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How to Take Care of Your Gut Bacteria

Each and every one of us have something in common – we all have gut bacteria. If you didn't, you would have a problem! Not long ago, we thought of all bacteria as bad. But now we know that these bacteria, known as your microbiome, play a major role in supporting your health. And maintaining a healthy balance of types of these bacteria is key.

Why Gut Health Matters

An image of the gut and bacteria in itMany people think of their digestive system as something that food just passes through. It absorbs certain nutrients and the rest is discarded.

In reality, however, it is an incredibly complex system, and your gut microbiome plays a major role in how effectively it can do its job. We are just beginning to understand how important the gut is for overall health. Gut dysbiosis, for example, which is an imbalance of good and bad gut bacteria, can impact the immune system, endocrine system, and even mental health.

The gut microbiome refers to the microorganisms living in our intestines: the gut bacteria. You can have up to 500 different species of gut bacteria in your digestive tracts, most of which benefit your health. Literature, in fact, states that a wide variety of good gut bacteria can help improve the immune system, fight obesity, and even help with symptoms of depression. But, as with most things, balance is key. Too much of one specific bacterium could cause an imbalance in gut bacteria, known as gut dysbiosis.

Issues with gut health often contribute to inflammation, while inflammation can further compromise gut health. There is a cyclical effect, and it can be hard to determine which problem came first.

What Affects Your Gut Microbiome?

Many things could potentially affect your gut bacteria composition. We will look at a few of the main suspects.

Inflammation

Studies show that an overabundance of certain gut bacteria may trigger your inflammatory response. At the same time, however, an increased inflammatory response may trigger an increase in certain gut bacteria. This is especially true for chronic inflammation.

High Sugar Intake

A diet high in sugar can upset your gut’s balance. It may lead to a reduction in beneficial bacteria and an increase in pathogenic or bad bacteria, thereby promoting dysbiosis.

Medications

Certain medications like antibiotics may help address certain health issues, but they also play havoc on your gut health. Antibiotics target all bacteria in the body, not just the problematic type. This is especially problematic when they are overused.

Chemical

Certain chemicals from the environment, such as pesticides, can influence your gut bacteria composition. These chemicals may be on the food you eat. You should thus always thoroughly wash any fresh fruits or vegetables before consuming them. Also try to choose organic, whole foods.

Dental Problems

Poor dental hygiene, cavities, gingivitis, or infections in the mouth may allow for the overgrowth of certain bacteria in your mouth that moves into your digestive tract. This may contribute to an imbalance in gut bacteria in your gastric system.

Anxiety/Stress

An image of a stressed out woman with her head downLiterature suggests stress and anxiety can cause changes in your gut bacteria composition. This can further affect your mood via your gut-brain communication and neurotransmitters produced in the gut.

Lack of Sleep

A 2016 study on healthy men of normal weight showed that a lack of sleep could influence gut bacteria composition. Lack of sleep altered the balance of the participants' gut bacteria, with the numbers of some increasing and others decreasing. In effect, lack of sleep caused an imbalance in bacterial volumes

Signs of Gut Bacteria Imbalance

There are many possible symptoms of gut bacteria imbalance. Some of the most common signs include:

  • Stomach issues including constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, bloating, and gas
  • Unexplained changes in weight
  • Sleep issues or fatigue
  • Skin issues like eczema
  • Food intolerances
  • Bad breath
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Brain fog

The Role of Inflammation

Your Inflammation Circuit is one of your body’s key methods of responding to stress through the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response. The three key elements making up this circuit are the immune system, gastrointestinal tract (gut), and microbiome. The microbiome plays a key role in inflammation in your body. Most inflammatory disorders start in the gut, spreading from there to other parts of your body. This is also true for Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), a disorder caused by chronic stress and low-lying inflammation.

Once inflammation spreads, you may find that your digestive tract no longer functions properly. This makes it difficult for your body to get the vitamins,  minerals, and other nutrients it needs. This could also have a negative effect on other health conditions, including worsening AFS.

Development of the Microbiome

Babies in the womb do not have a microbiome. They only start developing one during the birth process, becoming inoculated with bacteria from the mother's microbiome while moving through the birth canal and later through drinking breast milk. The gut microbiome tends to stabilize by the age of three. But many factors can cause changes to the microbiome as you age.

Your microbiome also plays a role in your health as you age. It's associated with weight control, autism, the immune system, and many other body functions.

Thus, there is a beneficial interaction between our gut microbiome and body health, with certain body functions depending on gut bacteria to stay healthy. To support these bacteria, we need to create a stable habitat for them to thrive.

