There are around 100 trillion microbes in your gut, making up what is known as your gut microbiota. They work to help digest food, protect the body from infection, and regulate metabolism and the immune system. Our immune system is the group of cells and molecules that protect us from disease by monitoring our body and responding to any threats or foreign substances, especially infectious microbes. Our immune system works with the gut microbiota to create defenses against pathogens and 70 – 80% of the body’s immune cells are in the gut.
There are both good and bad bacteria in our gut, and the good bacteria are known as probiotics. Probiotics help your body fight off bad bacteria and prevent infections. They help support the cells that line your gut (the gut barrier) to prevent leaky gut syndrome that allows bacteria and toxins from the food and drinks we consume to leak into our bloodstream and cause inflammation which can lead to chronic disease.
It’s important to promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut and reduce the presence of harmful bacteria, and what you eat is the most important factor in making that happen. Complex carbohydrates and plant fiber feed the probiotics, whereas proteins and fats are used by the bad bacteria to produce harmful toxins. A predominantly plant-based diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains will help support the growth of probiotics in your gut.
You can also increase the presence of probiotics in your gut by taking probiotic supplements as well as eating fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh, kimchi and pickles.
Make sure you reduce or eliminate foods that are harmful to your gut health, including red meat and saturated fat, processed foods, sugar and artificial sweeteners. Antibiotics, while they can be necessary for treating bacterial infections, also have the effect of destroying gut bacteria. Antibiotics are overused in factory farmed meat and poultry, as well as being overprescribed for viral infections where they are ineffective.
The microbes in your gut communicate directly with your immune system and the two work together to keep you healthy and protect against infection. Support that system and strengthen your immune system by consuming probiotics as well as foods that promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut.