Over the centuries, with the industrialization of our food supply, our diet has changed dramatically. This highly processed, high-sugar, high-salt and high-fat food can substantially damage our gut flora. Apart from diet changes, many facets of modern life such as medication, high stress levels, lack of rest/ sleep too affecting our gut health. This in turn contributes to various diseases such as irritated bowel syndrome (IBS), irritable bowel disorder (IBD), colitis, arthritis, autism, anxiety, depression, dementia, obesity, diabetes, skin sensitivity and even development of cancer.
The gut flora profile is unique to everyone. Up to present, experts do not yet have the blueprint for exactly which good bacteria that our robust gut needs. However, studies have found that healthy individuals have a diverse array of gut flora. Whereas unhealthy individuals have less diversity, and there seems to be an increase of bacteria associated with disease in them.
Here are 11 tips we can do to increase gut flora diversity:
1. Eat range of real food
The variety is as important as the quantities because the chemicals, nutrients and types of fiber will vary and each support different gut flora species. A diet consisting of different food types can lead to a diverse gut flora.
2. Increase fiber intake
Try to aim for more than 40g of fiber per day. Fiber promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Whole grains, chickpeas, lentils, beans, raspberries and artichokes contain very high amounts of fiber.
3. Choose food and drinks with high levels of polyphenols
Polyphenols are antioxidants that act as fuel for the gut flora. Examples of good sources are cocoa, dark chocolate, almonds, grape skin, onions, broccoli, olive oil, coffee and tea – especially green tea.
4. Get fermented foods
Fermented foods are foods altered by microbes and they contain live microbes. Good choices include unsweetened yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh and natto.
5. Have some alcohol
In small quantities, studies found that alcohol has been shown to increase gut diversity, but large amounts are a killer to our gut flora and ourselves. Red wine contains high levels of polyphenols, a fine glass of it is a great booster to your gut flora.
6. Stay away from artificial foods
Artificial foods usually contain high sugar, high salt, high fat and other chemical substances that can negatively affect our gut flora and reduce its diversity. Be sure to check the food labels. Ditch the artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose and saccharin, as these too upset the gut flora metabolism.
7. Breastfeed for at least 6 months
Our first microbe introduction begins at birth. Breastfeeding helps babies to develop a healthy gut flora. Evidence has shown individuals that were breastfed have lower rates of allergies, obesity and other diseases.
8. Avoid antibiotics and unnecessary medicines
Antibiotics kill off both good and bad microbes. Even common medications such as paracetamol can interfere with our gut flora. Best to avoid them and only take when necessary.
9. Don’t be hygiene obsessed
Practicing good hygiene is crucial to good overall health and wellness. However, fastidious washing and overuse of antibacterial products may not be good for our gut. In fact, studies have shown that people living with dogs or people living in rural areas have greater gut flora diversity. So, try stroke animals, spend more time in the countryside or sign up for some outdoor activities.
10. Move your body
11. Get a slim best friend
Researchers found that leanness may be contagious. Microbes from a lean mice can reverse obesity in a fat one, but strangely, obese microbes are harder to transmit as compared to the lean ones.