5 Ways Gut Bacteria Are Good for More Than Just Your Gut

A cup of yogurt with berries in it
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Exercise may improve more than just the look and diameter of your gut, according to a recent study. It may also increase the bacterial diversity within it, the study published in June in the journal Gut showed.

But is having more gut bacteria a good thing?

To give you an idea of the importance of your gut bacteria: At any given moment, you are housing more microbes than human cells. The largest populations of these microbes reside in the large intestine and the mouth, although you'll also find them elsewhere.

We begin collecting these microbes the moment we are born, and continue throughout our lives. In recent years, researchers have begun to pay more attention to these microbes and their impact on our health. [5 Ways Gut Bacteria Affect Your Health]

Here are just a few of the results showing the reasons why gut bacteria is good for more than just the gut.

1. Diabetes prevention: A daily dose of probiotics (good microbes) may help prevent weight gain and insulin resistance, according to a mouse study published in 2013 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Insulin resistance is a condition that can be a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

2. Improved urinary tract health: Probiotics may be beneficial in preventing urinary tract infections in women, according to a 2006 review of peer-reviewed studies published in the journal Drugs.

3. Allergy prevention or treatment: Women who take probiotics during pregnancy may reduce their child's chances of developing allergies, according to the evidence from available studies presented in a 2013 article in the journal Pediatrics.

4. Improved immunity: Probiotics may increase the activity of immune cells in the elderly, according to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Nutritional Science.

5. Women's reproductive health: Five strains of Lactobacillius bacteria (a type of probiotics) may be effective in fighting overgrowths of Candida, a type of fungi that is often responsible for vaginal infections, according to a study published in February in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.

If you'd like to populate your gut with healthy probiotics, without taking a supplement, consider adding more of the following to your diet:

  • Sauerkraut (from the refrigerated section)
  • Miso
  • Kimchi
  • Pickles
  • Tempeh
  • Plain yogurt

Healthy Bites appears weekly on Live Science. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @1minwellness, and read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!

Deborah Enos
Deborah Enos, CN, also known as "The One-Minute Wellness Coach," is The Health Coach for busy, working people. She pares her good-health messages down to simple and fast bullet points that can impact lives in 60 seconds or less. Deborah serves as a board member of the American Heart Association.  In addition to writing the Healthy Bites column for Live Science, Deborah is a regular on FOX Business News, NBC and ABC, and is a frequent contributor to The Costco Connection, Parade Magazine, Self Magazine, Good Housekeeping and USA Today. Deborah is also The One Minute Wellness Coach for The Doctors TV Show.