The gut microbiota has some surprising roles, like affecting brain health and your immune system. Here’s how to foster healthy, balanced microbiota.
Gut health is in the spotlight these days as we learn more about just how important it is to overall health. One key aspect of gut health is microbiota health, or the health of the bacteria that live in our gut (mostly in the large intestine).
This article reviews the functions of the gut microbiota, why having a diverse population of gut bacteria is important, how imbalances occur, and how to help reverse gut bacteria imbalances.
Functions of the gut microbiota
Gut microbiota play a number of key roles in regulating your overall health. Here are just a few examples:
- Assist with digestion and absorption: Gut bacteria help break down indigestible fiber and promote absorption of nutrients prior to waste disposal through the stool.
- Part of the innate immune system: These bacteria can keep pathogens from entering your bloodstream through your digestive tract.
- Promote brain function: Healthy gut bacteria may help promote brain function via the gut-brain axis. Gut bacteria also help produce serotonin—the “happy hormone.”
- Help with glucose metabolism: Gut bacteria play key roles in glucose (sugar) metabolism and blood sugar management.
These are just a few of the many benefits of a healthy, flourishing gut microbiota.
Why a diverse microbiota population is important
It’s vital to have a wide variety of different types of bacteria in your gut for two main reasons.
First, each strain of bacteria functions in a slightly different way and may offer different benefits or protections for your body.
In addition, if one strain begins to crowd out the types of bacteria in your gut, this can lead to some downsides—especially if the strain is not a beneficial one. Some examples of this include Candida overgrowth and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Candida is a type of yeast that can grow out of control and cause a variety of symptoms, and SIBO occurs when certain strains of bacteria grow rampantly in the large intestine and end up spreading to the small intestine.
How imbalances occur
Here are some things that can affect the balance of your gut bacteria:
- Diet: A diet high in sugar and processed foods can cause gut microbiota imbalances.
- Stress: Hormonal changes from stress may also inhibit proper digestive function, which can harm your gut bacteria.
- Medications: Antibiotics, while sometimes necessary, can destroy even the good bacteria residing in your gut.
There are many other factors at play, but these are the main culprits.
How to reintroduce good bacteria to your gut
There are two main ways to reintroduce good bacteria to your gut: eating fermented foods or taking a probiotic.
Fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria as a result of the way they’re aged. Examples of these foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Fermented drinks include kombucha and kefir.
You can also take a probiotic supplement. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can populate your gut. Medlixr offers two probiotic supplements: Candida Balance and ACV+ Keto. These targeted supplements may help rebalance your gut microbiota to improve your health.