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Health Spotlight: Boosting the gut

(WISH) — Gut health can be important for overall health.

The gut helps digest food, absorb nutrients and much more. The gut contains trillions of bacteria that are important for overall health and well-being, and some bacteria that aren’t so good.

So, what can be done to protect gut health? Did you know the bacteria living in the gut affect sleep, weight, digestion, cancer risk, mental health, and other important functions?

Dr. Bruce Stevens of the University of Florida said, “This bacteria kind of steers our physiology, steers our basic health.”

Experts call this gut bacteria the microbiome, and a balanced microbiome is a healthy one.

Stevens said, “Basically, there’s a chemical warfare that occurs between the good and bad guy bacteria.”

Luckily, gut health can be boosted in some simple ways.

First, eat a diverse diet that includes whole, nutrient-rich foods. Try consuming more fermented products including yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, or kombucha. They contain probiotics that help your gut balance itself.

Also, drink coffee. That cup of joe has prebiotics, which are special plant fibers that help healthy bacteria grow in the gut.

Lastly, get enough soluble fiber. It’s found in foods like oats, legumes, and fruit.

Next, limit the use of antibiotics. They can wipe out healthy bacteria along with bad bacteria.

Exercise can also boost the growth of some gut bacteria.

But, there is research that has shown exposure to blue light before bed may have a negative impact on sleep, which could affect the balance of bacteria in the gut. People might want to try blue-light-blocking glasses to help wind down and sleep better.

Studies show the more diverse someone’s diet is, the more diverse his or her gut bacteria is, and what people eat can impact the gut within 24 hours.

Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network. This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV.