Did you know we have more bacteria in our body than body cells? Most of them can be found in your intestines. The gut microbiome is a rich ecosystem that performs a variety of important functions in our body. It consists of about 1.5 kilos of various microbes, such as bacteria, fungi, yeasts, viruses and other single-celled organisms. The bacteria in our intestines break down food the body is unable to digest, create vital nutrients, regulate the immune system, protect the intestinal wall, ensure intestinal stimulation, provide protection against harmful germs and inform our brain that we are satisfied.
Every healthy person has approximately 150 different species of bacteria. In a healthy gut microbiome these bacteria are well balanced. If the balance is disturbed, some bacteria get the upper hand which can lead to complaints or diseases.
Scientists do not know what's the ideal mix of species, but it's clear that a healthy gut microbiome needs an enormous biodiversity of bacteria (and fungi, viruses and other life forms). We can positively influence the balance of our microbiome by using healthy food: dietary fiber, fermented products and polyphenols are particularly important.
Dietary fibres in our fresh food ensure proper digestion and give you a feeling of satiation after eating a meal. A daily intake of 30-40 grams results in a lower risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes type 2 and intestinal cancer. There are different types of fibre. Most fibres are found in the cell wall of plants; e.g. in vegetables, fruit, potatoes, wholemeal bread, breakfast cereals, legumes and nuts. The more fiber you eat, the more beneficial bacteria your intestines will contain.
Fermented foods teem with beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. These bacteria convert certain fibers into short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are important for the health of the gastrointestinal wall, they improve the immune system and prevent inflammation. Products such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha, kefir and yogurt are excellent to improve variety and vitality in your diet.
Polyphenols (naturally occurring antioxidant compounds) have a positive influence on your body and are associated with a wider diversity in bacteria. These foods have lots of polyphenols: vegetables, fruits, coffe, tea, red wine and dark chocolate. Don't drink more than 4 cups of coffee per day, because too much caffein is not good for you. According to the latest insights, alcohol is bad for your health in any quantity, so red wine is not recommended in spite of the polyphenols.