Eating Right Will Keep Your Good Bacteria Healthy

Image: © 2010 Wisniewska

Healthy eating, not supplements, is the best way to keep the good bacteria in your gut healthy, says a dietitian and researcher.

As with vitamins, it is best to get the bacteria you need from healthy food rather than taking often expensive and potentially ineffective supplements, according to Gail Cresci, Medical College of Georgia (MCG) dietitian and researcher.

“Consumers are buying stuff like crazy that is probably not even helping them and could potentially hurt them,” Cresci, an assistant professor of surgery at the MCG School of Medicine and winner of the 2009 Excellence in Practice Award for Clinical Nutrition by the American Dietetic Association, said in a press release.

Increasing awareness of the benefit some of these organisms play in sickness and in health has resulted in an explosion of prebiotic and probiotic additives and products marketed directly to consumers. It has also created confusion – even among nutrition and other health care experts – about how best to use them, according to Cresci, who prescribes them to help surgery patients recover. She discussed the latest findings about their implications for clinical practice at the association’s 2009 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Denver.

She equates the good bacterium in your gastrointestinal tract to another living being inside that helps keep you healthy.

“If you do good by your bacteria, they will do good by you,” Cresci said.

There are about 800 bacterial species with more than 7,000 strains inhabiting the average gut and even though many sound similar they likely are not.

“You need to be careful,” Cresci said in a press release. “You don’t just give the same probiotic to try and treat everybody.”

Unfortunately, poor diets are hurting the bacteria in many of us and the overuse of antibiotics is taking its toll as well. This is the case particularly in the common, broad spectrum antibiotics that wipe out anything in their path, good and bad bacteria included, she said.

Cresci believes a good diet includes 30% or less of calories coming from fat and saturated fats comprising no more than 10% of that. The majority should come from monounsaturated fats such as olive and canola oils.

She also recommends 25 to 30 gm of fiber, not from supplements, but from fiber-rich foods like whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, which also provide needed vitamins and minerals. Also, dairy products help ensure adequate protein, calcium and other nutrients. Protein, through meat or dairy products, or nuts and beans, also provide fiber and healthy fats.

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