Science tells us we are all more microbe than human—and that among the trillions of bacteria swimming around in our bodies (found primarily in the digestive tract), there are beneficial microbes that play an important role in everything from keeping us regular to supporting our immune health. But just how well do we treat our friendly bacteria? Two new studies point out a couple ways we might be falling short.
Artificial Sweeteners are Anything but Sweet
Scientists in Israel recently conducted a study using mice and determined that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin may be changing our gut bacteria and contributing to obesity and related health conditions. When a group of young mice was fed a daily dose of water mixed with artificial sweeteners, the faux sugar solution stimulated the growth of certain microbes linked to fat storage. In addition, it delayed healthy glucose absorption, causing abnormally high blood sugar levels.
Unhealthy Fats May Be Changing Your Gut Microbes
As much as we love greasy burgers and fries, all those unhealthy fats may be altering our gut bacteria in a way that negatively impacts mood and behavior. Researchers from Louisiana State University recently completed a study that spotlights the intensity of the gut-brain connection and illustrates how changes in our microbiome can have far-reaching effects. Using mice, they were able to determine that gut bacteria populations associated with a high-fat diet were linked to heightened feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as problems with cognitive function and memory.
How to Get a Head Start on Healthy Gut
The good news is that our gut bacteria respond quickly to positive changes in diet. Start by loading up on non-starchy vegetables, low-sugar fruits, fermented foods, healthy fats, and protein to promote a balanced gut. Avoid artificial sweeteners and unhealthy fats, as well as foods high in starches and sugar.