The Key to a Healthy Gut

Hint: It’s all about balance.

Woman Eating Oatmeal
Woman Eating Oatmeal

The next time you're faced with a decision about what to eat, consider this: There are trillions of microorganisms living in your gut that may thrive or die depending upon a number of factors, including diet and medication.1 These microorganisms make up what is known as the intestinal microflora.

Complicating things further is that some of those microorganisms are good for your body, while others may be harmful.

Beneficial Bacteria vs. Harmful Bacteria

“Beneficial" bacteria, as they are known, produce vitamins and other nutrients that may play a role in everyday gastrointestinal function.2 “Harmful" bacteria, on the other hand, do just the opposite. They produce toxic substances that can create a toxic environment in your gut. Wind up with an imbalance of bacteria in your gut, and your risk for gastrointestinal issues may increase.

In digestive tracts that are functioning well, beneficial bacteria keep the harmful at bay and the intestinal microflora are kept in balance. According to researchers, fiber may help to keep a balance of microflora.

Improving Microflora Balance

You can help improve your own microflora balance by focusing on the foods you eat. Some tips:

  • Eat lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, all of which are high in fiber.
  • Eat cereal, granola bars, and other foods that have fiber added.
  • Eat fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and pickles.
  • Eat high-fiber nuts like almonds, pecans, pistachios, and cashews, and high-fiber snacks like air-popped popcorn.
  • Try a fiber supplement like Benefiber®, which contains wheat dextrin as a prebiotic fiber.

The bottom line: A healthy gut begins with healthy microbes, and healthy microbes depend on a healthy diet. Watch what you eat—and increase your daily fiber intake—and you can see the results in better digestive health.

Show ReferencesHide References

  1. T, Mitsuoka. "Intestinal Flora and Human Health." Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 1996. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24394457.
  2. Todar, Kenneth. "The Normal Bacterial Flora of Humans." Todar's Online Textbook of Bacteriology. Web. http://textbookofbacteriology.net/normalflora_4.html.
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