5 Expert Tips to Boost Your Gut Bacteria
Your gut is teeming with microbial life. In fact, you have more microbial cells in your body than human cells. And your gut microbiota—the environment of microorganisms residing in your gastrointestinal tract—can influence your health in numerous ways. Your gut microbiota is like the “control center” for your entire body. Those gut microorganisms influence your immune system, digestion, and metabolism, and they impact your risk for diseases like obesity and metabolic syndrome—a clustering of risk factors that raise the risk for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
So what can you do to feed your gut microbiota in order to boost health? I asked some of the top nutrition experts on their best advice for boosting your gut bacteria.
5 Expert Tips to Boost Your Gut Bacteria
1. Get More Fiber! One thing is certain, you have to boost your diet with fiber in order to fuel your gut bacteria, as fiber is their primary food source. “Where do you find fiber? In plant foods. Beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are the best sources. Try to include more of these foods,” says Judy Barbe, RDN, author of Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest.
“The suggested intake of fiber is 14 grams per 1,000 calories, so you would need at least 28 grams of fiber every day on a 2,000-calorie eating plan. It will be difficult to get enough fiber if you’re following a keto diet or a very low carbohydrate diet, which could harm your gut in the long run,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, of Better is the New Perfect.
For more tips on fueling your diet with fiber, check out my advice here.
2. Choose Probiotics. “Probiotics (live good bacteria found in foods) have been shown to promote a healthy gut. Why do we want a healthy gut? Although more studies are needed, a healthy gut microbiota has been linked to a multitude of benefits, including improved immune function, reduction of inflammation, improving mood disorders, reducing risk of some cancers, and improving energy levels,” says Lacy Ngo, MS, RDN of Mindfulness in Faith and Food. “You can find probiotics in foods like yogurt, fermented pickles, fermented kimchi, kombucha, and fermented sauerkraut.”
If you’re thinking about consuming a probiotic supplement, be sure to do your research. “The benefits of probiotic supplements are strain-specific. That means it’s necessary to consume a probiotic backed by scientific research that shows it is the correct strain for the desired result. The Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products Available in the U.S. at www.usprobioticguide.com has strain-specific information,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, of Better is The New Perfect.
For more information on boosting probiotics in your diet, check out this blog.
3. Eat Foods Rich in Prebiotics. Certain types of fibers act as prebiotics to provide nourishment for the probiotic organisms. “Prebiotics feed probiotics. They are fermented by bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics are found in foods like apples, bananas, asparagus, garlic, onions, jicama root, artichokes and other foods,” says Karen Hawkins, RDN.
4. Try Fermented Foods. One way to boost your gut microbiota is to consume more fermented foods with live organisms. “Increasing fiber is essential, but so is incorporating probiotic rich foods and fermented foods, like kimchi sauerkraut, kvass, yogurt and kefir. It’s also important to reduce large quantities of meat and sugar, which have been shown to promote the growth of the less favorable bacteria in certain individuals,” says Mary Purdy, MS, RDN.
5. Simple, Healthy Living. Beyond eating, lifestyle factors play a significant role on gut microbiota health. “Some research shows that physical activity has a positive impact on a healthy microbiome. And, you may be surprised to learn that stress can negatively affect our gut microbiome by reducing something called secretory IGA, which helps the body to clear bad bacteria and promotes a healthy intestinal barrier, so finding ways to reduce or manage stress can be an essential part of supporting our gut health,” says Mary Purdy, MS, RDN.
For more tips on fueling your gut microbiota, check out the following:
Be sure to include these fiber-rich recipes, too:
Image: Nourish Lentil Bowl, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN