Supporting Gut Flora Naturally

Gut Flora Restoration: Normal gut flora plays a significant role in the functioning of our immune system, making its good condition crucial.

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Many people might still dismiss the importance of gut flora with a wave of the hand upon hearing the term.

This might be partly because it is not officially considered an organ, so the concept of gut flora balance might sound alien to some people, unworthy of attention. However, when they encounter illnesses, such as depression or obesity, and discover that these may be linked to disruptions in gut flora balance, they realize the critical role it plays in their lives and the essential need to pay attention to it for the sake of their health.

But what exactly is gut flora, or scientifically, the microbiome? And what's all the fuss about it?

The Composition of Gut Flora
Every human body hosts a community comprising billions of microorganisms. This is the gut flora or, alternatively, the microbiome. Science began to understand this community in depth starting from the mid-20th century.

When we talk about gut flora, we usually refer to the bacteria living on the mucous membrane of the intestines. This is because the gut flora predominantly consists of intestinal bacteria, although it also includes a smaller number of other microorganisms: viruses, fungi, and other microscopic life forms.

The gut flora makes up about 3.3 to 4.4 pounds of our body weight.

The majority of these microorganisms, about 70%, live in our colon in an anaerobic environment. They do not need oxygen for their life functions and obtain their nutrients through fermentation.

Just like the plot of a popular Netflix series, our gut flora has its good and bad actors working together or competing. In layman's terms, we refer to the beneficial bacteria as "good" bacteria. In scientific terms, these beneficial bacteria are called probiotics. Well-known names from the community of good bacteria include Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. We call harmful bacteria that cause diseases and negatively affect human health "bad" bacteria, medically known as pathogenic bacteria. Well-known types include Salmonella and Clostridium.

For decades, even centuries, scientists discussed only pathogenic bacteria. Even today, most of us think of harmful bacteria when the topic comes up. Mentally and practically, we are prepared to combat bacteria with disinfectants at hand and antibiotics in our medicine cabinets.

However, since the mid-2000s, with the advent of gene sequencing, vital information about bacteria that protect our health has come to light. Nobel Prize-winning and Nobel Prize-nominated scientists have emerged from among those researching this field. Some researchers view the microbiome as our "second genome," while others consider it an organ in its own right.

Science has revealed that we host a multitude of bacteria beneficial to the human body, many of which play specifically protective roles.

If we want to live healthily, without overweight and free from mental stress, it's time to focus on supporting the good bacteria.

Gut Bacteria
The several trillion bacteria living in us belong to hundreds of different bacterial species. Among them, 30-40 species make up 99% of the total gut flora. The bacteria species in the digestive tract are organized into four dominant bacterial phyla: Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, Actinobacteria, and Proteobacteria. Commonly mentioned beneficial Bifidobacterium species, for example, belong to the Actinobacteria phylum. Beneficial species also include Lactobacilli and Eubacteria, which inhibit the growth of pathogenic organisms through their lactic acid production. The composition of gut flora is linked to obesity: individuals prone to weight gain have a higher ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes.

Every person's microbiome is unique, and every bacterium plays an important role in this hidden community.

The Advantage of Diverse Gut Flora

"Do not imagine the microbiome as a spontaneous, chaotic mess in the gut, but rather as a highly organized entity performing serious tasks within us. This cooperation is only conceivable if there is balance and symbiosis among the microbes, as well as between them and us, for we cannot live without them," emphasizes Dr. Márta Forrai in her book about gut flora.

Remarkably, although there is competition among different gut bacteria for living space, the ideal state is not the exclusive dominance of good or bad bacteria. Human health is served by maintaining the natural balance among bacterial species, i.e., the balance of gut flora. It is crucial that no single group of bacteria becomes dominant. If the balance of gut flora is upset, the suppressed bacterial species' tasks go unfulfilled. Just as biodiversity is crucial for environmental protection, the community of gut bacteria functions best when our lifestyle and diet maintain the balance of gut flora.

An imbalance in gut flora can lead to the development of chronic inflammatory diseases.

From a health perspective, it is beneficial for the gut flora to consist of a diverse and varied community.

The Role of Gut Flora
The gut microbiome, consisting of trillions of individual organisms, plays multifaceted roles in the proper functioning of the human body.

The diverse bacterial flora in the digestive system participates in metabolic processes and digestion. Some gut bacteria are responsible for transforming certain amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, into nutrients. Others ferment the dietary fibers consumed with food.

Gut bacteria stimulate the absorption of various minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron and produce B vitamins, vitamin K, and essential fatty acids crucial for the body's healthy functioning.

They are also actively involved in the production of neurohormones.

Gut flora is linked to disease prevention and the proper functioning of our immune system. This is partly because beneficial bacteria physically occupy the surface of the intestinal mucosa, making it difficult for harmful bacteria to establish themselves. Their mere presence reduces the likelihood of pathogenic bacteria adhering to and colonizing the digestive tract. Besides physical defense, beneficial bacteria also provide chemical protection by producing acids that destroy pathogenic bacteria.

