If you haven't been feeling well and it isn't immediately apparent why then it could be your gut trying to tell you something. When "good" bacteria in your digestive tract is low, then you may feel tired, run down, have an upset stomach, or rashes on your skin. Fortunately, with a healthy diet and some lifestyle changes, you can restore your intestinal flora and improve your overall health.

What Is Gut Flora?

You may have heard of healthy gut bacteria or intestinal or gut microbiota, which are all names for the same thing, gut flora. The flora is microorganisms, or bacteria, that live in the digestive tract. Approximately 300 to 500 types of bacteria occupy your gut, which includes fungi and viruses.

Each person’s microbiota is different because the environment to which everyone has exposure to at birth, which is their mother’s microbiota, along with your diet and lifestyle. Although bacteria lives throughout your entire body, the ones occupying your gut have the most influence on your health.

These bacteria affect everything from metabolism to the immune system to people’s moods. Along with gut bacteria being unique for everyone, researchers are discovering it is different in healthy people than it is in those with certain diseases. They have found links between gut bacteria and:

  • Obesity
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
  • Colon Cancer
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • Arthritis

Gut bacteria can influence the body’s metabolism by determining how many calories your body gets from certain foods and which nutrients it absorbs from them. If there are too many gut bacteria, it can lead to your body turning fiber into fatty acids. 

The fat deposits end up in the liver, where it can cause “metabolic syndrome,” which is a combination of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.Conditions that involve inflammation may be the result of having low levels of anti-inflammatory gut bacteria.

These conditions would include bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and arthritis. Researchers have also been able to link the gut to the brain in what they call the “gut-brain axis.” This connection indicts that gut bacteria and disorders of the central nervous system have a common link.

These disorders include anxiety, depression, and autism. Although these links show that gut bacteria may cause these diseases, researchers think they can make people healthier too.

Identifying Gut Bacteria

In finding the connections to certain diseases and gut microbiota, scientists have been able to identify the types of bacteria that have links to certain conditions. Identifying the bacteria enables them to create successful treatments for the disorders or diseases with which they are linked. Several studies have recently found connections to certain bacteria and illnesses.

Two studies at the Mayo Clinic may have found a link between susceptibility to Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and gut bacteria. The information researchers have also suggested treatments for this condition. They found that certain bacteria were high in RA patients, but low in healthy people.

In another study, researchers gave mice the bacterium, Prevotella hisitcola and found that they had fewer RA symptoms and the symptoms were less severe. Also, there were not as many inflammatory conditions they could link to RA after the bacterium treatment.

Another possible treatment for heart disease was also found by researchers. The study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology said that the bacterial strain Akkermansia muciniphilia was able to prevent inflammation that causes plaque buildup in arteries.

The researchers think the result was due to a protein blocking messages between cells in the gut’s inner lining. The conclusion was that fewer toxins due to poor diets were able to get into the bloodstream, so there was a reduction in inflammation.

While intestinal flora is showing promise in producing successful treatments for diseases, how do you know if your flora is healthy?

Symptoms Of An Unhealthy Gut

Many things can cause damage to the bacteria of your gut, some of which we can control. Being under stress, eating processed foods, not getting enough sleep, and taking antibiotics can damage the gut’s flora. When it isn’t feeling well, your digestive tract will let you know it in several ways.  


Weight Changes

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Unexpected weight losses or gains without changes in diet and exercise may be due to having an imbalance of bacteria in your gut. This imbalance can cause the body not to be able to absorb nutrients, regulate your blood sugars, and impair the storage of fat.

Upset Stomach

An unhealthy digestive tract is almost always immediately noticeable because the imbalance in bacteria can often cause:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn

If the flora is in balance, then your stomach has an easier time digesting food and eliminating bodily waste.


Sleep Disruptions

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If you’re tired all the time and feel like you’re not getting enough sleep, it could be another sign of imbalances in the gut’s flora. Having an imbalance can lead to poor sleep or insomnia, which can cause fatigue.

Most of the serotonin, which is a hormone that affects sleep and mood, in your system is made in the gut. When the gut sustains damage, it can then change how well you sleep. The inability to sleep throughout the night also has risks for fibromyalgia.  


Skin Irritations

Face acne

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A leaky gut could have ties to eczema, which are red, rough areas of the skin with small blisters that can itch and bleed. When the gut sustains damage, it can “leak” some proteins into the body. It then can manifest into skin irritations like eczema.


Food Intolerances

If you cannot tolerate certain foods, then you may experience constipation, diarrhea, nausea, gas and bloating. Food intolerance is different than food allergies, which are reactions by the immune system to certain foods. Researchers believe bad gut bacteria may cause food intolerances.

However, some evidence shows a link between food allergies and gut health too.Fortunately, if you have signs of harmful gut bacteria, then you can restore it through your diet and making lifestyle changes to live a healthier life, like lower stress levels. Here are some things you can do to restore the good bacteria in your gut.

Restoring Good Gut Flora

To restore the good bacteria in your gut, you can improve your diet to ensure you’re getting the necessary nutrients to generate gut flora and change some habits to reduce stress in your life. Follow these tips for restoring your flora and start feeling better.  


Improve Sleep Habits

Your body needs to rest to repair itself, including the gut. Set a sleep schedule in which you go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time in the morning, even on the weekends. Adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep per night, so curtail some of your nightly activities in favor of rest.


Learn To Destress

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High-stress levels can destroy good gut flora, so you need to learn how to destress at the end of the evening. Also, find areas in your life where you can get rid of some stresses. For instance, if driving to work feels stressful, consider taking public transportation. It leaves the driving to someone else while you sit back and read a magazine or book or close your eyes and relax.


Avoid Antibiotics

Antibiotics are only for bacterial infections, like bacterial pneumonia, a mouth abscess, or a urinary tract infection. Do not take them for a virus as they are not meant to treat viruses. Antibiotics kill flora in the gut, but they can be difficult to avoid if you eat meat products or dairy foods.

The United States Food and Drug Administration reports that up to 80 percent of the antibiotics in existence is used in animal agriculture. Turn to organically grown meat and dairy products that do not use antibiotics in their livestock. Read labels before buying meats, cheeses, milk, and other dairy goods.


Choose Prebiotic Foods

Prebiotics help to restore good gut flora by feeding the healthy bacteria. Some of the prebiotic foods you can incorporate in your diet include:

  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Asparagus
  • Whole wheat products
  • Spinach
  • Beans
  • Oats
  • Bananas

Eat Probiotics As Well

kimchi

Kimchi - Image via Pixabay

Probiotics are bacteria or yeasts that are in fermented foods. When you eat the foods, the live bacteria and yeast stay in the gut and improve its health. Some probiotic foods include:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Water Kefir
  • Pickles

Also, avoiding red meat, fried foods, and dairy products high in fat can improve your intestinal health as well. These foods not only reduce healthy bacteria, but they feed bad bacteria and encourage its growth.

Restoring your intestinal flora will help you feel better in the short term and, in the long run, it can help you improve your chances of avoiding chronic diseases.

By following these tips, plus adding exercise to your daily routine, you can live a healthier lifestyle, which can mean living a long life as well.  

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