More than 100 trillion bacteria live in the human gastrointestinal tract. Together they form a microbiota (aka microflora) of the gastrointestinal tract. Her condition seriously affects our health: beneficial bacteria contribute to the production of vitamin K, folic acid and fatty acids and, of course, play an important role in digestion. An excess of pathogenic bacteria, in turn, can lead to inflammation (gastritis, colitis and other gastrointestinal diseases), obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, and even colon cancer.
We tell you how to increase the number of beneficial bacteria, reduce the number of harmful bacteria, and most importantly, why the condition of the microbiota can worsen.
If you regularly go on strict diets
Healthy digestion largely depends on the variety of bacteria in the digestive tract: the more useful and different, the better the food is digested – and the more successfully the body adapts to unfamiliar food (for example, on exotic trips).
How to improve the composition of microbiota? It is very simple to eat as varied as possible, that is, to include in the diet a little bit of everything from different groups of products: plant and animal food, vegetables and fruits, nuts and cereals, dairy and seafood.
Especially useful for microflora are foods rich in prebiotics (fiber, which good bacteria feed on) – all vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Champions in the content of prebiotics are legumes in general and chickpeas in particular, oatmeal, bananas, asparagus, nuts, onions and garlic.
How to worsen microbiota and upset the balance of beneficial and pathogenic bacteria? It is also very simple – to regularly follow strict diets, for example, completely refusing carbohydrates, or to exclude from the diet a whole group of products (for example, all milk products) without the recommendation of a doctor.
If you move a little
Studies of the last few years show: the more we move, the more actively beneficial bacteria multiply. Moreover, any physical activity works, whether it be an hour walk, cycling or intensive cleaning.
Regular exercise is especially good for the reproduction of bifidobacteria, which are known for their ability to quickly neutralize pathogenic microorganisms.
Tobacco smoke consists of thousands of different chemicals, 70 of which are carcinogens. Smoking affects almost all organs and increases the risk of many serious diseases, from heart attack to cancer. It is cigarettes that are called one of the main external factors in the development of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.
In 2013, a joint study by German and Swiss scientists showed a direct relationship between smoking and the state of intestinal microflora: the subjects who quit smoking significantly increased the diversity of beneficial bacteria in just 9 weeks.
If you sleep little
Our intestines, like all other organs, live by the biological clock and obey circadian rhythms. Therefore, lack of sleep can lead to an imbalance of microbiota. Moreover, even short-term lack of sleep affects it badly – this is evidenced by the results of the study: in people who slept only 2 days for 4 hours, the number of harmful bacteria responsible for weight gain and the development of type 2 diabetes increased markedly.
If you take antibiotics
Together with pathogenic microorganisms, antibiotics “clean” and beneficial bacteria. Even a single drug intake significantly reduces the diversity of microbiota. Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are especially affected. But the number of harmful clostridia that produce botulinum toxin poison, antibiotic intake can increase.
Usually microflora is able to recover itself – it takes from a week to a month. You can help her by including kefir or sauerkraut in the daily diet – and there are a lot of bifidobacteria in both. If the balance of microbiota is seriously disturbed (this happens when taking certain antibiotics), drugs containing beneficial bacteria are prescribed. The key word “prescribed” – you need to drink them only after consulting a doctor.