As I mentioned in previous articles, the food you eat will have an impact on the diversity of your gut microbiota.
Here are 10 tips to improve your gut bacteria:
- Eat a Diverse Range of Foods
As each species plays a different role in your health, they require different nutrients for growth.
Generally speaking, a diverse microbiota is considered to be a healthy one. This is because the more species of bacteria you have, the greater number of health benefits they may be able to contribute to.
Hence, a diet consisting of different food types can lead to a diverse microbiota.
Unfortunately, the Western diet is not very diverse and is rich in fat and sugar.
- Eat Lots of Vegetables, Legumes, Beans and Fruit
Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of nutrients for a healthy microbiota. It’s thought that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can prevent the growth of some disease-causing bacteria.
They are high in fibre, which can’t be digested by your body. However, fibre can be digested by certain bacteria in your gut, which stimulates their growth.
Beans and legumes also contain very high amounts of fibre.
Some high-fibre foods that are good for your gut bacteria include: raspberries, artichokes, apples, blueberries, almonds, pistachios, green peas, broccoli, chickpeas, lentils, beans, whole grains.
Bifidobacteria are considered beneficial bacteria, as they can help prevent intestinal inflammation and enhance gut health.
- Eat Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are foods altered by microbes. The process of fermenting usually involves bacteria or yeasts converting the sugars in food to organic acids or alcohol. Examples of fermented foods include: yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and tempeh.
Many of these foods are rich in lactobacilli, a type of bacteria that can benefit your health.
People who eat a lot of yoghourt appear to have more lactobacilli in their intestines. These people also have fewer Enterobacteriaceae, a bacteria associated with inflammation and a number of chronic diseases.
Certain yoghurt products may also reduce the abundance of certain disease-causing bacteria in people with IBS.
However, note that many yoghourts, especially flavoured yoghurt, contain high levels of sugar. Therefore, the best yoghurt to consume is plain, natural yoghurt. This kind of yoghurt is made only of milk and bacteria mixtures, which are sometimes referred to as “starter cultures.”
- Don’t Eat Too Many Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are widely used as replacements for sugar. However, they can negatively affect the gut microbiota. Let’s take aspartame as an example. It is used as a coadjutant for weight loss but it also increases blood sugar and impairs insulin response.
- Eat Prebiotic Foods
Prebiotics are foods that promote the growth of beneficial microbes in the gut.
They are mainly fibre or complex carbs that can’t be digested by human cells, but certain species of bacteria break them down and use them for fuel.
Many fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain prebiotics, but they can also be found on their own.
Resistant starch can also be prebiotic. This type of starch is not absorbed in the small intestine. Rather, it passes into the large intestine where it is broken down by the microbiota.
For example, certain prebiotics can reduce insulin, triglycerides and cholesterol levels in people who are obese.
These results suggest that prebiotics may reduce the risk factors for many diseases associated with obesity, including heart disease and diabetes.
- Eat Whole Grains
Whole grains contain lots of fibre and non-digestible carbs, such as beta-glucan.
These carbs are not absorbed in the small intestine and instead make their way to the large intestine.
In the large intestine, they are broken down by the microbiota and promote the growth of certain beneficial bacteria.
Whole grains can promote the growth of Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli and Bacteroidetes in humans.
Whole grains also increase feelings of fullness and reduce inflammation and heart disease risk factors.
- Eat a Plant-Based Diet
Diets containing animal-based foods promote the growth of different types of intestinal bacteria than plant-based diets do.
A vegetarian diet led to reduced levels of disease-causing bacteria in obese people, as well as reduced weight, inflammation and cholesterol levels.
However, it is unclear if the benefits of a vegetarian diet on the gut microbiota are simply due to a lack of meat intake. Also, vegetarians tend to lead healthier lifestyles than omnivores.
- 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.
Polyphenols can’t always be digested by human cells. Given that they aren’t absorbed efficiently, most make their way to the colon, where they can be digested by gut bacteria.
Good sources of polyphenols include: cocoa and dark chocolate, red wine, grape skins, green tea, almonds, onions, blueberries, broccoli.
Furthermore, these changes in the microbiota are associated with lower levels of triglycerides and C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.
- Take Probiotic Supplements
Probiotics are live microorganisms, usually bacteria, which exert a specific health benefit when consumed.
Probiotics don’t permanently colonise the intestines in most cases. However, they may benefit your health by changing the overall composition of the microbiota and supporting your metabolism.
They may improve the gut microbiota in certain diseases and after antibiotic therapy.