The word ‘bacteria’ is often associated with harmful organisms, but they can be good for the body too. Some bacteria are beneficial, including those found in the gut or the digestive tract.
What are good bacteria in the gut?
Over a hundred different kinds of bacteria line the digestive tract. These microscopic creatures help us digest food and contribute to our overall well-being.
Both good and bad bacteria exist in the gut. When a person gets sick, an imbalance occurs in the system meaning bad bacteria may outnumber the good. Or you may be lacking certain types of good bacteria.
Eliminating excess bad bacteria can help restore balance and make you feel better. Several studies have explored the link between gut bacteria and human health.
One example of good bacteria in the gut, which you probably heard about, is probiotics. Probiotics consist of good bacteria that naturally exist in the body. But they can also be found in other sources, such as fermented food.
What are probiotics?
Microbes or microorganisms in the body are a combination of bacteria and viruses, among many others.
A microbe is considered a probiotic if it can survive through ingestion or as it passes the digestive system, provide beneficial effects on the body, and be safely consumed.
Probiotics may contain different microorganisms and have different effects on the body. They mostly live in the gut, but can also be in the mouth.
Good bacteria, such as probiotics, keep the body balanced. They fight bad bacteria, support the immune system, break down and absorb medications, and produce several vitamins in the digestive tract, including vitamin B12.
Is it possible to increase good bacteria in the gut?
You can increase good bacteria in your gut and body by consuming probiotic-rich food like yogurt, pickles, kombucha (fermented tea), and kimchi (fermented vegetables). Some supplements may also contain probiotics.
While it’s good to include probiotics, remember that variety in your diet is important to meet your balanced nutritional needs.
But before making any changes to your diet, be sure to consult your doctor or nutritionist, especially if you’re taking medications or you have an existing medical condition.
Aside from food, you may also increase the variety of good bacteria in your gut by exercising daily.
How can I improve my diet to increase good bacteria in the gut?
Nutrition impacts the body’s overall function. Think of your digestive tract as a home base for good bacteria. They multiply to fight off harmful bacteria and keep the body balanced.
By improving your diet and lifestyle, you can help your body increase good bacteria in your gut. But a healthy diet can be different from one person to another. An athlete, for example, may require different meal plans from someone recovering from an illness. If you need assistance in optimizing your diet, consider talking to a registered dietitian.