Within your gut, approximately 40 trillion friendly bacteria are working to help digest your food. In the process, these bacteria make essential nutrients your body can’t produce on its own. Moreover, this benevolent bacteria helps to protect you from disease. These microscopic, single-celled organisms are actually a big part of who you are.
Digestive bacteria also play a role in your appetite and metabolism, as well as your neurological function. In fact, gut bacteria produce brain chemicals, such as dopamine, serotonin, and GABA; all of these are vital for a positive mood and good mental health. In fact, studies suggest that your gut bacteria may influence your risk of developing mental illnesses such as ADHD, schizophrenia, chronic fatigue syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Good vs Bad Bacteria
You gut not only hosts good bacteria, but it can also harbor bad bacteria; unfortunately, the processed foods most people eat only feeds the bad bacteria. Bad bacteria thrive on sugars and fats. Likewise, a junk food diet sadly starves out the good bacteria; the thing that good bacteria needs to thrive is fiber. When the good bacteria have plenty of fiber, your digestion, mood and mental state reap the benefits.
Nurturing Your Friendly Gut Bacteria
Probiotics are the good bacteria inside your gut. Like all living things, these beneficial probiotic organisms need to be fed to remain healthy and active.
Prebiotics are the fibrous foods that probiotic bacteria needs. This is a type of plant fiber that people can’t digest. The more prebiotic fiber you feed to your friendly bacteria, the more they’ll work on your behalf.
The easiest way to nurture your good bacteria is to eat plenty of fiber. Whole grains, fruits, veggies, and legumes are rich in fiber, and should make up a good portion of your diet.
Supplementing with Prebiotics and Probiotics
Fermented foods, such as yogurt, Korean kimchee and Kombucha tea all are swarming with beneficial bacteria. However, the challenge is getting the bacteria into the large intestine, or colon. To get there, they must survive the very acidic environment of the stomach.
Fortunately, there are probiotic supplements available, which can survive stomach acid, time-releasing into the colon. When choosing a probiotic supplement, choose one with a broad spectrum of different bacteria strains. This will give you the best results, since determining exactly which strain of bacteria your body needs is nearly impossible. Also, check the expiration date, and store your probiotics in the refrigerator, to ensure they survive.
Likewise, you should feed your probiotic bacteria with a prebiotic fiber; prebiotic supplements containing acacia fiber and inulin are exactly what your good bacteria need to maintain good gut health. Inulin is a soluble plant fiber that cannot be digested by your small intestine. Rather, it travels to the colon, where it feeds the beneficial bacteria living there. Likewise, acacia is a soluble fiber that ferments slowly; thus, acacia fiber will not cause uncomfortable gas and bloating.
Although good bacteria and fiber are often ignored in the modern diet, supporting your gut health has many, many benefits to the quality of your life.