Right now, your digestive tract is host to over 100 trillion bacteria collectively referred to as the microbiome. The health of the microbiome in your gut is critical for immune function: our gut bacteria serve as a defense from outside ‘invaders’ (bacteria and viruses) and also help regulate the immune response. Here are some ideas to help keep your microbiome happy and healthy:
Eat prebiotic foods
Prebiotic foods contain fiber, which is what our beneficial gut bacteria eat. If you’ve ever felt “hangry” when you haven’t eaten, imagine what your bacteria are like without fiber to munch on! Include foods in your diet like garlic, onion, asparagus, beans, and apples to keep your gut bacteria well-fed. Fiber has a lot of other health benefits too, so check out how to increase it in your diet.
Include probiotic foods
Probiotic foods are foods that contain live beneficial bacteria that help keep your microbiome diverse and crowd out potentially harmful bacteria. These are foods that have been fermented or cultured, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Did you know that you can make your own probiotic foods at home? You can get cultures to make homemade yogurt or to ferment your own sauerkraut at home.
Avoid unnecessary antibiotics
Antibiotics can work wonders if you have a bacterial infection, but they can also wipe out the good bacteria with the bad. Your doctor will prescribe you antibiotics if they think you have an infection that needs this type of medication. Never take someone else’s antibiotics without speaking to a healthcare provider first. If you are prescribed antibiotics, consider eating more of the probiotic foods mentioned above when you are done with your course of meds. This may help restore the good bacteria in your gut.
Interested in learning more about antibiotics and reducing your exposure? We have you covered.
Reviewed by Heather King, MS, RDN, CDE
on April 16, 2020. Heather is a Certified Diabetes Educator, has been a Registered Dietitian for over 12 years and is Brook's Health Director.