Exciting new research shows that the healthy bacteria in your gut (your microbiome) enhance your health in many ways. We all have more bacteria in our intestinal tract than we have cells in our bodies. If you have the right intestinal bacteria they:
- lower inflammation
- improve blood sugar and cholesterol profiles
- remove toxins
- protect us from infections
- increase nutrient absorption
- help you lose weight
- promote balanced hormone levels
In contrast, the wrong bacteria can cause a dramatic increase in inflammation, block nutrient absorption, disrupt hormonal balance, and cause you to gain weight.
How do you increase healthy gut bacteria in your intestinal tract? First you need to eat more fiber from vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts. Without fiber, healthy bacteria starve to death inside your gut. Fermented foods also help load your gut with friendly bacteria, so eat more yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and other pickled vegetables. You can also take a probiotic supplement, in particular you want a variety of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium bacterial species with a minimal of 5 billion bacteria per capsule and dosages of 30-60 billion are even better.
There are many factors that destroy your healthy gut bacteria and top of the list is the inappropriate use of antibiotics. Obviously if you have a life threatening infection like pneumonia, you need immediate treatment, but likely half the time doctors prescribe antibiotics, they are not needed. In particular, if you have a cold, bronchitis, or sinus infection, your symptoms will resolve 95% of the time without antibiotics over 10-14 days. And if you do take an antibiotic, then you’ll need to take a probiotic supplement for at least 1-2 months to help restore your microbiome.
Other factors that kill off healthy gut bugs are:
- too much sugar and flour
- artificial sweeteners (like diet soda)
- anti-inflammatory drugs (like Advil and Aleve)
- and for people who are gluten sensitive, gluten (wheat, barley, and rye)
The good news is that my colleague, friend, and the #1 New York Times best-selling author, David Perlmuttter, MD an internationally recognized neurologist, and like me also a Fellow with the American College of Nutrition, recently released his latest book, Brain Maker—The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life. His book is beautifully written and will show you how to improve your gut microbiome and thereby protect your brain from a variety of brain disorders, such as: memory loss (dementia), depression, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and multiple sclerosis.
Steven Masley, M.D. is a physician, nutritionist, author, speaker, and award-winning patient educator. He has devoted his medical career to the study of heart disease and aging, and has published significant research on these subjects in leading medical journals.