The Protective Role of the Intestinal Mucosa

The intestinal mucosa separates our body from the digestive content passing through the gastrointestinal tract. It must be in perfect condition to prevent any harmful substances or pathogens from the digestive content from leaking into the human body through the bloodstream.

After the consumed food is digested in the stomach, the broken-down nutrients suitable for absorption move to the small intestine. The surface of the small intestine's mucosa, rich in finger-like protrusions called villi, multiplies the surface area for efficient nutrient absorption. Thanks to the villi, we have a surface area as large as a tennis court to utilize the nutrients from proteins, carbohydrates, and fats broken down in the stomach and the first part of the small intestine. The indigestible part of our food, far from being useless, plays a crucial role.

We cannot digest dietary fibers, yet they are essential for us.

Both soluble and insoluble fibers have numerous beneficial effects.

Insoluble fibers aid in eliminating harmful substances and absorb water, swelling to help fill the section of the colon, thereby facilitating the easier passage of bowel content.

Soluble fibers mostly nourish the beneficial bacteria in the digestive system.

During fermentation, substances critical to the integrity of the intestinal wall, including specific fatty acids, are produced. These substances, through the so-called gut-brain axis, influence our immune system, nervous system function, mood, and metabolism. If we don't consume enough fermentable fiber, our good bacteria won't get their nutrients and won't be able to produce compounds that maintain the integrity of the intestinal mucosa. The balance of gut flora can be disrupted, weakening the intestinal wall integrity and allowing inflammatory and autoimmune-triggering substances to enter our circulation.

The intestinal mucosa is a protective barrier. It's crucial to maintain its integrity, one of the main pillars being the consumption of a sufficient and varied amount of dietary fibers.

The Protective Gut Flora

There is a close correlation between the equilibrium state of gut flora and human health. Scientifically, it is believed that 70-80% of the immune system is located in the colon. A healthy, balanced gut flora supports the immune system, enhancing the body's resistance to diseases. The disruption of gut flora balance and the rise in lifestyle-related diseases are clearly linked.

Supporting the gut flora's balanced state with a fiber-rich diet can significantly contribute to preventing obesity, diabetes, chronic inflammations, autoimmune diseases, and more. The equilibrium state of gut flora plays a crucial role in:

- Maintaining ideal body weight and preventing obesity
- Avoiding allergic and asthmatic conditions
- Reducing the risk of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases and autoimmune diseases like IBS, Crohn's disease, or ulcerative colitis
- Preventing chronic inflammatory joint diseases
- Avoiding gastrointestinal cancers
- Preventing type 2 diabetes
- Preventing high cholesterol levels
- Reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases
- Lowering the risk of developing depression

The Delicate Balance of Gut Flora

The health of gut flora is ensured by its balanced state. A balanced gut flora means that the presence of beneficial bacteria dominates in the digestive system.

Maintaining the balance of gut flora helps prevent numerous lifestyle-related diseases. If the balance between good and bad bacteria is disrupted, striving to restore gut flora balance can significantly contribute to successfully treating the developed conditions.

One of the most important methods to maintain healthy gut flora and restore it is consuming dietary fibers that beneficial bacteria can utilize.


Consumption of Prebiotics

Foods that facilitate the growth and dominance of beneficial, disease-preventing microorganisms in our health are technically referred to as prebiotics. Prebiotics are food for the bacteria living in the colon, comprising fibers that we cannot digest. These undigested fibers in the colon nourish the beneficial, fatty acid-producing "good" bacteria. The bacteria obtain nutrients through the fermentation, or fermentation, of these fibers.

Prebiotics that nourish gut flora belong to the diverse family of carbohydrates. Two excellent nutrients for the gut flora are the large dietary fibers: inulin and pectin. High amounts of inulin are found in onions, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, and the less-known in the U.S., Jerusalem artichoke, as well as in the award-winning activé FiberShake.

Pectin, another long-chain carbohydrate found in apples and citrus fruits, is also considered among the best prebiotics.

Not only the very long-chain polysaccharides help maintain the gut flora's balance. The much shorter chain oligosaccharides, made up of no more than 9 sugar molecules, also play a crucial role in the advancement of beneficial bacteria.

Therefore, the regular consumption of vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds is important.

The beneficial effects of consuming dietary fibers include binding a portion of sugar and slowing the absorption of carbohydrates, which helps moderate blood sugar spikes and achieve a more stable blood sugar curve. It is advisable to consume simple carbohydrates (such as those containing natural and added sugars) and starches (like pasta, rice, bread, and potatoes) together with fibers. This is an easily implementable, everyday strategy for preventing diabetes and insulin resistance.

By nourishing beneficial bacteria, prebiotics support immune system function, reduce the risk of obesity, inflammatory diseases, and autoimmune conditions.

It is wise to choose the ingredients of our meals from plant foods, i.e., natural sources of fiber, in a colorful and varied manner!

Prebiotics and Bloating

For those who consume little fiber, it is strongly recommended to gradually accustom themselves to a higher fiber intake. Due to the increased fiber, beneficial bacteria ferment more fermentable fibers, which not only increases the amount of beneficial acids produced but also the amount of gas released. The increased gas production can lead to bloating and flatulence, temporarily disrupting daily activities. This should not deter anyone from consuming fibers! Discomfort can be avoided by gradually increasing fiber intake until reaching the recommended minimum of about 30 grams per day.

