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The general public is only barely beginning to grasp the importance of gut bacteria. Did you know that your gut bacteria communicate with your immune system, telling it when to kick it up a notch and when to pull back? Healthy gut bacteria can even reduce your chances of conditions people rarely associate with the gut, like depression and cancer. Those little bottles of probiotics that health food stores sell aren’t just trendy optional items to add to your diet; you should consider them essential items on your shopping list. If you do suffer from conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome, the first thing you should look to adjust is your gut bacteria. Doing so could improve your symptoms drastically and quickly. Here are ways to boost your gut bacteria.

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Find ways to reduce stress

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome then you likely notice your symptoms flare up when you are under stress. That’s because your brain and your gut are in constant communication and stress can suppress the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. If you haven’t tried to manage stress for other things like your blood pressure, at least manage it for your gut.

 

 

 

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Eat a wide range of foods

Eating a wide range of foods is a good idea for a lot of reasons—including reducing sensitivity to certain foods. But also, every type of whole food (junk food doesn’t count) carries its own type of healthy gut bacteria. If you keep your diet diverse, you’re less likely to end up with a gut bacteria imbalance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Try these wafers

Lactic acid wafers can inhibit the growth of bacteria that is damaging to your gut. Lactic acid wafers also promote the growth of important acids in your body that help you readily absorb minerals—and that can help with healthy bacteria growth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eat kimchi

Kimchi—a tasty mixture of cabbage, scallions, garlic and various spices—is a fermented food. The fermentation process gives this food plenty of gut-improving bacteria called lactobacilli. These bacteria help you digest lactose and prevent the growth of pathogens in your belly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Drink kombucha

This refreshing, carbonated drink is fermented by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. It’s been found to contain high amounts of four essential probiotics.

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Watch comedy regularly

Studies have actually found that people who laugh regularly have lower levels of harmful bacteria in their gut and higher levels of healthy bacteria. Remember; your brain and your stomach are in close contact.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Take a power walk

Research has found that exercising regularly could make your body more welcoming to a wide variety of healthy gut bacteria. While the results seem to be more apparent in people who started exercising at a young age, they can still be seen in adults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Get your Zzz’s

You likely already know that not sleeping enough can alter your metabolism and put you at a higher risk for diabetes. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that a lack of sleep can destroy the balance of healthy bacteria in your gut—particularly the bacteria that help prevent obesity and diabetes.

 

 

 

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Add probiotics

You should make sure you don’t have an overgrowth of bacteria in your gut before adding probiotics. Testing for overgrowth is difficult, but you can self-diagnose rather easily. If taking a small amount of probiotics, or eating a small amount of probiotic food like kimchi, causes bloat and digestive discomfort, you probably have an overgrowth. If you don’t react to probiotics, then you can slowly start adding a probiotic supplement to your diet.

 

 

 

 

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Add prebiotics

There is a lot of talk of probiotics but very little about prebiotics. Prebiotics are indigestible foods that make their way into your gut and act as food for probiotics. In other words, they can help your probiotic colonies thrive. Prebiotics can be found in raw and cooked onion, garlic, raw leek, bananas and raw asparagus.

 

 

 

 

 

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Increase vegetables—slowly

People who lead vegetarian and vegan lifestyles tend to have healthier gut bacteria. Even if you don’t want to cut out meat, eating a diet that is mostly vegetarian can help a lot. Vegetables contain fiber, which is essentially food for your colony of gut bacteria. If you don’t typically eat many vegetables, add more to your diet slowly so you don’t suffer from diarrhea or bloat.

 

 

 

 

 

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Try a low FODMAP diet

If your stomach seems to be sensitive to eating more vegetables, consider trying a low FODMAP diet. Each letter in FODMAP stands for a compound found in food that can cause reactions such as bloating, constipation, gas and diarrhea. Low FODMAP foods are gentle on the stomach, while still helping build good bacteria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Increase whole grains—slowly

Whole grains contain fiber that human cells cannot digest. That’s a good thing, because they make their way further down into the intestines, where your gut bacteria can feed on them and thrive. Whole grains, like vegetables, should be increased slowly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Easy on the sweeteners

People who regularly consume artificial sweeteners tend to have less healthy gut bacteria. They can also increase glucose intolerance, which can create havoc in your gut.

 

 

 

 

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Have more wine and chocolate

While you should ease up on artificial sweeteners, you can drink a little more wine, have more dark chocolate, and munch on blueberries. These foods all have polyphenols, which are indigestible by human cells so they travel to the colon and feed gut bacteria.

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