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The word ‘bacteria’ rings a lot of warning bells—but contrary to popular belief, not all bacteria are bad. In fact, your stomach naturally hosts plenty of good bacteria that regulate your digestive health. Bad bacteria, on the other hand, come from the food you ingest.
There are around 150–400 different types of bacteria in your stomach. To maintain a healthy and diverse microbiome, there needs to be a good ratio between good and bad bacteria. When bad bacteria outnumber the good ones, you can suffer from constipation, loose bowels, bloating, or even more serious concerns like inflammation and cancer.
You might be wondering, ‘How can I be sure I have the right balance of bacteria? Can I test my gut bacteria?’ Aside from consulting with your doctor, there are self-tests you can do within the comforts of your home. These tests not only help you understand your gut bacteria but also gives useful sight into other aspects of your health.
If you find that you have a high level of bad bacteria in your gut, or you’ve been experiencing a lot of gastric issues, try to rebalance your gut microbiome by following these tips:
Get Rid of Bad Bacteria in Your Gut
1. Cut Down on Food with High Levels of Bad Bacteria
When there are more bad bacteria in your digestive tract, good bacteria can’t do their job of controlling intestinal problems. To keep a healthy ratio of bacteria, try to reduce your intake of the following food types:
- Animal protein. Meat, eggs, and dairy products are good sources of protein, but they are also known to have high levels of bad bacteria.
- Simple sugars and starch. Baked goods such as cakes and cookies can increase the build-up of bad bacteria in the stomach. These processed products contain ‘simple’ carbohydrates such as sugar and starch, which are quickly digested and absorbed by the body and which bad bacteria thrive on.
- Trans fatty acids. Processed food, fast food, and fried food contain high levels of trans fat, which is considered as a bad type of cholesterol.
It’s important to remember that these food types are not entirely harmful to your health. They could provide necessary components that are beneficial to your overall diet as long as they are consumed in moderation.
2. Eat More Fiber-Rich and Fermented Food
Good bacteria thrive on dietary fiber, which are carbohydrates that are non-digestible or pass through the digestive tract without being absorbed by the body. Fiber-rich foods are fermented in the stomach and turn into prebiotics, which feeds good bacteria and keep the stomach healthy. Some examples of food with high fiber content are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, oats, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Likewise, fermented foods enable the growth of good bacteria. When food is fermented, they become natural probiotics. Some probiotic foods include yogurt, pickles, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, soybean products (tempeh, miso, and natto), and some types of cheese (cheddar, cottage cheese, gouda, and mozzarella).
3. Take Prebiotic and Probiotic Supplements
If you’re having trouble integrating fiber-rich and probiotic foods into your diet, supplements are your best bet. There are many available supplements that are safe and contain high dosages of probiotics.
4. Don’t Overuse Antibiotics and Anti-Bacterial Products
Antibiotics are mainly used to combat bacterial infection or any illness caused by bad bacteria. However, as the name implies, antibiotics tend to eliminate all kinds of bacteria, which includes the good ones. This can negatively affect the balance and diversity of your stomach microbiome. You should always consult your doctor before taking antibiotics to make sure your gut health won’t be compromised.
Hygiene products such as soaps, sanitizers, and deodorants have anti-bacterial agents that may be absorbed into the body, which could harm your gut’s good bacteria. Studies on the effects of anti-bacterial properties on animals suggest that they may have the same effect on humans. However, it’s important to note that relevant studies on this subject are currently limited.
5. Strive for a Healthy Lifestyle
There are studies suggesting a direct relationship between stress or anxiety and gut health. Therefore, proper stress management can contribute to the maintenance of a healthy stomach microbiome. Regular exercise may help, as it has been found to help good bacteria flourish.
Moreover, smoking or inhaling second-hand smoke has been found to increase bad bacteria. This is yet another proof of how destructive smoking can be—not only to gut health but to your overall health as well—so you should either quit smoking or avoid being around people when they do smoke.