The bacteria that live in our gut have a critical role in helping or hurting our health. A new study found intake of some foods was consistently associated with the presence of “bad” bacteria, and others with “good” bacteria, according to the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.
The researchers examined bacteria in the stool of over 1,400 individuals in the Netherlands and compared this with self-reported food intake. A little less than half the participants had a diagnosed digestive disorder (inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome), and the rest were representative of the general population. Overall, processed foods, animal products, sugar, and fast food were consistently associated with the presence of more “bad” bacteria—those likely to produce endotoxins that damage the gut’s mucus layer—whereas higher intake of minimally processed plant foods and fish was associated with bacteria species involved in healthier nutrient metabolism and the production of beneficial compounds. This study supports a growing body of evidence that feeding ourselves—and our gut bacteria—well is an important pathway for good health.