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8 Diet and Lifestyle Choices That Greatly Impact Your Gut Flora

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By Daisy Coyle

The human gut is home to more than 100 trillion bacteria, known as the "gut flora."

Having a healthy gut flora is incredibly important for your overall health.


Interestingly, many diet, lifestyle and other environmental factors can negatively affect your gut bacteria.

What are Gut Bacteria and Why are They Important?

Hundreds of species of bacteria reside in your gut. Some of them are friendly, while others are not.

Most bacteria in the gut belong to one of four groups: Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria or Proteobacteria (1, 2).

Each group plays a role in your health and requires different nutrients for growth (3).

The friendly gut bacteria are important for digestion. They destroy harmful bacteria and other microorganisms and produce vitamin K, folate and short-chain fatty acids (4, 5).

When the gut flora contains too many harmful bacteria and not enough friendly bacteria, an imbalance can occur. This is known as dysbiosis (6, 7).

Both dysbiosis and a reduction in gut flora diversity have been linked to insulin resistance, weight gain, inflammation, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer (8, 9, 10, 11).

Therefore, it's important to keep your gut bacteria as friendly and abundant as possible.

Without further ado, here are eight surprising things that can cause harm to your gut bacteria.

1. Not Eating a Diverse Range of Foods

Generally, a rich and diverse gut flora is considered to be a healthy one (12).

A lack of diversity within the gut bacteria limits recovery from harmful influences, such as infection or antibiotics (13, 14).

A diet consisting of a wide variety of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, can lead to a more diverse gut flora. In fact, changing up your diet can alter your gut flora profile after only a few days (12, 15, 16).

This is because the food you eat provides nutrients that help bacteria grow. A diet rich in whole foods provides your gut with a variety of nutrients that help promote the growth of different types of bacteria, resulting in a more diverse gut flora.

Unfortunately, over the past 50 years, much of the diversity in the Western diet has been lost. Today, 75 percent of the world's food supply comes from only 12 plants and five animal species (12).

Interestingly, studies show that those living in rural regions of Africa and South America have a more diverse gut flora than those living in the U.S. and Europe (17, 18).

Their diets are generally unaffected by the Western world and are rich in fiber and a variety of plant protein sources.

Summary: A diet lacking in a variety of different whole foods can result in a loss of gut flora diversity. This may have a number of negative health effects.

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