IBS & Gut Bacteria

IBS & Gut Bacteria: Can You Really Improve Your Gut Bacteria?

The Tummy Clinic | June 1st, 2022

Here are tested tips that can bring results

Our gut is home to 300 to 500 different kinds of live bacteria. Most live in the intestines and colon. Along with other tiny organisms like viruses and fungi, they make up the microbiome. They affect everything from our metabolism to our mood, and our immune system. They are very important for health, and are thought to have the biggest impact on well-being. A disrupted microbiome can lead to numerous chronic diseases.

The good news is that there are scientifically proven ways to improve good gut bacteria. Here’s how you can do it…

Eat diverse

The intestines are home to different bacteria species, each of which plays a specific role in health. They each require different nutrients for growth. A diet containing different food types creates a more diverse microbiome, which is beneficial for health. This means bringing changes into the traditional Western diet which is high in fat and sugar.

Include high-fibre foods

There are several benefits to including vegetables, legumes, beans, and fruit in your daily diet. Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients that help create a healthy microbiome. They contain fibre, which can be digested by certain bacteria in the gut, and thus increases their growth. Beans and legumes contain high amounts of fibre. Include the following high-fibre foods that benefit gut bacteria: raspberries, artichokes, green peas, broccoli, chickpeas, lentils, beans, whole grains, bananas, and apples. What’s more, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables also prevents the growth of some disease-causing bacteria, and increases the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Fermented foods are key

When foods undergo fermentation, the sugars they contain are broken down by yeast or bacteria. Many fermented foods contain lactobacilli, which is a type of bacteria that can benefit health. Popular fermented foods include yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and tempeh. Yogurt consumption has been shown to improve intestinal bacteria, decrease symptoms of lactose intolerance, and improve the function and composition of the microbiome. However, it’s important to consume yogurt that contains live active cultures, and is plain and unsweetened.

Consume prebiotic foods

Prebiotic foods promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Prebiotic foods are mainly fibre or complex carbs that are broken down by certain types of bacteria in the gut. Many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain prebiotics; prebiotics can also be found on their own. Prebiotics can promote the growth of different varieties of beneficial bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria. Some types of prebiotics also bring down levels of insulin, triglyceride, and cholesterol in people with obesity. This helps prevent conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Opt for whole grains

There are many benefits to eating whole grains, which contain good amounts of fibre. They contain non-digestible carbs, which are not absorbed in the small intestine but move on to the large intestine, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Whole grains not only promote the growth of bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, and bacteroidetes in humans, but also increase feelings of fullness, reduce inflammation, and cut certain risk factors for heart disease.
Important: Do note that gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, and rye can have a negative impact on gut health. In some cases, they increase intestinal permeability and inflammation.

Choose a plant-based diet

As plant-based diets are high in fibre, they help benefit the gut microbiome. Studies show that vegetarian diets can lead to lower levels of disease-causing bacteria in people with obesity. They also help reduce body weight, inflammation, and cholesterol levels. Plant foods also contain certain nutrients that help increase levels of beneficial bacteria, while decreasing harmful strains of bacteria.

Include polyphenols

Plant compounds called polyphenols help reduce blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol levels, and oxidative stress. Polyphenols are largely digested by gut bacteria. Foods that contain polyphenols include cocoa and dark chocolate, red wine, grape skins, green tea, almonds, onions, blueberries, and broccoli. Polyphenols from cocoa increase the amount of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.

Increase probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms—usually bacteria—which provide a specific health benefit when consumed. Some studies show that probiotics help restore the microbiome to a healthy state after it had been compromised. Probiotic foods include fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, and yogurt. Probiotic supplements can also be recommended by your doctor.

Breastfeed babies for at least 6 months

While babies may be exposed to some bacteria even before birth, a baby’s microbiome begins to develop at birth. An infant’s microbiome is constantly developing during the first two years of life. It is rich in Bifidobacteria, which can digest the sugars found in breast milk. Babies who are fed formula have less of this beneficial bacteria. Breastfeeding is also found to result in lower rates of allergies, obesity, and other health conditions later in life.


Frequently Asked Questions

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterized by a variety of symptoms, including cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. IBS is a chronic condition that you’ll need to manage long term. The cause is not well understood.

There is no definitive test to diagnose IBS. IBS is diagnosed after your doctor has reviewed your symptoms and occasionally ordered tests to rule out other conditions.

Visits at the Tummy Clinic are not covered by OHIP or your provincial health care system, however, most extended healthcare plans cover many aspects of the care you will receive here, such as visits to Naturopathic Doctors, Dietitians, Social Workers or Psychotherapists. Check your benefits package or contact your insurance company for more information.