8 smart ways to improve your gut flora
Gut flora (gut microbiota) the collective of microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts of humans, is a talking point in science today.
Ongoing research has linked these tiny gut residents with all sorts of physiological processes. From synthesis of vitamins and amino acids, to production of neurotransmitters, metabolism and regulation of the immune system, even body weight is believed to be controlled by bacteria. In fact they are so crucial that some experts consider thema distinct, self-contained organ(1).
The good news is that the gut microbiota is heavily influenced by nutrition and lifestyle. An optimal gut balance begins with a healthy diet, which can lead to a diverse microbiota(2).
Here are our 8 smart ways to improve your gut flora:
1. Eat a whole, unprocessed, high fibre diet rich in vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts. A high fibre diet has shown to increase beneficial bacteria by improving the overall intestinal environment. Excellent sources are apples, artichokes, pistachios, lentils and beans (2,3).
2. Cut down on sugar, alcohol and refined carbs, which are highly inflammatory and may cause an imbalance of the intestinal microbiota, called dysbiosis (4). Dysbioisis has been associated with conditions such irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), obesity, allergies, and diabetes among others (1).
3. Eat foods rich in prebiotics. Prebiotics are mainly non-digestible carbohydrates and fibre such as inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides and galactosaccharides that when fermented by bacteria produce favourable changes both in the composition and activity of the microbiota. Best vegetable sources are chicory, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, leeks, onions and asparagus (5).
4. Consume fermented foods such as plain live yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso. Some studies have shown that fermented foods promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli(6).
5. Take a multi-strain probiotic supplement. Although there is mixed evidence regarding their efficacy, some studies have suggested that probiotics improve the intestinal environment and enhance gut microbiota in certain conditions, promoting a rapid recovery to a healthy state after the use of antibiotics (7).
6. Choose organic whenever possible. The use of antibioticsin livestock and the residual pesticide in food crops may be sufficient to affect negatively the gut microbiota (2).
7. Consume foods rich in polyphenols such as cocoa, black grapes, green tea, black tea, and black grapes. Similarly to prebiotics they are digested by gut bacteria promoting the growth of beneficial strains and protecting us against the growth of potentially pathogenic bacteria (8).
8. Avoid chronic stress and lack of sleep. Current studies suggest that chronic stress and circadiam rhythm disorganisation can have a negative impact in the intestinal microbiota and immune system (9).
A diverse and healthy microbiota is extremely important for many aspects of health. High fibre foods, mainly from organic plant sources, fermented foods and probiotics are best ways to maintain a healthy flora. Implementing these smart changes in your diet and lifestyle you are promoting health and wellbeing.
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(1) Marchesi, Julian R et al. “The Gut Microbiota and Host Health: A New Clinical Frontier.” Gut65.2 (2016): 330–339. PMC. Web. 11 Feb. 2017.
(2) Heiman, Mark L., and Frank L. Greenway. “A Healthy Gastrointestinal Microbiome Is Dependent on Dietary Diversity.”Molecular Metabolism5.5 (2016): 317–320. PMC. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
(3) Shinohara K, Ohashi Yet al. “Effect of apple intake on fecal microbiota and metabolites in humans” Anaerobe.16.5 (2010) 510-515.PMID. Web. 14 Feb 2017.
(4) Engen, Phillip A. et al. “The Gastrointestinal Microbiome: Alcohol Effects on the Composition of Intestinal Microbiota.”Alcohol Research : Current Reviews37.2 (2015): 223–236.PMC. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
(5) Hutkins, Robert W et al. “Prebiotics: Why Definitions Matter.” Current opinion in biotechnology 37(2016): 1–7. PMC. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.
(6) Inouchi S, Ojashi Y et al. “Effects of non-fermented and fermented soybean milk intake on faecal microbiota and faecal metabolites in humans” International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition 63.4(2012): 402-410. PMC. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.
(7) Sanders ME “Impact of probiotics on colonizing microbiota of the gut” Journal of ClinicalGastroenterology.45 (2011) S115-119. PMID. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.
(8) Klinder A, Shen Q et al. “Impact of increasing fruit and vegetables and flavonoid intake on the human gut microbiota.” Food Function.7.4(2016):1788-96. PMID Web. 15 Feb. 2107
(9) Voigt, Robin M. et al. “Circadian Disorganization Alters Intestinal Microbiota.” Ed. Nicolas Cermakian. PLoS ONE9.5 (2014): e97500. PMC. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.