Here are five choices to avoid and five to make to help your microbes keep you younger.

Things to avoid 

• Eating highly processed foods that are short on fiber and loaded with chemical additives, sugars and syrups, unhealthy oils (trans fats and saturated fat containing foods like egg yolks) and emulsifiers. Processed foods starve your good gut bacteria while letting bad ones thrive.

• Eating red and processed meats. Red and processed meats change your gut biome, trigger inflammation and are associated with everything from heart disease and depression to obesity, mental dysfunction and cancer, especially breast and prostate.

• Eating the same old, same old. A narrow diet denies your gut microbiome diversity and limits its adaptability when battling disease and working to keep you healthy. Epidemiologic data indicates the more diverse your gut microbiome, the longer you’ll live. Science doesn’t know why yet, but it implies you should vary your food choices and food shopping sites.  

• Taking unneeded antibiotics, often misprescribed for viral infections. At least 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed for outpatients are unnecessary, meaning that no antibiotic was needed at all.

• The three S’s: Sitting too much, sleeping too little and stressing too often. This triumvirate kills off gut diversity, which damages your endocrine and immune systems.

Five ways you can build or rebuild a healthy balance of microbes in the gut

• Exercise. A 2017 study in medicine and science in sports and exercise found that in healthy weight folks, six weeks of endurance training three days a week, increasing from 30 to 60 minutes a session, created measurable changes in the composition, functional capacity and metabolic output of gut microbiota, but you have to keep up the exercise to maintain the improvements. So, get a buddy and a pedometer and get going, heading for 10,000 steps a day or the equivalent.

• Eat prebiotics. These foods provide fuel for health-promoting gut bacteria. Prebiotic foods include oats and other 100 percent whole grains, legumes, nuts, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, leeks and asparagus. 

• Eat permented foods. Sauerkraut, low fat/no sugar added yogurt and kimchee, for example, deliver probiotics directly to your gut. You get probiotics from yogurt and keifer, but you have to eat more than several quarts a day of those to get the same number of lactobacillus colonies as you get from one of the probiotics we favor.

• Embrace diversity. Chemical messages from gut bacteria can alter chemical markers throughout the human genome that may help fight infection and chronic diseases. And those messages are produced when bacteria digest fruits and vegetables! So, adopt a diverse, plant-

heavy diet. You’ll be rewarded, because your gut biome reacts to the input of healthy food pretty quickly. 

• De-stress and sleep well. Just two days of sleep deprivation can increase the amount of gut bacteria you have that are associated with weight gain, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and slow fat metabolism. And a chronic stress response?  It affects the balance of gut bacteria, allowing for a less vigorous response to disease. 

Dr. Michael Roizen writes about wellness for the Cleveland Jewish News. He is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. 

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