Are you feeling lethargic, depressed or get ill easily? If you are, then your body bacteria may be out of whack. "Your body contains a complex ecosystem of bacteria, both good and bad, that when balanced, are vital to your immune system, helping to protect you from disease and rid your body of toxic waste," says James Yoon, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at St. Jude Heritage Medical Group. "But sometimes your diet can throw these systems out of balance. As a result, your body reacts by developing conditions such as inflammation, obesity, depression and many other chronic diseases."
So, what can you do to help restore balance to those bacterial ecosystems?
Step 1 - Drink more water. An excellent place to start is by eliminating sugar based fluids, such as diet cola, regular cola, milk based products and stimulants such as coffee and tea. Opt for water instead. “Drinking water can be boring, and you’ll find that during the first week, you’ll crave those sugary drinks and stimulants. That’s your body detoxing from all those unnatural, addictive chemicals,” Dr. Yoon says. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. Get through the first week, and you’ll find those cravings slowly start to go away.
“Aside from helping to restore the bacterial balance in your belly, water also has a host of other incredible benefits. It helps lift your mood, brighten your skin, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles caused by dehydration,” Dr. Yoon adds. The recommended minimum fluid consumption per day is half of your body weight, in ounces. For example, if you are 140 pounds, then you should consume 70 ounces of water per day.
Step 2 - Remove processed sugars and grains from your diet and avoid processed or pasteurized foods. “Yes, your body does need sugar to produce energy, but refined sugars promote the growth of candida and other yeasts in the body, and are known to fuel cancer cells,” Dr. Yoon states. They also contribute to chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Some healthy sources of sugar can be found in fruits and various root vegetables such as carrots and beets. Some examples of processed grains include wheat, cereals, bread, cakes and pretty much any food that cannot be either dug out of the ground or picked off of a tree. Corn, although natural, is also known to irritate the system, so it should be avoided.
Step 3 - Opt for unprocessed, natural carbs instead. A diet that is rich in unprocessed, natural carbohydrates helps to support a healthy microbiome ecosystem and thus a healthy body. Potatoes, rice, carrots, beets, fruits and vegetables are all excellent options.
Step 4 - Go pickled. Naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut and other pickled foods such as pickled cucumbers or Korean kimchi also help to promote a healthy balance.
“As doctors, we talk so much about healthy diet and exercise. But it’s not just a fad. Our bodies were designed to move around and to consume foods that occur naturally. A balanced diet that includes essential fats, proteins and carbohydrates is the best way to keep our immune systems healthy, our emotional and mental environments balanced, and our guts and bodies functioning properly,” Dr. Yoon says.
If you’re constantly feeling unwell and thinking about changing your diet, talk to your health care provider first. Your doctor will be able to pin point what is affecting your wellness, and advise whether switching from your current diet to one that promotes healthier bacterial ecosystems is the right choice for you.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.