Want better gut health? Try bacteria!

Published on: 13/05/2022

Not all bacteria are bad! In fact, many play key roles in maintaining our natural health. From preventing obesity to forming natural antibiotics, our gut bacteria do many things to help us keep disease away.

Despite the bad reputation the word “bacteria” has for most people, most don’t really cause disease. In fact, it is popular medical consensus that the bacteria found in different parts of your body, particularly your gut, help facilitate normal bodily functions. They are collectively referred to as your microbiome.

Researchers found that mice without gut bacteria were actually more likely to develop infections. Ironic right? This suggests that gut bacteria actually form protective barriers in our gastrointestinal tract, shielding us from more dangerous bacteria and other foreign substances. Many bacteria in your microbiome are essentially able to synthesize natural antibiotics, which are able to directly inhibit the growth of pathogens. In addition, microbiome secretions may even have anti-inflammatory effects.

Another interesting function they have is metabolic. Under this category are many functions that are beneficial to your body. From synthesizing vitamins to removing carcinogens, your gut bacteria carries out tasks that not many in your body can do. Additionally, the metabolic functions of your microbiome also influence how many calories you burn. People with unhealthy microbiomes are more predisposed to developing diseases like obesity. 

Given how important its functions seem to be, we should be trying our best to improve our microbiome health, as it directly influences our bodily health.

How to improve your gut bacteria/microbiome? 

The main influencer of our microbiome is our diet. Depending on the food we eat, different bacteria may grow accordingly. Here are some general tips for boosting microbiome health:

1. Eat different foods! 
Diversifying the type of food you eat also diversifies the different species of bacteria in your gut. The more species you have, the more bodily functions they can do, which directly improves your health.

2. Try yogurt and other fermented foods. 
The process of fermentation makes use of “good bacteria," aka probiotics, to process food. Kimchi, kombucha, and yogurt are some of the many things prepared in this way. By eating more of them, you introduce more probiotics into your microbiome.

3. Eat fewer sugary foods. 
Eating too much sugar can put you at risk of obesity and diabetes. This has also been found to negatively affect gut health and should be avoided if possible.

4. Don’t self-medicate with antibiotics!
It is relatively obvious that you shouldn’t be taking medications without explicit advice from your physician. This could lead to a whole host of problems, not excluding detrimental effects on your microbiome. As antibiotics were literally made to kill bacteria, taking more than what’s needed can end up removing beneficial bacteria from your body.

5. Take some breaks and relax.
Stress has been found to be crucial to gut health. Psychological stress and sleep deprivation are some of the many ways that you could be ruining your microbiome. Try your best to take breaks and get lots of rest to help your body recuperate, including your friendly bacteria! 

O'Hara, A. M., & Shanahan, F. (2006). The gut flora as a forgotten organ. EMBO reports, 7(7), 688–693. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.embor.7400731

Medical News Today. (2019). 10 ways to improve gut health. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325293#_noHeaderPrefixedContent

Healthline. (2021). 9 Ways to Improve Your Gut Bacteria, Based on Science. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/improve-gut-bacteria