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Feed the friendly bacteria living in your gut

Here’s how to give your friendly gut bugs the fuel they need to thrive.

Your gut’s teeming with lots of friendly microbes that are now thought to be important for your overall health.

Scientists are still working to understand the precise roles these microbes play in wellbeing but certain good bacteria are accepted as being positive for our health.1,2,3

The friendly bacteria

These bacteria are some of the most beneficial in terms of keeping your digestion and gut healthy:

1. Lactobacillus

This bacteria plays a key role in gut health. A 2016 report published in World Journal of Gastroenterology found that lactobacilli can ease symptoms of IBS, like stomach bloating. potentially preventing or easing IBS symptoms.4,5

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2. Bifidobacteria

This is the first bacteria to colonise babies’ guts, and it’s also thought to play an important role in immune system health. However, scientists are still investigating how bifidobacteria has this effect.6,7

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3. Christensenella

As part of a twin study at New York State’s Cornell University and King’s College London, researchers found that slim people have higher levels of a particular strain of this bacteria – Christensenellaceae minuta – suggesting it may play a role in managing body weight.8

How friendly bacteria help us

While more research is needed into the different microbes and how each specifically helps our health, scientists agree that having a diverse community of gut bugs is important. Research shows good levels of different microbes helps keep in check the unfriendly bugs, such as salmonella, which causes food poisoning. And emerging science is showing a variety of good gut bacteria could help prevent a range of conditions, from IBS to depression.9,10,11

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Build up your bugs

So how do you ensure your good gut bacteria thrive? Eating foods rich in microbes – like yoghurt and sauerkraut – may be one way of boosting your microbiome, the community of microbes in your gut. But it’s also very important to feed the beneficial bacteria already living there.12

High-fibre foods

People in hunter-gatherer communities in Tanzania have far more diverse microbes than we do, and scientists believe that may be partly because they have much more fibre in their diet. Think fresh fruit, vegetables, pulses and whole grains, which act as a sort of manure for your gut bugs.13 It’s especially important to include onions, garlic, banana, asparagus and artichoke in your diet. These foods contain inulin or oligofructose – particular types of fibre that are fermented in your gut by bacteria. So while all types of fibre feed good microbes, this group are your gut bugs’ superfood of choice.14

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Foods containing polyphenols

A 2013 study, published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, reported that this nutritious plant compound, found in berries, dark chocolate, red wine, green tea and coffee, helps gut bugs thrive. Luckily, it’s not too hard for most of us to get these in our diets!15,16
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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1. Distrutti E, et al. Gut microbiota role in irritable bowel syndrome. New therapeutic strategies. Available from:
2. Ruiz L, et al. Bifidobacteria and Their Molecular Communication with the Immune System. Available from:
3. Medical News Today. Increasing certain strain of bacteria in the gut ‘could reduce, prevent obesity’. Available from:
4. Sivieri K, et al. Lactobacillus acidolphilus CRL 1014 improved ‘gut health’ in the SHIME reactor
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7. O’Callaghan A and van Sinderen D. Bifidobacteria and Their Role as Members of the Human Gut Microbiota. Available from:
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9. Conlon MA and Bird AR. The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health. Available from:
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12. BBC. Is fermented food a recipe for good gut health? Available from:
13. Schnorr SL, et al. Gut microbiome of the Hadza hunter-gatherers. Available from:
14. Niness KR. Inulin and Oligofructose: What Are They? Available from:
15. Cardona F, et al. Benefits of polyphenols on gut icrobiota and implications in human health. Available from:
16. Healthline. Top foods with polyphenols. Available from: