The body’s digestive system contains almost 100 trillion bacteria. The majority of these bacteria are found in your intestines and they can be both good and bad. Whilst some protect you against disease, others can actually lead to the development of disease. As such, supporting a positive intestinal microbial balance can help you to lead a healthier life. In this post, we will look at 8 to promote a good microbial balance and proper digestion.
8 science-backed ways improved digestion
A good microbial balance fosters proper digestion. Moreover, it can help prevent and/or ameliorate health conditions like heart disease, arthritis, and even cancer. Here, we outline 8 ways you can improve your natural microbial balance and support your good gut microbiota.
- Vegetables, fruits, and legumes are your friends
Everyone knows that fruit and vegetables are good for their health. When it comes to the bacteria in your gut, this is because of them being high in fiber. Fiber is great for digestion and also helps good bacteria grow. Legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and beans generally are also all high in fiber.
Studies have shown that fiber is particularly good for preventing heart disease, chronic diseases, and colon cancers. However, it is always important to remember that no one supplement, mineral, or vitamin is a magic bullet cure for these things. Nevertheless, a high fiber diet full of vegetables, fruit, and legumes will be a vital component of a healthy digestive system and a healthy body and mind.
- Eat a wide range of foods
It can be tempting to look up the foods that are high in fiber and focus on getting as many of them into your system as possible. However, it is also important to eat a varied diet to foster a positive intestinal microbial balance. This is because the trillions of bacteria in your gut are varied and made up of different species. Different ones benefit from different nutrients.
You also want to encourage a diverse range of microbiota to thrive in your gut. This will lead to a healthier digestive system with a greater chance of overall health benefits. However, according to the IDRC, just 15 plant and 5 animal species account for 75% of the world’s food production. Rural areas tend to offer more diversity in the sorts of foods available whilst foraging also offers rewards here for added variety.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners
The Western diet is full of sugar which can be bad for bodily health and digestion. However, simply replacing sugar with things like artificial sweeteners doesn’t solve the problem. Studies show they can change the composition of the intestinal microbiota. They can also actually have negative effects on people’s blood sugar levels.
As such, whilst artificial sweeteners can be beneficial in terms of preventing weight gain, it is best to seek your sweetness elsewhere. Particularly if you want to promote a healthy microbial balance and proper digestion.
- Add fermented foods to your diet
Most people have probably heard someone mention the benefits of fermented foods. Indeed, whilst they can be a bit of an acquired taste, they are great for the gut. This is because they are full of microbes like Lactobacilli and Enterobacteriaceae. These bacteria have been shown to have digestive benefits and help to prevent inflammatory and chronic diseases.
Fermented foods that are high in beneficial microbes included things like sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough, and tempeh. Natural yogurt and kefir are also a good source of these types of beneficial microbes. Kombucha tea can also be drunk with similar benefits.
- Take prebiotics, probiotics, and essential oils
Prebiotics are foods and supplements that encourage beneficial microbe growth. Probiotics are the beneficial microorganisms themselves. Essential oils are also designed to support intestinal balance and proper digestion. These things can be particularly important if you have had to take a course of antibiotics as these kill off many of the beneficial gut microbiota. These essential oils can also be used by people with a lactose intolerance.
The bacteria fostered by prebiotics can be beneficial for people with high cholesterol levels as well as people who are obese. The key is fostering the growth of bifidobacteria which is good for gut health and fosters proper digestion.
- Eat more whole grains
Whole grains are packed full of fiber which already makes them a winner when it comes to good digestive health. However, they are also full of something even better, known as non-digestible carbs. Doesn’t sound great at first, but their non-digestible nature means they get further through your body and into your large intestine.
Once in the large intestine, they are broken down and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. Studies have shown that this can reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases, reduce inflammation, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Make sure you’re eating foods high in polyphenols
This bit of advice is the fun one as red wine is full of this stuff. Polyphenols can lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation. They are also hard for the body to break down and make it even further than through the body than whole grains. Indeed, they don’t get broken down until they reach the colon where they promote good bacteria to grow.
As well as being found in red wine, there is more good news. They can also be found in cocoa, chocolate, grapes, almonds, blueberries, and green tea, amongst other things. If you suffer from health conditions brought on by inflammation, then try adding these into your diet.
- Cut out (or down on) meat
Whilst it is important to eat a varied diet meat actually encourages the growth of bad bacteria. As such, it is best to cut it out of your diet or reduce how much of it you consume if you prefer not to give it up altogether. Plant-based diets are naturally high in fiber too which makes it easier to foster the right sort of bacterial growth.
A healthy intestinal microbial balance fosters good health and proper digestion. The tips above are simple ways to achieve this backed up by science. Follow as many of them as possible and you’ll soon notice the benefits and reap the rewards.