There's a lot of discussion these days about the importance of having a good balance of gut bacteria for general good health. It used to be that we thought of good bacteria as necessary for a healthy digestive and immune system. However nowadays research shows that a diversity of gut bacteria helps to reduce anxiety, improve cholesterol, encourage weight loss and generally help inflammatory conditions as they heal the gut. Therefore it's useful for us all to be looking to improve our gut health through diet and encouraging the bacteria to grow.
Moreover, there are 100 trillion bacteria that live in you and on your body - some are on the surface of the skin, inside the mouth, nose and urogenital area - but the majority are in your gut. If you put them all together they would form the size of a football. That's amazing! So let's make it the best compilation of varieties possible!
To help you, it seems sensible to look at ways to improve the diversity of your gut bacteria with the power of food first!
Here 4 simple tips on what to add to your diet to boost the bacteria levels:
1. Boost Your Fibre Intake
The fibre in vegetables encourages the growth of probiotic organisms in the gut by providing a food source called 'prebiotics'. They reduce the gut PH which keeps bacteria in check.
• twice a week rustle up a batch of roasted vegetables - squash, broccoli, carrots. courgettes, with garlic bulbs and red onion
• daily have 2 portions of greens - kale, collards, spinach, rocket - have 2-3 big handfuls to keep you full and reduce cravings
• include onions, garlic, jerusalem artichokes and asparagus regularly
• snacks: choose hummus and celery or an apple/orange/berries
2. Choose Good Quality Protein At Every Meal
Protein has shown to promote a more diverse bacteria profile. However, keep red meat to a minimum - 1-2 times per week and choose fish, organic chicken and plant proteins instead:
• salmon or sea bass or organic chicken with onions and courgettes, carrots, peppers and handful of brown rice
• other good sources of protein are lentils, avocado, flaxseeds, wild canned sardines and tempeh - include a portion at every meal.
3. Give your tastebuds a treat with the addition of herbs, spices, flavourings which will also keep your meals interesting
Flavour your food with lemon, garlic, mint, parsley, turmeric, olive oil (including virgin) - make a salad dressing with the oil, garlic and herbs; or add to the roasted vegetables above. Add mint to a green salad or roast garlic bulbs with chicken or fish.
4. Experiment with Fermented Foods
Fermented foods really help to grow the good bacteria - try sauerkraut, fermented beets, carrots or radishes, or add kimchi to your plate. Start with 1 tablespoon and increase to 3. Or try kefir or a matchbox of blue cheese like Roquefort. Natural yoghurt daily is also beneficial.
Here are some things that are NOT so good as they reduce levels of gut bacteria!
We know that sugar, most alcoholic drinks (especially white wines and sugary cocktails) and artificial sweeteners decrease gut bacteria so if you are consuming these regularly, then expect your bacteria levels to be low, as well as potentially causing levels of the yeast, candida, to rise, leading to sugar cravings and fatigue. You may also struggle with weight loss.
Notice I said 'some' alcoholic drinks above? The good news is that, if you enjoy wine, a glass of red will provide polyphenols that are beneficial to health!
If you would like to know your levels of good and bad bacteria, I can test using a comprehensive digestive stool test (GI-MAP) within my digestive programme. Please contact me on 07880 353964 or email me on Kathleen@kfnutritioncoaching.com if you would like to discuss and receive more information. I look forward to hearing from you!