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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.

2. Lack of Prebiotics in the Diet

Prebiotics are a type of fiber that passes through the body undigested and promotes the growth and activity of friendly gut bacteria (19).

Many foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains, naturally contain prebiotic fiber.

A lack of them in the diet may be harmful to your overall digestive health (20).

Foods high in prebiotics include:

  • Lentils, chickpeas and beans
  • Oats
  • Bananas
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Nuts

One study in 30 obese women found that taking a daily prebiotic supplement for three months promoted the growth of the healthy bacteria Bifidobacterium and Faecalibacterium (21).

Prebiotic fiber supplements also promote the production of short-chain fatty acids (22).

These fatty acids are the main nutrient source for the cells in your colon. They can be absorbed into your blood, where they promote metabolic and digestive health, reduce inflammation and can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer (23, 24).

Moreover, foods rich in prebiotic fiber may play a role in reducing insulin and cholesterol levels (25, 26).

Summary: Prebiotics are a type of fiber commonly found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They are important for increasing healthy gut bacteria like Bifidobacterium.

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