Nourish the Good Bacteria in Your Stomach for Better Mental and Physical Health

Not all bacteria are bad.

Many bacteria and microorganisms are, in fact, necessary for our good health. They make up our gut microbiome, trillions of microorganisms that belong to thousands of species. Good microbes help to break down nutrients from food to fuel our brain and body, stimulate our immune system, and restrict the growth of harmful bacteria.

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Our gut microbiome plays such an important role in our body’s everyday functions that experts classify it as a virtual organ.

Bacteria in Our Stomach Affect Our Brain, Body, and Emotions

We have trillions of microorganisms, also called microbiota, within our bodies. Most of them are located in our large and small intestines, where both good and bad bacteria co-exist peacefully. But, in a healthy person, the good bacteria outnumber the bad ones.

Gut Microbiome and Digestion

Some good bacteria are responsible for the digestion of fiber, which is important for the production of short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids provide energy to the cells in our colon; in addition to that, these fatty acids help in metabolizing carbohydrates and fats. By eating fiber-rich foods, you are also able to minimize your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

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Based on a study published in BMJ, a lower diversity of the gut microbiome is a factor in the development and progression of obesity. It was found that in overweight people, genus Christensenella was rare. In mice experiments, this microbe and others like Akkermansia are associated with lower visceral fat deposits. Experts believe that even though most of the proof obtained was through mouse models, long-term weight gain in people has a connection with lower diversity in gut microbiome that is aggravated by diet that is poor in fiber.

Gut Microbiome and The Heart

“We know that there’s a symbiotic type of relationship between gut bacteria and their hosts—that’s us. Certain chemicals that the gut bacteria produce can alter blood pressure. We also know that when mice or rats or people have high blood pressure, the bacteria in their guts are different. Those things each reveal a piece of the puzzle. But we don’t have enough pieces to put the entire puzzle together yet,” said Jennifer L. Pluznick, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and forerunner of animal research into gut bacteria.

Nevertheless, Pluznick foresees a future in which “heart-healthy measures may well involve considerations of gut health.” Further, these measures will include optimal guidelines for both probiotic consumption and antibiotic use, which can adversely impact microbes in the stomach.

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Other experts, meanwhile, have been investigating the inflammatory marker called trimethylamine‐N‐oxide (TMAO), which is produced by certain harmful gut bacteria. Based on their review of 19 studies, they found that elevated TMAO was linked with a 62 percent higher risk of major cardiovascular events such as stroke and heart attack and a 63 percent higher risk of mortality from all causes.

Since most experts agree that further studies are needed to determine the practicality of probiotic and prebiotic supplements to boost the health of gut microbiome, they recommend obtaining probiotics and prebiotics from natural foods, where they exist in abundance.

Gut Microbiome and The Brain

The relationship between the human brain and gut microbiome is still under deeper research. But health specialists believe that, just as the brain communicates with the rest of the body through neurotransmitters, the bacteria in our gut talk back to our brain. This results in changes to our mood, depending on the balance of the good and bad bacteria in our gut. There is even a theory that an imbalanced gut microbiome is mutually connected to anxiety, depression, and autism spectrum disorder.

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How You Can Have a Healthier Gut Microbiome for a Smarter, Happier, and Healthier You

“Seventy percent of the body’s inflammatory cells are actually housed in the gut-associated tissue,” said Ian R. Barrows, MD, a cardiology fellow at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC. “So the gut bacteria have an influence on the inflammatory role of the gut and the whole body.”

Hence, we should not think that Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome are the only diseases we may suffer from due to an unhealthy gut microbiome. With poor microbiota, people have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other disorders.

So, how can we make our gut microbiome healthier?

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As previously mentioned, probiotics and prebiotics are the answer.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are of similar nature to the good bacteria in our stomach. Probiotics are present in fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, pickles, kombucha, and kefir.

Prebiotics are sources of probiotics, and they can be easily found in many kinds of fruits and vegetables like the following:

  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Asparagus
  • Leeks
  • Banana
  • Oats
  • Apples
  • Cocoa
  • Barley
  • Flaxseeds
  • Yacon root
  • Wheat bran
  • Seaweed
  • Jicama root
  • Burdock root

So, strive to be smarter, happier, and healthier by nourishing the good bacteria in your stomach. You can also look forward to enjoying a longer lifespan!

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