How to build a better gut – with bacteria

  • Updated: July 30, 2014 - 1:30 PM

The right mix of bacteria can improve many body functions. Insight from medical experts on what a healthy gut can do for you:

Mood: The bugs in our gut have been linked to depression, although researchers are still trying to figure out how it works. An area of interest is whether taking probiotics can correct the balance of bacteria in our gut, then send signals to the brain to increase serotonin levels, which reduces anxiety.

Energy: Changes in gut bacteria can affect the hormones that regulate energy levels, leaving you feeling fatigued or rundown. Eating fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut and miso, may contribute to the amount of good bacteria in your gut. High-fiber foods including leafy vegetables and beans also may help.

Metabolism: Studies show that obese people have different kinds and amounts of gut bacteria than those who are at a healthy weight. Also, people who exercise have a more diverse gut bacteria ecosystem than do sedentary people, according to recent research. Eating a diet loaded with fruits and vegetables may help increase the bacteria associated with leanness.

Immune function: The gut is where 70 percent of our immune cells live. You want to keep this bacteria ecosystem well fortified. To do so, the good bacteria living there need to be fed a diverse diet, said Dr. Purna Kashyap, of the Mayo Clinic. But if you’re eating a simple diet (too many processed foods), you risk an invasion of bad bacteria.Allie Shah

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