Recent studies are beginning to reveal the extent to which the bacteria in our digestive tracts affect fat gain, weight loss, metabolism, fatigue, energy, and sex drive. To be clear, we all have bacteria in our digestive tracts. Millions of different bacteria inhabit our gut. For purposes of simplicity I’ll divide the bacteria in us into two broad categories: “the good guys” and “the bad guys”.
The good guys are meek, gentle and careful, keep our digestive tract nice and healthy, helping us maintain energy balance. The bad guys are callous, uncaring, and quite strong. They break down indigestible foods, siphoning calories out of them and churning them into our blood stream, giving up waste gases which cause bloating, diarrhea, and symptoms of indigestion. The balance between good and evil is something we should strive to keep. Similar to reality we need lots of good guys and fewer bad guys. It turns out that the foods we eat directly affect which group of bacteria has the upper hand. Our daily habits including foods, and medications affect the balance of good bacteria vs evil bacteria in our digestive tracts.
Foods that Promote Bad Bacteria Overgrowth
The ingredients that promote the growth of these bad bacteria are found in a lot of foods we commonly eat, including some foods that are promoted as “health foods”. The typical ones have been known to us for years. They are sugar and high fructose corn syrup. New research like the recent study out of the University of Texas health Science show that artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, Acesulfame potassium, and stevia, all which are marketed as “low calorie” alternatives to the health conscious, lead to proliferation of the bad bacteria and candida in our digestive tracts. These bacteria overpower the good bacteria in our gut causing more unwanted symptoms of indigestion, gas, bloating, fatigue and weight gain.
Serious caution should be used when purchasing or consuming yogurt. Most popular brands are filled with added sugars, sometimes artificial sweeteners, and preservatives. This food would receive a clean recommendation only if it is unsweetened, and in a lot of cases plain. You may consume yogurt for its active live bacterial cultures however, there is no telling how much if any good bacteria you are ingesting. In addition, most yogurt sold in stores are pasteurized, a process that drastically reduces the number of colony forming units.
Foods that Promote the Growth of Healthy Bacteria
Kefir: Kefir is a fermented milk product that is rich in active cultures. Good Kefir is made from unpasteurized milk.
Other Fermented foods:
Examples include sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso. People have pickled and fermented foods to preserve them for centuries. The process of fermentation is accomplished by good bacteria. Fermented foods are packed with micronutrients including tons of B vitamins and folate. Studies in small animals have shown that fermented foods stimulate the immune system, inhibit tumor growth, and aid detoxification by breaking down pesticides commonly found in foods.
Homemade fermented foods likely have the highest quality of good bacteria. If you have no idea how to ferment your own foods at home, check out this popular blog www.insonnetskitchen.com
for some tips, tricks and recipes.
If you are not into eating fermented foods at all then a high quality probiotic may be right for you.
Not all probiotics are created equal. Be wary of bottles that have been sitting on the shelf for a while. The best probiotics deliver several different strains of bacteria, >6, with over one hundred thousand colony forming units. Now the normal process of digesting food means that it passes through the stomach which is filled with gastric acid. Gastric acid kills a lot of bacteria. Some of the good bacteria are somewhat resistant to acid degradation however not all of them will make it to the colon where they do most of their work. Hence, the more you ingest the higher the chance of getting more to their home base. Some high quality probiotics that I trust are Biotrust Pro X-10
, and Nucific’s Bio X-4
. You can also get a good quality one in the refrigerated section of most health food stores