When you take a bite of your deli sandwich, you are consuming all kinds of bacteria. From the delicious bleu cheese crumbles, to the chicken and veggies, it’s like a salad of microbes too. There are also bacteria living inside of you. In our series “The Human Microbiome: What Am I Made Of?” we learned a lot about how there are good kinds of bacteria (or normal flora) and bad bacteria (or pathogens) all living inside of us. The normal flora will help to ensure good health and to keep our bodies functioning appropriately. Pathogenic microbes, however, have a more detrimental goal: to try to make you sick. Now that you have finished your lunch, the microbes in that newly masticated sandwich are making their journey to meet the microbes living in your gut, which is where the battle to maintain that good health may begin.
You Are What You Eat
As with unhealthy food, microbes prevalent of healthy foods just the same can negatively affect your health. That is exactly what is being suggested in an article called “You Are What You Eat: Gut Bacteria and Heart Disease” by Dr. Paul Spector. He writes, “Over the past decade, research has demonstrated how our diet defines the bacteria that live in our gut. And who lives in our gut turns out to be very important. For instance, diets high in processed foods promote gut bacteria that are associated with inflammation, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.”
These findings demonstrate that unhealthy foods are doubly bad in affecting one’s health. Other things that affect your gut and overall health include stress, overuse of medications, and illnesses. Interestingly enough, however, is that having your microbiota healthy along with the rest of your body, can improve your overall health. So for instance, a healthy gut with healthy gut bacteria could mean better metabolism, better absorptions of nutrients and minerals, and better quality of life for the person. An unhealthy gut with unhealthy bacteria could slow your metabolism and digestion, improper absorption of essential nutrients, and can make you feel sluggish, especially whereas human cells are outnumbered by microbial cells, nearly by a factor of 1 to 10.
Healthy Gut = Healthy Self
Having an unhealthy gut can lead to issues with your endocrine system (in your pancreas, which regulates your insulin), weight, sleep, heart, skin, mental health, and likewise, it can cause serious chronic digestive problems. Having a healthy gut is critical towards having a healthy self! The good thing is that there are many ways to keep the bacteria inside your body healthy.
When you see people detoxing–or eating foods closer to the earth and less processed–they are trying to get their guts healthier to improve their overall health. The more natural the food, the better it is for you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be organic in order to be good for you. Foodstuffs such as sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, apples, fish, nuts, and beans can promote good health when consumed in the right quantities and not heavily contaminated with spoilage organisms.
Macaroni and cheese from the box might taste really good, but those ingredients are not sourced similarly as the aforementioned foods. Over time, foods which are high in sodium and fats will change the make-up of the bacteria in your gut, thereby generating greater irritability, further a rather unhealthier internal flora.
Along with diet changes there are many other things you can do to try to bring your gut back to health such as:
- Having an intake of probiotics (literally bacteria or yeast) which are found in yogurt and can assist digestive problems
- Exercising regularly, both weight and cardio
- Trying to reduce your stress
- Getting an appropriate amount of sleep (6-8 hours)
- Reducing the amount of over-the-counter medications and antibiotics you take
- Drinking at least 6-8 8 ounce glasses of water each day
These suggestions, when put into use with proper diet changes, can help restore your gut back to its natural form, making the bacteria living inside of you, quite happy again, which in turn can make you happier and healthier.
Be sure to check out this infographic that details probiotics and good gut health.