Growing up I often heard from my dad that “antacids are bad” and “eat natural yogurt for the good bacteria.” It wasn’t until I got older, and started paying attention to my gut, that I fully understood why my dad was right.
Antacids calm your stomach by neutralizing the acids that cause inflammation and heartburn, but it doesn’t solve the underlying issue. Heartburn, acid reflux, and inflammation are ultimately caused by foods not properly digesting.
Enter: Your gut microbiome, home of the thousands of microbes that help your gut process the food you eat.
A healthy gut has a diverse community of microbes. Of these microbes, the most important are the good bacteria which aid in preventing bad bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc., from entering the rest of your body. A leaky gut happens when there’s an imbalance between the beneficial bacteria and the bad stuff (cue heartburn, etc.).
And it doesn’t end there. Your gut is also responsible for communicating with the rest of your body.
Sometimes known as the 2nd brain, it has over 100 million neurons through which the gut influences mood/emotions/behavior.
It helps heart health by producing good cholesterol and preventing production of TMAO, a chemical that contributes to clogged arteries and heart attacks or strokes.
A few tips to help maintain the health of your gut.
Eat a wide variety of foods.  Variety of food = diverse microbiome. Be sure to get enough fiber, whole grains, vegetables, and foods rich in polyphenols. Fiber helps good bacteria grow. Whole grains contain lots of fiber and beneficial carbs like beta-glucan, which can lower the risk of diseases. Having more vegetables in your diet may reduce levels of disease-causing bacteria, inflammation, and bad cholesterol. Polyphenols (found in foods like green tea and dark chocolate) stimulate healthy bacterial growth and help with inflammation.
Get your probiotics AND prebiotics. Get your probiotics AND prebiotics. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria. Prebiotic foods include asparagus, artichokes, oats, and apples. Probiotic foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi are a great source of live bacteria, specifically lactobacilli bacteria which is a good bacterium.
Not everyone is a fan of eating probiotic food. If you find it hard to eat these foods, look for a probiotic supplement like PureBiotics™ Maxima, which contains at least 100 billion total probiotic cultures from 15 different strains and supports healthy gut flora.
Limit use of artificial sweeteners and antibiotics. Artificial sweeteners can increase growth of unhealthy bacteria and throw off blood sugar levels. Antibiotics are good for getting rid of the unhealthy bacteria, but they also kill the good bacteria and can cause disruption in the microbiome.
Exercise. Research shows that physically active people have more diverse microbiomes.  Exercise also stimulates the colon and bowel movements. Doing moderately-physical activity at least 150 minutes each week is recommended.
Eat small meals- frequently and slowly. Small meals and slower eating give your digestive system a chance to keep up without the risk of being overfull.
Manage stress levels. When you’re stressed, your gut knows it. Being stressed can even decrease the number of healthy bacteria in your gut! Yoga and meditation are good ways to handle stress.
- Hydrate. Drinking at least eight 8oz glasses of water a day is a good start.
Your lifestyle and diet can have a serious impact on the balance in your gut. Never underestimate the importance of each positive change you make - it’s one step closer to a healthier gut and a happier you.
 O'Mahony, S M et al. “Serotonin, tryptophan metabolism and the brain-gut-microbiome axis.” Behavioural brain research vol. 277 (2015): 32-48. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2014.07.027
 Heiman, Mark L, and Frank L Greenway. “A healthy gastrointestinal microbiome is dependent on dietary diversity.” Molecular metabolism vol. 5,5 317-320. 5 Mar. 2016, doi:10.1016/j.molmet.2016.02.005
 Monda, Vincenzo et al. “Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity vol. 2017 (2017): 3831972. doi:10.1155/2017/3831972