We often think of bacteria as something that’s bad for us. However, our bodies are packed with good bacteria that help us to have a strong immune system, digest food and stay healthy.
Most of this bacteria lives in our gut - between 10 to 100 trillion microorganisms to be exact. Here we share how gut bacteria can affect your wellbeing, and what you can do for better gut health.
What are gut bacteria?
Gut bacteria, or microbiota, refers to the largest group of microorganisms in your body that live in your gut. This is known as the gut microbiome which mostly resides in the intestines. Altogether it weighs as much as 1-2kg, roughly the same weight as your brain.
Estimations vary but it's thought you have 300 to 500 different types of bacteria in your gut microbiome - a combination that is completely unique to every individual, much like a fingerprint. This is derived from your mother’s own microbiota as well as diet, lifestyle and environment.
How can gut bacteria impact your health?
Without gut bacteria, it would be very difficult to survive. Our gut microbiome begins to affect us from the moment we’re born and continues to impact a number of bodily functions throughout life including:
- Your immune system
- Cognitive function
How can your diet affect your gut bacteria?
Eating a varied range of healthy food is vital for looking after your gut. Avoid processed meals and replace sugary foods with healthier alternatives. Try our sugar-free chocolate cake recipe for a sweet treat without the sugar intake.
You also need to add plenty of fibre to your diet. Fibre acts as a feeder to your gut bacteria (otherwise known as prebiotics), keeping it alive, diverse and healthy. Food sources high in prebiotics are typically plant based, such as bananas, berries, tomatoes, green vegetables, legumes and onion.
How can I improve my gut health?
Making changes to your diet is the first point of call for improving your gut health. Make sure to eat a diverse range of foods including plenty of fruit, vegetables and fibre. This will promote a more diverse microbiome and growth of more beneficial gut bacteria. You should also reduce fat and sugar intake, the worst foods for gut health.
Read our guide to probiotics to find out more and make sure to speak with your doctor before adding supplements to your diet.
Best foods for gut health
The best foods for good gut health are generally healthy, plant based and rich in fibre. These include:
- Beans and legumes
- Green vegetables such as peas, broccoli and artichokes
- Berries such as raspberries
- Whole grains
- Chickpeas and lentils
Other tips for good gut health
In this guide, the NHS recommends the following for good gut health:
- Eat plenty of fibre, aiming for 30g each day
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Cut back on fatty foods
- Avoid spicy foods if they upset your tummy
- Keep track of your trigger foods and drinks
In summary, gut bacteria is incredibly important for your overall physical and mental health. A healthy gut is linked to better immunity, better digestion, less inflammation and even a better mood.