Living in your gut are millions of bacteria and other microbes that help to maintain healthy gut function. You can find them mainly in your large intestine in what is called the cecum. These are entirely normal and healthy — every human has them.
Why are they there? Well, scientists think they are inside us as a result of symbiotic relationships. They help us to digest foods. We may not have needed them with hunter-gatherer diets but grew to rely on their help to digest more complex foods over time.
Even within your lifetime, your gut has gained many different species of microbes. The microbiome diversifies as you age. Your first bacteria help you digest the sugar in breast milk, and additional species help your body tackle new challenges.
What Does Your Microbiome Impact?
Your gut bacteria can help you digest fiber, control your immune system, control brain health, aid gut health, support heart health, and manage your weight.
You can have unhealthy microbes in your gut, which can lead to weight gain. In studies of overweight children, mice that were given microbiome transfers from overweight children gained weight. Some of these effects can be countered by probiotics, but you want healthy bacteria.
A lot of people suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal discomforts. Microbes in your gut can produce gas and make these conditions worse. Certain probiotics can prevent leaky gut syndrome and reduce IBS symptoms.
Your gut can also influence your levels of good cholesterol, helping your heart. Certain unhealthy bacteria have a negative effect, producing chemicals that may increase blockage in your arteries.
A big concern for many people is blood sugar levels, especially for those with diabetes. Studies with children showed that people with Type 1 had less diverse microbiomes and higher unhealthy bacteria levels. They also had more significant fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
Exciting new research has looked at the influence of your gut on your brain health. One of the primary mood neurotransmitters, serotonin, is produced mainly in the stomach.
People with depression have lower serotonin levels and often take antidepressants to help them regulate these neurotransmitters. Probiotics have been shown to offer a little relief to people with depression combined with healthy diets and exercise.
How to Keep Your Gut Healthy
Eat and drink healthily.
People who eat many different foods have more diverse microbiomes, which can help you be healthier overall. You want more beneficial bacteria than unhealthy bacteria, and keeping a healthy diet helps maintain a good level of healthy bacteria.
Look for foods high in fiber, like fruits, beans, and legumes. These can help increase your levels of Bifidobacteria, which are good bacteria.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut and yogurt have another kind of good bacteria called Lactobacilli, which you want in your system. This bacteria can also ward off disease-causing gut bacteria. Eat these food items regularly to maintain higher levels of healthy bacteria.
Try not to eat as many artificial sweeteners. These can increase your blood sugar and increase levels of unhealthy gut bacteria.
Whole grains are your friend. They have reasonable amounts of fiber and healthy carbs, which can help you control your weight.
Get enough sleep.
Without adequate sleep, you put stress on your entire body. This can cause you to eat unhealthily and interfere with your usual patterns.
Regular exercise improves your circulation and helps promote a healthy immune system.
Your health is essential. Do what you can to maintain a healthy gut, and you will see the results pay off in more stable weight control, blood sugar levels, cholesterol, mood, immune system function, and more.