Strategies for healthy gut bacteria

Even though our intestine is hidden within our abdominal cavity, it is still part of an open system that is affected several times a day by our intake of food. The intestine has its own microcosm of billions of bacteria and it is not enough to simply dose with healthy bacteria in the hope that they will settle. Rather, the environment for the bacteria must be set up in such a way to ensure their survival and reproduction.

Yogurt in glass

1) Feed bacteria

In order to program our gut bacteria, take at least 10 to 15 g daily of prebiotics. Prebiotics (pre = before, biotic = life) are indigestible food components that are eaten by intestinal bacteria and then multiply as a result. The most important prebiotics are inulin (not to be confused with insulin), pectin, oligofructose, and resistant starch.

Inulin is particularly rich in chicory, artichokes, garlic, onions, leeks, black salsify, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips and endive salad.

Pectin is mainly found in apples, pears, apricots and carrots.

Larger amounts of oligofructose can be found in rye, oats, onions, garlic, unripe bananas, tomatoes and asparagus.

Resistant starch is called as such because it can resist digestion in the upper parts of the intestine and is thus available to gut bacteria in the large intestine. Cooled, boiled potatoes and rice are rich in resistant starch. When they cool down, the starch they contain changes and is difficult to digest in the small intestine. A potato salad or sushi in a Japanese restaurant are therefore good sources of resistant starch. Resistant starch is also contained in solid bananas, grainy oat flakes, beans, lentils, peas, barley, wholemeal oat bread, oat porridge (boiled first and then cooled), millet and also white bread. Now and then a slice of white bread does no harm in this context.

2) Consume bacteria

Probiotics (pro = for, bios = the life) are health promoters and diet helpers at the same time. These are good bacteria, mostly from the group of bifido, lactic acid or E. coli bacteria. To see any effects with probiotics, preparations must contain at least 1 billion probiotic germs  -- the more the better -- to be ingested daily and over a longer period of time. The same strain of bacteria should always be taken for a longer period, because constant change will hinder any settlement. Those wanting to lose weight should particularly choose a preparation that contains bifidobacteria. These bacteria should also get something simultaneously to eat; that is, plenty of prebiotics. When well nourished, healthy gut bacteria begin to multiply immediately.

3) Stimulate the satiety hormones

Studies have shown that we are only really full when our intestinal bacteria are doing well. The reason: If the good gut bacteria get enough food to enjoy, they produce interesting byproducts. One of these is the peptide YY. Peptide YY is a hormone produced by intestinal cells with the help of intestinal bacteria and then transported to the brain. There it docks in specific regions and reports to our brain that we are full. If this messenger substance is missing, then we have no feeling of satiety.

When we ingest protein-rich foods such as fish, legumes, meat, dairy products or nuts, our level of peptide YY also rises sharply. This is not the case after a carbohydrate-rich meal. A protein-rich meal, especially in the evening, also supports a feeling of fullness when losing weight.

Tip on taking bacteria

Before consuming any intestinal bacteria, it is recommended to take a stool sample. If the results encourage the ingestion of probiotics as a dietary supplement, pay attention to the composition of the individual bacterial strains when making the choice of which to take. For those who want to lose weight, for instance, a product should contain bifidobacteria. Preparations that do not list the bacterial strains or count are not recommended.

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