recommended.
8. Try to get a good night of sleep
Getting enough good-quality sleep can improve mood, cognition, and gut health.
Adults need to have at least 7 hours of good quality sleep every day. it is good for the gut microbiome and has several other health benefits. Read more on how to get good sleep.
The Bottom Line
The gut microbiome is still a relatively new topic, but it shows promise for future science and medicine.
The best diets to promote a healthy gut microbiome are those that are high in fibre and low in processed foods.
Use antibiotics only if indicated and take plenty of prebiotics and fermented foods
Food allergies are more common than ever, and scientists think an altered microbiome may be to blame. Indigestion is less likely if you have a diverse microbiome.