There are 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells in your whole body and fermented foods provide your body with the building blocks for bacteria. Eating fermented foods that contain live cultures can add healthy microbes to your intestines, explains Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, Ph.D., R.D., spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Some of the foods you eat directly increase the quantity of healthy bacteria in your gut. When buying fermented foods, look for the word “live” such as “live cultured” pickles, sauerkraut or yogurt. If you’re unsure, call the manufacturer to ask if the product has live cultures or if the food was processed in a way that kills or removes any beneficial bacteria.
Fiber feeds the healthy, hungry microbes, so that’s one of many reasons you should have lots of high-fiber plant foods, including grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, on your plate. Medications, hygiene, age, health status and diet can influence your microbe balance.
Friendly bacteria unlock powerful nutrients. They have the digestive enzymes needed to break down fiber for energy. In the process, the helpful bacteria produce gases and various acids that benefit the intestine and other body systems. Commit to diet changes. Changing the makeup of your intestinal bacteria requires long-term commitment. It takes about three to six months of eating the right foods, such as high-fiber plant foods and fermented foods to see a difference.
An interesting tip on how to tell if you have an ideal composition of microbes is to look at your feces. Feces that float suggest healthy fermentation in which a lot of carbon dioxide gas is produced and trapped into the fecal matter. Sinkers represent poor fermentation with little trapped carbon dioxide and poorer health consequences.