It’s incredible how much we’ve learned about the importance of our gut health in the last decade. As unlikely as it may have seemed at first, we now understand that keeping the microflora in our guts healthy is critical to our overall good health.
Experts say having balanced belly bugs is linked to a stronger immune system, and makes us significantly less likely to develop heart disease, cancer, depression and more.
Tips to help your good gut bacteria survive and thrive
But there’s a whole lot more to maintaining a healthy gut than just simply popping a probiotic. Following are six tips to help you create a belly-bug friendly environment that that will allow the good gut bacteria grow and flourish.
1. Cut out the added sugars:
Everyone knows a high sugar diet isn’t good for your health. But researchers say eating a lot of sugar can harm our health in ways many of us have never considered before, including laying waste to our gut health.
For example, a study out of Oregon State University revealed sugar alters the bacterial balance in your gut, and those changes can have negative impacts on both your physical and mental health. When you eat a lot of sugar it encourages the overgrowth of unhealthy gut bugs. And as the bad bugs begin to thrive and take over, the healthy gut bacteria get crowded out and begin to die off.
Even more frightening, is how fast it happens. Sugar can change the composition of your gut bacteria in a matter of weeks.
2. Quit artificial sweeteners too:
Need another reason to ditch the fake sweet stuff? How about this: they throw your gut flora out of balance.
Like sugar, artificial sweeteners feed the unhealthy bugs and starve out the healthy gut bacteria. And experts say at least two of the bacteria that thrive on artificial sweeteners are associated with chronic diseases and high blood sugar.
3. Minimize your stress:
You can’t always control the stress you’re exposed to, of course. But you can choose how you react to it.
For example exercise, meditation and deep breathing can all help you manage your stress levels. Sipping on apigenin and luteolin rich chamomile tea is a proven stress reducer too. Plus research has revealed a number of supplements, including green tea, lemon balm, passionflower, ashwagandha and rhodiola, can help you slash anxiety.
4. Back off the antibiotics:
There’s no doubt about it, antibiotics can be real life savers when they’re used correctly. Unfortunately they are chronically overused with patients demanding them for every sniffle, cut or sneeze and doctors writing prescriptions for them for entirely inappropriate conditions such as viruses or minor infections.
And that’s a problem because antibiotics are powerful drugs that can’t tell the difference between the bad bugs you want killed and the good gut bacteria you need to stay healthy. The fact is every single time you take an antibiotic—whether it’s needed or not—you’re throwing off the delicate balance of your gut flora.
To make sure your gut stays as belly-bug friendly as possible be very picky about how often, and when you take antibiotics. Only take them when absolutely necessary, and be sure to counteract them with probiotics to help replenish your good bugs.
5. Get plenty of polyphenols:
Polyphenols are micronutrients we get from eating plant-based foods. They lead to huge health benefits, such as improvements in blood pressure, inflammation, and oxidative stress. But it turns out they’re tops for supercharging our good gut bugs too.
Polyphenols can’t be digested until they reach your colon. Then they break down and help feed your healthy bacteria. You can bump up the polyphenols in your diet by eating more cocoa, grapes, red wine, almonds, blueberries and broccoli.
6. Eat PREbiotics:
While most folks know a bit about probiotics these days prebiotics don’t get much attention. Gut bacteria are living things, and like any living thing they need the right kind of food to stay healthy and thrive. Which is where those prebiotics come in.
Your gut bugs crave prebiotics, so go ahead and feed them. Add more prebiotic foods to your diet including garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, apples, green bananas, whole oats and barley.
Don’t just rely on probiotics alone to keep your gut health on track. Supercharge your gut flora instead by creating the most gut-bug friendly environment possible.