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Normally when we think of bacteria we think of creepy crawly germs. But new research is flipping the idea of bacteria on its head. In fact, having a lack of so-called "good bacteria" in the stomach (or "gut" as researchers call it, which just gives me visions of my neighbor who drinks too much beer and mows his lawn shirtless) has been correlated with obesity, depression and overall decreased immunity.

For years scientists had believed that bacteria in the stomach was incredibly diverse, making it a full-out chore to categorize, study and generally make any health conclusions on. But, that's all changing with a recent study in the journal Nature. In the study, researchers used gene sequencing to catalog the hundreds of species of bacteria in the gut and what they found was surprisingly simple: There are just three kinds of basic bacteria in all of our tummies. Sort of like how we all know our blood type, researchers say that knowing what type of bacteria we have in our stomaches may help to better understand and treat diseases.

Obviously, this is new research and more study is needed, but the bottom line is that we can all do something right now to improve the bacteria in our stomachs to be healthier. Read on for five foods that are naturally high in the good healthy bacteria that your stomach loves!

5 Healthy Bacteria Foods
1. Miso. This soup made from fermented soy is high in good bacteria. Buy it in a paste at a natural-foods store or your closest international or Asian market. Or, have it my favorite way, before you dine on sushi!

2. Yogurt. This is probably the best-known healthy bacteria food of all. Look for low-sugar and lower-calorie yogurts that contain lactobacillus, bifidus and acidophilus to reap the stomach-health benefits.

3. Sauerkraut. Think sauerkraut is just for Oktoberfest or a topping for ballpark hot dogs? Think again! This fermented cabbage mixture contains lactobacilli plantarum and has been shown to give your immunity system a big boost, along with helping with the digestion of lactose and reducing the growth of yeast (an awesome perk for the ladies who struggle with yeast infections). It's also one of SHAPE's top 50 diet foods for spring.

4. Kombucha. This type of fermented tea definitely has a unique, fizzy taste to it, but those who drink it swear by its good-for-you-benefits for your stomach and your overall wellbeing.

5. Kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk product that is a natural probiotic. Found nowadays in everything from ready-to-drink smoothies to ice creams, kefir is usually better tolerated by those with lactose-intolerance than other diary-based fermented foods.

And if none of these foods sound good to you, consider supplementing your diet with a probiotic supplement, which you can find at any natural foods store.

Hooray for happy and healthy tummies!

Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.


 

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