It’s true. Some bacteria in your gut are good for you. “Good bacteria” and other microorganisms live in your digestive system—known as probiotics. When your gut is balanced with a variety of friendly bacteria, it “crowds out” bad bacteria strains (or pathogens) to create a healthy ecosystem—a healthier you.
Happy Microbiome, Healthy You
A happy digestive system is essential to a healthy body. Your digestive tract includes everything from the mouth to the “disposal system.” It involves various complex processes, along with a complicated ecosystem.
Your microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and microbes that live in your body. They are a normal part of your biological makeup and play a large role in your health. Probiotics support your intestinal balance and create chemical signals to keep your gut functioning smoothly.
What you eat largely determines what microorganisms will live in your gut. The good news is, you’re in control—you shape your microbiome through your everyday diet. A diet rich in fermented foods enhances the diversity of gut microbes.
The phrase, “you are what you eat” takes on a significant meaning for your digestion. Fermentation—a process where bacteria and yeasts break down sugar—has historically been used to preserve food. These live bacteria-containing foods are a great source of probiotics. Common fermented foods that increase microbiome diversity that you may enjoy include:
- Yoghurt—Plain and Greek yoghurt are a great source of probiotics. Try adding fresh fruit and a little granola for a filling breakfast or afternoon snack.
- Sauerkraut—Pair this fermented cabbage with lean meat for a delicious and nutritious meal, with added fibre as a tasty bonus.
- Kimchi—This Korean cabbage adds a flavourful kick to nearly any food.
- Kombucha—Enjoy this fermented tea chock-full of probiotics and antioxidants in moderation. Sample a few varieties to find which one you like best.
- Cottage cheese—A great pick for your gut, this versatile choice is also rich in calcium. Check the package label for live and active cultures.
- Apple cider vinegar— This vinegar is made from fermented apple sugars. One of the best ways to savour it is in salad dressings.
- Pickles—Fermented cucumbers are a great substitute for some high-fat choices like fried side dishes. They also offer vitamins A and K, as well as potassium. Eat pickles brined in salt water, not vinegar.
- Miso—This fermented soybean-based paste is popular in Japanese cooking. It delivers good amounts of protein, calcium, iron, and magnesium.
- Aged cheese—Some aged cheeses, like parmesan, contain lactic-acid bacteria, along with protein and calcium. Check your cheese labels for live and active cultures.
Probiotic food supplements are also a great way to help you find a beneficial balance of gut bacteria.
Along with probiotics, here are a few more tips for a healthier gut:
- Lower your stress levels. Stress affects many aspects of your health, including your gut health. Deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, and meditation can soothe your enteric nervous system (digestive tract). Less stress helps you absorb nutrients more efficiently, balance your gut bacteria, and regulate your appetite.
- Keep a food diary. This useful tool lets you better understand your personal eating patterns and habits. Track the probiotics you’re ingesting and how you feel after a week or so of eating them consistently.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity gets everything in your digestive system moving along smoothly—can’t argue with that.
- Eat more fibre. Fibre is also important for balancing your gut microbes. Eating the right amount helps friendly bacteria thrive.
- Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is beneficial for your intestine’s mucosal lining and helps keep the balance of good bacteria in the gut.
Mother Nature’s Remedies
When your digestion’s upset, it’s Mother nature to the rescue. Some foods are better than others at soothing your gut to help bring quick, natural relief:
- Ginger can reduce nausea and vomiting, soothe morning sickness, motion sickness, and help the stomach empty.
- Chamomile may reduce vomiting and soothe intestinal discomfort like gas, indigestion, and diarrhea.
- Peppermint helps relax muscles in the digestive tract to ease stomach pain, gas, and diarrhoea.
- Liquorice aids in reducing stomach acid and inflammation to help reduce indigestion and stomach upset.
- Flaxseeds, beans, oat bran, and prunes can relieve constipation and promote regularity.
Mind Your Gut
Your gut is home to a delicate ecosystem of microbes. Many factors affect which strains flourish and which ones may struggle. Introducing probiotics to your diet allows friendly bacteria to thrive and promotes a healthy gut. It’s a simple solution for overall wellness.