Health Conditions Associated With Gut Bacteria Imbalances

Gut dysbiosis can either cause or contribute to many health conditions. The most common of these health conditions include:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Autoimmune disorders like fibromyalgia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Type-2 diabetes
  • Adrenal fatigue

How to Heal Your Microbiome

While it's tempting to focus on symptoms, attending to the root of the problem usually works best. A multi-pronged approach provides whole-body support, helps address adrenal fatigue and other health issues, and encourages a vibrant, healthy gut microbiome.

Address Stress

Constantly high levels of stress affect not only gut health but the health of your whole body, including your brain. You cannot just leave your job if it is the main cause of your stress. But you can take a little time out of the day to reduce your stress levels.

Good stress busters include spending some time with your loved ones, spending time in nature, going for a walk, taking up yoga, meditation, or getting a massage. Having a pet is also a great way of dealing with stress.

Drink Water

An image of a man and woman drinking water bottlesWe all know the importance of staying hydrated. And water is essential for the health of the mucosal lining of your intestines and your good gut bacteria.

Cultivate Good Sleeping Habits

Lack of sleep can increase stress which, in turn, could affect your gut health. Studies show lack of sleep causes gut bacteria imbalances. So try to get seven or eight hours of sleep each night. Taking power naps during the day will also help.

Probiotics and Prebiotics

Prebiotics provide ideal conditions for the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Probiotics contain good bacteria, helping to repopulate the gut with these beneficial types of microbes. There are many good prebiotic and probiotic foods, including many vegetables, yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut.

However, if you have SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), you should not take probiotics. Furthermore, it is always best to consult your healthcare provider before taking a new supplement.

Take Note of Food Intolerances

If you have symptoms suggesting you have food intolerances, sensitivities, or allergies try to eliminate these foods from your diet. You may want to go on an elimination diet to confirm if these are trigger foods for you. But continuing to eat them could play havoc with your gut health.

Make Dietary Changes

Limiting your intake of sugary, processed, and high-fat foods from your diet may improve gut health. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as well. A diet high in plant-based foods and lean protein sources may have a positive effect on your gut bacteria composition. You should also consider eating a wide variety of foods to ensure your body gets the variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients it needs.

The Best Foods for Gut Bacteria

Your diet plays an important role in promoting gut health. The following foods may promote gut health and help balance your gut bacteria composition.

Vegetables, Fruit, and Legumes

Fruits, vegetables, and legumes contain a large variety of nutrients and have a high fiber content that promotes healthy gut bacteria.

High-fiber food choices that promote a balanced gut bacteria composition include, amongst many others:

  • Green peas
  • Broccoli
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Whole grains
  • Raspberries
  • Chickpeas
  • Apples
  • Artichokes

Prebiotic Foods

Prebiotic foods encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria and usually consist of fiber or complex carbohydrates. Certain gut bacterial species break these down for fuel. Many whole grains, vegetables, and fruits function as prebiotics. Literature indicates that prebiotics promotes the growth of many types of beneficial bacteria, help reduce the levels of cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin, and may help type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

Fermented Food Products

Many fermented foods contain good bacteria that may benefit digestive health.

Some examples include:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Tempeh
  • Yogurt (preferably unsweetened)
  • Kombucha
  • Kefir

Foods High In Polyphenols

An image of a glass containing green teaPolyphenols are plant compounds. Their health benefits include the ability to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol levels, oxidative stress, and inflammation. Most polyphenols are digested by gut bacteria in your colon.

Foods with a high polyphenol content include:

  • Green tea
  • Almonds
  • Onions
  • Broccoli
  • Red wine (in moderation)
  • Grape skins
  • Blueberries
  • Cocoa
  • Dark chocolate

Studies suggest polyphenols may reduce the levels of certain bad bacteria while increasing the number of good bacteria in your digestive tract. They may also help fight against inflammation.

In Closing

Many health issues start in your gut, especially when you have an imbalance in gut bacteria. By working to balance your gut bacteria, you may find you experience fewer symptoms, have better digestion, and have more energy.

If suffering from gut bacteria imbalance, here are a few things you can do to help alleviate the problem.

  • Identify any possible food intolerances and cut them out of your diet.
  • Eat a variety of fruit, vegetables, and lean protein that will help promote good gut health.
  • Limit your consumption of sugar, processed foods, and high-fat foods.
  • Consider probiotics and prebiotics with the support of your doctor.

If you would like to know more about or need assistance with gut bacteria imbalance, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234 where we will privately discuss your symptoms and various options. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2022 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Balanced gut bacteria can help promote adrenal health by addressing inflammation, improving nutrient absorption, and even producing more helpful neurotransmitters. In turn, this may help provide your adrenals with much-needed adrenal support.

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