How important is the intestinal flora for our health?
Whether it's salad, soup or chocolate - there's no way around our gut. It digests our meals and ensures that our body is supplied with nutrients. It is supported by many little helpers - the intestinal bacteria. To date, over1,000 different types of bacteria are known to colonise the gut. There are even more bacteria in our gut than body cells. These useful tiny organisms weigh around two kilograms. The entirety of all microorganisms in the intestine is referred to as intestinal flora, intestinal microbiome or intestinal microbiota. Intestinal bacteria not only help us with digestion, but also have an influence on our health. But conversely, can we also influence the bacteria and optimise our gut flora?
Why is gut flora important for our body?
Bacteria break down the food components that our gut cannot digest. They break down soluble fibre, which is found in fruit and vegetables, into short-chain fatty acids. These serve as food for the cells of the large intestine and are said to have numerous positive effects on our health. Researchers have found, for example, that they serve as food for the immune cells in the brain. So anyone who believes that digestion is the only bodily function influenced by bacteria is very much mistaken.Research into the microbiome has gained huge momentum in recent years. New technologies allow a completely different view of this complex ecosystem and new study results are published almost weekly. Bacteria are said to not only train the immune system and play a role in the development of obesity, allergies, diabetes or multiple sclerosis, but also influence our mood. However, the mechanisms behind this have often not yet been uncovered. There is therefore a need for further research. What we do know, however, is that the intestinal microbiome is not a rigid system. It canbe influenced and optimised.How to build up healthy intestinal flora
Intestinal flora is a dynamic system, which means that it can be changed and unbalanced by environmental influences. As a result, symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea or abdominal pain can occur. Our tips will help you to keep your gut healthy.
Try to avoid antibiotics
Taking antibiotics changes the number of bacteria and composition of the intestinal microbiota enormously. After antibiotic therapy, the number of "good" bacteria is reduced and pathogenic microorganisms can colonise more easily. An antibiotic should therefore only be taken if prescribed by a doctor. If it is unavoidable, a probiotic cure from the pharmacy can help to rebalance the intestinal flora. Other medications (e.g. antipsychotics) and hormonal contraceptives such as the pill can also change the composition of the intestinal flora.
Promote gut health through the right diet
If you also want to do something good for your gut bacteria, you should eat fermented foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut, tempeh or kimchi more often. These contain lactic acid bacteria (lactobacilli), which promote intestinal health. The lactic acid produced by the bacteria ensures a low pH value and thus prevents the colonisation of harmful microorganisms.Always stay relaxed
Tension and stress not only put a strain on us, but also on our gut. They lead to digestive processes and thus, for example, intestinal motility being disrupted. This can result in bloating and flatulence. The composition of bacteria also changes: stress reduces the number of "good" bacteria (e.g. lactic acid bacteria) and increases the number of pathogenic bacteria (e.g. Escherichia coli). So remember to treat yourself to regular time-outs. Incidentally, the gut is also happy to take a break from everyday life.
- Haller D, Hörmannsperger G (2015) Gut health and microbiota. Springer Spektrum, Wiesbaden .
- Maier L et al. (2018) Extensive Impact of Non-Antibiotic Drugs on Human Gut Bacteria. Nature 555: 623 - 62