The fear of getting sick from bad bacteria has led to excessive use of hand sanitizers, but not all bacteria should be feared. The digestive tract contains 400 different bacterial species whose function is to maintain the integrity of the intestinal tract and aid digestion. An imbalance of good and bad bacteria can arise from infections, gastrointestinal issues or overuse of antibiotics. In these cases, replace the good bacteria to restore your immune system and digestive tract.
Eat yogurt. Yogurt contains live active cultures such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacerium bifidum, and Lactobacillus bulcaris. These cultures will provide the environment your digestive tract needs to grow healthy bacteria. Consuming 8 ounces of yogurt daily can provide good bacteria to support a healthy immune system, relieve irritable bowl syndrome symptoms and maintain the function of the digestive system.
Eat foods rich in prebiotics. According to the Mayo Clinic, prebiotics are found in non-digestible carbohydrates such as honey, artichokes, bananas, whole grains, onions and garlic. Prebiotics are a food source for good bacteria and including them in the diet can fuel their growth.
Take a probiotic supplement. These supplements are offered in a pill or powder form that can be added to your food or drink. It is especially important to take a supplement during or after antibiotic use. Antibiotics work to kill off infection caused by bad bacteria, but some good bacteria die off as well. Probiotics contain live active cultures that will provide a healthy environment for the good bacteria to grow back. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, probiotics can prevent irritable bowel disease, diarrhea, infections, allergies and other gastrointestinal issues.
Increase foods rich in probiotics. In addition to yogurt, foods such as kefir, unpasteurized sauerkraut, miso soup, gouda cheese, fermented milk or buttermilk and tempeh are all rich in probiotics. Combining probiotics and prebiotics can increase good bacteria in the stomach to help sustain a healthy digestive system.
Madiha T. Ahmad is a nutritionist with a Master of Science in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport and a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from the University of Florida.