Every now and then we are told the benefits of following a healthy diet. Yes, it has many benefits, such as losing weight, lessening chronic non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart ailments, and even cancer, among other things. However, the main reason behind having a healthy diet is to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut, which further benefits your overall health and wellbeing. These microorganisms that reside in your gut are also known as gut flora. Let’s find out about them in detail.
What Is Gut Flora?
Gastrointestinal or gut flora, also known as gut microbiota, refers to the numerous microbes (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) present in the gut, which metabolizes the food we eat. They are said to be 10 times more than the number of cells in the human body, not less than 100 trillion. They also cipher a hundred times the number of genes a human being possesses (also known as genome). In other words, the gut genome is the total of all the genomes present in the gut microbiota.
How does Diet Affect the Gut Flora?
You must have heard the term, ‘You are what you eat’. Well, that is true, for what you eat determines your gut microbiome. Good bacteria are necessary for us to maintain good health. They should ideally overpower the number of bad bacteria in the gut for the sake of our overall health and well being. To do so, it is necessary to have a healthy diet. A diet comprising a diverse variety of whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, can help form a diverse gut flora. Include prebiotic foods like oats, lentils, chickpeas, onions, and nuts, as well as probiotics like yogurt and other fermented foods in your diet too. There are prebiotic and probiotic supplements available in the market as well.
Why Does Gut Flora Matter?
It is said that different microbiome components are in a state of balance in a healthy individual. However, when this balance gets affected due to a bad diet, medication, stress, toxins, age, or physical activity, something known as ‘dysbiosis’ takes place’. Dysbiosis is a condition that occurs when there is an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria present in a person's natural microflora, especially that of the gut. It is typically associated with many diseases caused due to this imbalance, including obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and cardiovascular diseases.
To say that changing the diet alone can bring about less dysbiosis, would not be entirely true. Research suggests that one’s immediate environment also has an impact on one’s gut flora. Perhaps that is why we see some people develop gut issues when they move to a different geographical location. That said, it is always advisable to adopt a healthier diet, which comprises more grain-based sources of protein and less animal fat. A healthy gut paves the way to a healthy body and mind.