How to restore bacterial balance for better gut health

Disturbances in gut bacteria can wreak havoc on our health and wellness. Here, the experts share three ways to restore this balance.

Use Probiotics: “Some strains of probiotics such as Lactobacillus plantarum and Bifidobacteria infantis, may help reduce abdominal pain, flatulence and belly distension,” says CK Yao, a research dietitian at Monash University. Probiotics can also promote anti-inflammatory effects by interacting with the gut immune system. “This may help to reduce hyper-sensitivity reactions of the gut that can manifest as abdominal pain or bloating,” Yao says.  Taking probiotics may worsen digestive symptoms such as bloating in some people, so always start with a small dose of probiotics.

Beware Sensitivities: Eating foods to which you’re sensitive to, can cause inflammatory reactions in your digestive system and body. Eliminating suspect foods for weeks and reintroducing them is a sound way to test for reactions. Aside from common culprits such as gluten and dairy, lesser known problematic foods include vet salicylates and amines. Higher levels of natural chemicals that may be problematic generally correlate with flavour intensity – more is more.

Censor carbohydrates. “Certain molecules called FODMAPS, found in food such as excess fructose from some fruits and lactose, in some dairy foods, can be poorly absorbed by some people in the small intestine and digestive tract and feed the bacteria there,” says Dr Sue Shepherd, an Australian dietitian and Senior Lecturer at La Trobe University Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition. “The bacteria can then digest or ferment these molecules, triggering symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, including abdominal bloating and pain, nausea and excess wind,” points out Shepherd, who was involved in the development of the low FODMAP diet in 1999. “To avoid FODMAPS, which include foods like baked beans, onion, garlic, leeks, asparagus, cauliflower and fruits such as apples, peaches and pears, it is best to consult with an accredited practising dietitian,” Shepherd says

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