We all aim to feel as good as we look. And in taking care of our bodies through exercise and nutrition, it’s important to remember our insides are just as important as our outsides. A critical factor in your overall health is by attending to the trillions of microorganisms inside your gut. Here’s how:

What Your Gut Can Do

Your gut has a significant influence over many aspects of your health, even your mental health. Within your gut are tens of trillions of microorganisms, namely bacteria. In addition to helping you digest food, these bacteria play a large role in the effectiveness of your immune system and produce about 95 percent of your body’s serotonin, a chemical that influences mood.

Current research has identified relationships between your gut bacteria and your brain. Depression, anxiety, and autism, as well as other neurodegenerative diseases may have links to poor gut health.

Your gut bacteria may also be involved in the onset of diabetes and obesity. When certain foods pass through your digestive system, they touch these microorganisms and can change the way they function.

What Affects Your Gut Bacteria

The bacteria in your gut are present when you’re born and change throughout your life. Everyone has his or her own unique makeup of microbiota. Many things can change your gut bacteria for better or worse, like your diet, environment, medication, or illnesses.

Artificial sweeteners–although not absorbed by the body–may change your gut bacteria and cause glucose intolerance, which is the first step toward adult-onset diabetes. A high-fat diet can also change the bacterial makeup and lead to mood changes, anxiety, and memory problems from inflammation in the brain.

The good news is that you can regain a positive balance by eating foods with prebiotics, and probiotics. Probiotics are the live bacteria cultures found in fermented foods and prebiotics are food components used by your gut bacteria for fermentation.

Sources of Probiotics and Prebiotics

You can get your daily supply of prebiotics and probiotics by incorporating different foods into your diet or through supplements. Sources of probiotics include:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Kombucha

If you’re looking for prebiotics, eat:

  • Bananas
  • Oatmeal
  • Garlic
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Legumes

Eating a serving of one or two foods from each group a few times a week will help improve the health of your gut. Maintaining a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods is key to keeping a happy gut and healthy body.

Sources:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150108125953.htm

http://wis-wander.weizmann.ac.il/gut-bacteria-artificial-sweeteners-and-glucose-intolerance#.VaW8PEaoUhG

http://www.elsevier.com/about/press-releases/research-and-journals/high-fat-diet-alters-behavior-and-produces-signs-of-brain-inflammation