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how-to handbook Health

Hazen, M.D., chair of cellular and


molecular medicine at the Cleve-
land Clinic. “To have a healthy
gut, one must avoid eating foods
that foster the growth of bacteria
that create unhealthy metabo-
lites.” Friendly bacteria aid the
metabolism of nutrients and
help certain compounds get into
the bloodstream. A diverse pop-
ulation of health-promoting
flora protects the gut from the
go with less helpful strains.

your gut In contrast, an outsize num-


ber of less beneficial flora—which
Not all bacteria proliferate with a diet high in
are bad for you. sugar, fat, and processed food—
In fact, the probiotic can cause gas, discomfort, bloat-
bacteria that live
ing, and inflammation. The flora
in your stomach and
can also emit chemicals that
intestines help
regulate digestion, compromise the intestinal lining,
safeguard your says Lita Proctor, Ph.D., of the
immunity, and even Human Microbiome Project at the
help maintain your National Institutes of Health: “This
weight. Here’s so-called ‘leaky gut’ allows non-
how to cultivate the nutritive materials to slip into our
best flora for over-
bodies and affect how we feel.”
all health.
Incredibly, some bacteria
illustration BY
ben wiseman might even make you fat: A recent
study of twins, published in
Nature, found that when bacteria
from an obese human twin were
introduced into the digestive sys-
tems of lean mice, the mice
they are terms previously not Essentially, the gut is your Alejandro Junger, author of Clean
turned fat; when bacteria from
part of polite conversation—let body’s gatekeeper, letting in Gut (Harper, 2013). “We could
the thin sibling were introduced
alone TV commercials: Intestinal helpful compounds and evicting feel so much better—we just don’t
into lean mice, the mice stayed
distress. Irregularity. Irritable harmful ones. It’s home to 70 to know it.”
lean. Studies also suggest that dia-
bowel syndrome. Where food 80 percent of our immune cells.
  The Bacteria That Rule betic and obese patients tend to
goes after it’s eaten, however, When the gut is in good shape,
lack a diversity of bacteria, and the
has become a hot topic. Indeed, our systems run efficiently, but Your Body
Cleveland Clinic found that some
emerging research is linking the when it’s not, we may experience The gut is swarming with about
health of our gut—the entire upset stomach, be at risk for 100 trillion bacteria, or flora, bacteria metabolize components
digestive system, particularly the weight gain or digestive problems which outnumber human cells in of egg and meat to produce a
stomach, intestines, and colon— like heartburn and constipation, our body 10 to 1. Bacteria are compound that aids in the clog-
to general wellness. “New data or just feel vaguely out of sorts. often considered “good” or “bad.” ging of arteries. “This might
shows that the gut is critical to For many people, that run-down “These bacteria and the com- explain why some unhealthy eaters
our well-being,” says Mark Li- feeling has lasted so long that pounds they excrete can have get heart disease while others
ponis, M.D., medical director of it’s mistaken for the norm, says positive and negative effects on don’t,” says Hazen.
the Canyon Ranch health resorts. New York City cardiologist a person’s health,” says Stanley Continued on page 127

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127
how-to handbook Health

  Habits for a Healthy Gut Eat plenty of prebiotics. You can


The good news is that you can nourish healthful flora with Flora for
reset your gut bacteria, swap- prebiotics, which contain non- Thought
ping bad flora for good. “Get the digestible carbohydrates— Over-the-counter
probiotic supple-
right type in your gut and, de- found in whole grains, onions, ments (such as
pending on your condition, you garlic, leeks, artichokes, aspara- Martha Stewart
may begin to see improvements gus, and chicory root. Regular Essentials Diges-
tive Health) are
in a matter of days or weeks,” intake has been associated with helpful, but you
says Edmond Huang, Ph.D., a decreases in irritable bowel want to ingest real
metabolic biologist at the Univer- syndrome and fat storage (and food as your pri-
mary source for
sity of California, Berkeley. To may reduce allergic reactions health-bolstering
cultivate healthful microflora, like skin rashes)—as well as an microflora.
you want to nourish the desirable increase in an overall feeling plain yogurt
species while killing off the bad. of well-being, according to a Look for a kind
Beware of antibiotics, however, 2010 issue of the British Journal with multiple
varieties of pro-
which decimate the flora keeping of Nutrition. biotic cultures
our bodies healthy along with Avoid fatty foods. According to (Stonyfield, for
those causing illness and infec- studies done in mice, dietary instance, has six).

tion. “Every course of antibiotics fats can damage the gut lining, Kimchi
has a chance for such complica- thus allowing the undesirable Like sauerkraut
and sour pickles,
tions as yeast infections, skin chemicals released by certain this spicy Korean
rashes, and allergic reactions,” bacteria to leak into the blood- cabbage dish is
says Liponis. Use these drugs stream and inflame the tissues made by a process
of fermenting, and
only when needed, and always surrounding it. What’s more, it contains many
supplement with probiotics some fats “raise the population probiotic strains.
to repopulate the healthful flora. of unfriendly bacteria,” says Kombucha
Choose food-based probiotics first. Rob Knight, a professor of chem- We like the
Probiotics—the good bacteria istry and biochemistry at the probiotic-packed
effervescence of
in fermented foods and supple- University of Colorado, Boulder. kombucha. Since
ments (see “Flora for Thought,” Control your stress. Stress may it’s made by fer-
right)—bolster the number of change the makeup of your gut menting black tea,
it can contain
friendly bacteria in the gut. For flora. A 2011 Brain, Behavior, and 0.05 percent alco-
relatively healthy people, it’s Immunity study reported that hol—so be mind-
always a good idea to start with stressed-out mice (which had ful of that if you’ll
be driving.
real food before taking supple- been left in a cage with aggres-
ments. Bifidobacteria, found in sive mice!) experienced a plunge Miso paste
Miso paste is
most yogurt, release chemicals in beneficial bacteria and an in- made by ferment-
that create an acidic environ- crease in inflammatory chemi- ing a mixture of
ment in which many harmful cals in the blood serum. Stress soybeans, barley,
rice, and other
bacteria can’t thrive. And “alters the functioning of the grains. To maximize
yogurt with the common strain immune system—either by sup- its probiotic pow-
Lactobacillus rhamnosus may pressing or enhancing its re- ers, mix the paste
into food or soup
improve your mood: A 2013 study sponse to foreign invaders,” says just before it comes
published in Gastroenterology Ohio State University associate off the heat
found that when healthy women professor of oral biology Michael (do not let it boil).

ate 125 grams of yogurt twice Bailey, the paper’s author. For
daily for four weeks, their brain the good of your gut—and health—
scans showed a less intense figure out why you’re anxious,
response when exposed to nega- and take measures to eliminate
tive images. those stressors. —Amy Young

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