The mighty gut health benefits of bacteria
Your gastrointestinal, or GI, tract is inhabited by microbes collectively called the microbiome, which includes bacteria, fungi, and even viruses. Though it sounds gross and maybe even unhealthy, it’s actually the complete opposite. Gut bacteria perform many important functions in the body including aiding the immune system; producing the feel-good brain chemical serotonin; making energy available to the body from the food we eat; and disposing of foreign substances and toxins, according to dietitian Lisa Dreher. Though most of us have a mixture of good and bad bacteria, sometimes the bad guys get the upper hand, causing dysbiosis, or an imbalance in gut bacteria, which can play a role in a number of health conditions.
Your stomach doesn’t feel right
Diarrhea, constipation, bloating, nausea and heartburn are classic symptoms of problems with gut health. “Gastrointestinal discomfort – especially after eating carbohydrate-rich meals – can be the result of poor digestion and absorption of carbohydrates,” Dreher says. Reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and colitis have all been linked to an imbalance in the microbiome.
You have a hankering for certain foods
Craving foods, especially sweets and sugar, can mean you have an imbalance of gut bacteria. Although unproven, some experts believe that if there’s an overgrowth of yeast in the system, which might happen after a course or two of antibiotics where you wipe out all the good bacteria, then that overgrowth of yeast can actually cause you to crave more sugar.