On the other hand, certain behaviors, such as antibiotic use, may be detrimental to gut microbial health. Of course, antibiotics should be taken as directed by a medical doctor, but taking care of your gut health can help protect against potential negative effects of antibiotic use. Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that the quality of the gut microflora has implications for the development of chronic disease and inflammation. With all that being said, many of the microbes that inhabit the human gastrointestinal tract are believed to confer benefits to the host, including metabolic functions and protection from pathogens. The complex biological relationships between the gut microflora may even play a role in the regulation of energy balance and fat deposition.
So how do you promote the well-being of your gut microflora? One option is to consume a balanced diet that is rich in probiotics and prebiotics. The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “live microbial [foods] that when consumed in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.” Fermented foods are generally a good source of probiotics. Sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough bread, kombucha, tempeh, and miso are all good examples of fermented foods. Consuming these foods may be a better option than consuming probiotic supplements alone because they are often more cost-effective and nourishing. Furthermore, commercial probiotic supplements are not regulated, so it’s harder to make informed decisions when purchasing them. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are foods, or components of foods, that support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Sources of prebiotics include artichokes, garlic, onions, leeks, and asparagus. Consumption of dietary fiber also appears to have beneficial effects on gut microflora. With all the emerging information on the potential for these foods to mitigate one’s risk of developing a host of chronic diseases, there’s really no reason not to consume more of them.
For all of these reasons, the incorporation of probiotics and prebiotics into the diet is an important part of eating healthier. These foods may promote the growth and maintenance of a diverse population of healthy microflora within the gut, which is in turn believed to support healthy digestion, immune function, and may even have implications for weight management. So the next time you hear someone say that you should “trust your gut,” you can take them a little more literally!
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Categorized under Nutrition