This guide defines “good bacteria” and discusses ways you can balance your gut microbiota. The bottom of this includes specific product recommendations.
A critical aspect of a healthy gut is good gut bacteria.
The gut is comprised of trillions of bacteria that have a huge impact on your physiology. These species are collectively referred to as the gut microbiota.
The health of your gut influences the well-being of your entire body including your mental functioning. Fortunately, there are many ways to support a healthy gut microbiota.
What is Good Gut Bacteria?
The term gut microbiome is often used interchangeably with the gut microbiota and gut flora. However, microbiome refers to particular microbes and their genetic material. The bacteria and genetics of the microbiome usually support health, but in certain conditions, some species become too dominant and start to influence health adversely.
The bacteria in the microbiome evolved alongside humans. They assist your body in digesting and absorbing nutrients, strengthening gut integrity, producing vitamins, as well as protect against pathogenic or harmful bacteria.
The makeup of the microbiome also influences the way your body stores fat, balances glucose, and responds to hormones responsible for hunger and satiety. If there is an imbalance of gut bacteria or dysbiosis, it can contribute to a range of issues in your body such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disease, and cancer. (Hawrelak, Myers, 2004)
A lack of health-promoting bacteria can also affect your mood because they partly influence the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. The science of the gut-brain axis is still evolving, and the possible mechanisms behind this are being explored. Some bacteria may also lead to a high level of inflammation, which is now considered to be a more relevant player in the development of depression than serotonin.
Unfortunately, gut dysbiosis may be common in most Americans. This is largely due to poor diets high in sugar and processed foods, antibiotics, chronic stress, alcohol consumption, and poor sleep habits. (Thursby, Juge, 2017)
Conditions associated with dysbiosis include:
Gut dysbiosis is one of a range of factors that influence the development of these conditions. Other factors include genetics, diet, stress levels, and sleep quality.
Probiotics (live, beneficial bacteria) and yeasts can help your gut — and the rest of your digestive system — get back to optimal health.
Examples of beneficial probiotics and yeasts include:
- Bifidobacterium — A probiotic commonly found in dairy products.
- Lactobacillus — A probiotic found in kefir, yogurt, and fermented foods.
- Saccharomyces boulardii — A yeast found in probiotics.
How Do Probiotics Benefit the Gut and Rest of the Body?
Though no one's gut microbiome is the same, probiotics may benefit many individuals when chosen appropriately. (Zoetendal, Akkermans, De Vos, 1998)
- Support the re-growth of native microbiota after antibiotic use
- Help restore the balance of good to bad bacteria
- Strengthen the immune system
- Modulate inflammation
Probiotics also impact nerves that control gut motility. They help push food through the gastrointestinal tract. (Broekaert, Walker, 2006)
Gastrointestinal conditions probiotics that can help alleviate include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Diarrhea caused by antibiotic use, viruses, bacteria, or parasites
- Chronic constipation
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Other issues throughout the body that probiotics can help address include:
- Urinary tract infections
- Yeast infections
- A range of oral health issues
How Long Does it Take to Improve Gut Bacteria?
It depends on a few factors.
Taking a probiotic can help, but it can only do so much if you aren't eating well and are chronically stressed.
To make sure probiotics do what they need to, ensure you apply the following lifestyle changes. As a result, your gut microbiome can improve in as little as a week:
- Eat a whole food diet consisting of different colored fruits and vegetables as well as grass-fed meats and dairy.
- Only take antibiotics if necessary
- Minimize alcohol use
- Get enough sleep
- Make sure you engage in activities that help relax you and combat stress
How to Improve Good Gut Bacteria
Your gut microbiome is sensitive — many factors can throw it off. One of the most critical factors that determine the types of bacteria that will take up residence in your gut is your diet.
One of the most efficient ways to improve your gut and make sure good gut bacteria can flourish is to follow the 4R's:
- Replace, and
Remove toxic, processed foods. Remove carbohydrates and sugar from your diet, as well. These foods destroy the gut and cause chronic inflammation as well as disease.
You want to eat the right foods because your gut responds the best to healthy foods. The more variety of healthy foods you consume, the more diverse your microbiome will be. Eat a variety of prebiotic and polyphenolic foods including:
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Berries, cherries
- Black rice, red rice
- Nuts with skins on
- High-quality chocolate and cacao
- Colored quinoa
Also, eat a range of fermented foods as they are a great source of probiotics such as:
Take supplements or eat herbs, spices, and foods that support digestion. Replace what you may be lacking, such as digestive enzymes. This will improve the quality of your gut bacteria and support your digestive system.
Repopulate your gut bacteria with a high-quality probiotic supplement. You might want to try taking a prebiotic, as well.
If you and your healthcare practitioner decide supplements are right for you, we recommend: