Think bacteria are bad? Think again. Bacteria and other microbes (including fungi and viruses) are often thought of as sources of disease, but many of them actually play an important role in keeping you healthy. Your body contains trillions of microbes, most of which are beneficial. The densest population of microbes is in your gut, where they play a critical role in digestion, immune function and weight regulation. What you eat can quickly change your microbes, but are you eating the right foods to help your good gut bacteria?
The Right Diet for Your Germs
What you eat feeds not only you, but also the trillions of bacteria that live in your gut. Every person is different, but if you want to improve your digestion, lose weight or take care of your overall health, there are some general principles that apply to everyone.
Some Tips for Gut Health
- Eat a wide variety of plant-based foods. A healthy gut has a diverse community of microbes, each preferring different foods.
- Eat more fiber. Most people eat less than they should. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains feed healthy bacteria.
- Avoid processed foods as much as possible. They often contain ingredients that suppress "good" bacteria or increase "bad" bacteria.
- Probiotic foods such as live yogurt can encourage more microbes to grow. If you like them, eat them regularly.
- Choose extra virgin olive oil over other oils whenever possible. It contains a very high number of germ-friendly polyphenols.
- Antibiotics kill 'good' bacteria as well as 'bad' bacteria. If you need antibiotics, make sure you eat lots of foods that increase your germs afterwards.
- If your diet is low in fiber, it can cause bloating. This is less likely if you make gradual changes and drink extra water.