Have you been hearing a lot about gut bacteria lately? Seems like everybody’s talking about it, but what does it mean and why do we care? Your intestines are an ecosystem, and having the right bugs can help your gut stay happy and healthy!
Gut microbiota is the fancy term used to describe all the bugs that live in your intestines; you likely think of bacteria when you hear about microbiota but a healthy gut also includes yeast, fungi and even viruses!
A healthy gut biome has known benefits: it helps to break down foods, and creates nutrients, to make them available for use. It helps us fight disease by educating our immune system about what is good and what is bad, while reducing the opportunities for bad bacteria to grow thereby limiting the chance of infection. While there is still a lot of research to do, more and more of your overall health is being linked to the bugs in your guts. Preliminary research has associated gut microbiota with everything from rheumatoid arthritis, to obesity, to mental health, though large scale studies still need to be done.
The key to a healthy gut microbiome is the same as with most things: balance. The correct balance of beneficial microbiota is what will ensure your best health. While scientists are still trying to determine the best ways to maintain a healthy gut, pre and probiotics have been gaining interest. Probiotics (like are found in yogurt!) are live bacterial cultures that colonize your intestine, though their usefulness has recently been called into question. Prebiotics are like eating food for your beneficial bacteria to eat, and that’s where apples come in! Apples are chock full of a fiber called pectin that beneficial bacteria love, helping their populations grow. Diet has been shown to effect the gut biome at various stages in life, so until scientists nail down best practices for a healthy gut, consider focusing on filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables to help you be your healthiest self.