The feeling of bloating during the adjustment period to fibers is clearly a consequence of the intensive nourishment and proliferation of good bacteria.

In the long run, enduring these inconveniences is definitely worthwhile.

Maintaining the balance of gut flora does not demand extremes in diet. There's no need to completely give up our favorite foods, but it is important to pay attention to the proportions!

The key to maintaining gut flora balance lies in gradualness, variety, and moderation.



Gut flora often encounters substances that harm the beneficial bacteria residing within. Antibiotics, especially when used over a long term, can disrupt the balance of the gut flora. Antibiotics are a defense against dangerous, even deadly pathogens and are rightly seen as one of humanity's greatest medical achievements. Unfortunately, the use of antibiotics has become routine over the past decades. For a long time, broad-spectrum antibiotics appeared to simplify treatment by targeting a wide range of bacteria. Only recently has it been recognized that, from the perspective of gut flora, this is akin to carpet bombing.

Just as civilian populations are not spared in carpet bombings during wars, antibiotics can also destroy part of our beneficial bacteria in the fight against pathogens. Frequent, prolonged use of antibiotics can reduce the diversity of the gut flora, with individual susceptibility and the type of antibiotic determining the extent of loss. Antibiotic treatment is often inevitable, but it's crucial to focus on restoring gut flora balance during and after antibiotic use. Regenerating gut flora after antibiotic treatment can take time, necessitating adequate fiber intake.

Artificial Sweeteners

A less well-known cause of gut flora imbalance is the use of artificial sweeteners. Their harmful effects can be measured alongside the damages caused by antibiotics, but their benefits fall short compared to the necessity and advantages of antibiotic use.

Some artificial sweeteners can damage the cell membranes of gut bacteria, causing an imbalance in gut flora.

Recent research suggests that aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, neotame, advantame, and acesulfame K could be linked to disruptions in microbiome balance.

A study in mice showed that after 12 weeks of consuming sucralose (one of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners), the number of gut bacteria decreased by more than 50%, with numbers of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli dropping by more than 70% and 60%, respectively.

The numbers of "good" bacteria did not return to their original levels even after a subsequent 12-week period without artificial sweeteners.

Birth Process, Environmental Impacts

The mode of birth can influence the composition of gut flora. The initial gut flora of infants born via cesarean section shows a different pattern compared to those born vaginally.

Following birth, experienced illnesses, medical treatments, environmental chemicals, substances found in cosmetics, environmental toxins, and even emotional impacts can disrupt the balance of gut flora. While some of these factors are beyond our control, the most significant actions we can take to preserve gut flora balance are in the realm of nutrition.

Low-Fiber Diet

We can also be the cause of our own gut flora imbalance if we do not provide the right nutrients for the beneficial bacteria through adequate consumption of the right types of fiber.

Consuming the recommended 30 grams of dietary fiber daily helps maintain the balance of gut flora.



Regenerating gut flora can be significantly aided through diet by consuming probiotics and prebiotics.

Probiotics refer to beneficial bacteria introduced into the body through food or supplements. These external good bacteria are considered probiotics if they contain an adequate number of live cultures, remain viable during storage, and can survive the acidic environment of the stomach and the digestive enzymes in the small intestine to reach the colon in sufficient numbers.

Creating such products is a considerable challenge. The majority of externally sourced probiotics merely pass through our digestive system, but they play a vital role by displacing harmful bacteria in the gut flora. Probiotics can be consumed through natural yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables like sauerkraut. Probiotic supplements from well-chosen pharmacies also offer external support. The most common traveling probiotics are bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.


Prebiotics are fibers that feed the good bacteria in the colon. If the gut flora balance is disrupted, one of the most important actions is to consume a fiber-rich diet. Eat plenty of legumes, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, or support your gut flora with fiber supplements. Fiber consumption is crucial for supporting gut flora balance. It's recommended to consume at least 30 grams of fiber daily for noticeable benefits. Given our lifestyle, it's nearly impossible for people in Western civilizations to consume this amount without conscious effort. Surveys indicate that an average adult consumes only about 15-18 grams of fiber daily. These figures highlight the need for greater fiber awareness to restore and maintain our gut flora balance.

Restoring gut flora is a lengthy process, taking weeks or months.

After restoring gut flora, it's important to adhere to proven fiber consumption habits to maintain the achieved results.

Spinach-Kiwi Green Smoothie Bowl with FiberShake

Every bite we eat either feeds the beneficial bacteria for our health or nourishes the harmful ones.

Referenced Literature:

Dr. Márta Forrai: "The Pledge of Our Health: The Microbiome, The Latest Discoveries in Healing from a Practicing Physician's Perspective"
Justin and Erica Sonnenburg: "The Good Gut, Taking control of your weight, your mood, and your long-term health"
Justin and Erica Sonnenburg: "Gut Reaction"
[Online resource on gut microbiome research]
[NCBI article on the human microbiome]

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