The science of this microbiome inside our bodies is still evolving, but research has linked changes in intestinal bacteria with autoimmune diseases, mental illnesses, and more. Recent studies have even shown that the bacteria in our bellies may be controlling which foods we crave. That’s right—your craving for potato chips may not be all in your head after all.
This same research suggests that our diet, as well as other factors (including stress and antibiotic use), affects whether our intestinal tract is populated by “good” or “bad” bacteria.
And it takes the influence of dietary changes to a whole new level—in addition to providing the nutrients our bodies need, the food we eat is feeding (or starving) our gut microbiome, which could directly affect our cravings, our resilience against infection, and our risk for a host of other illnesses.
What constitutes an optimal gut bacteria is also still an evolving question, but most researchers agree that a diet of lots of fiber helps promote a more healthy gut microbiome. The good guys among your belly bacteria thrive on all kinds of fiber, including cellulose, the insoluble fiber that gives vegetables their structure (think celery, or broccoli stalks). Another kind of fiber, called fructan, acts as a prebiotic and helps good bacteria to grow.