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Microbiome research is fairly new, but scientists are finding that having a healthy and diverse collection of bacteria can impact a range of medical conditions, particularly those affecting your digestive system.

Here are some ways to maintain a healthy microbiome:

  • Eat high‐fiber foods. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains feed the beneficial bacteria in your colon and discourage the harmful ones from growing.
  • Eat more fermented foods. Sauerkraut, pickles and miso, a fermented paste created from a mixture of soybeans, sea salt and rice koji, all fit the bill.
  • Don’t overuse antibiotics. Antibiotics can be lifesaving when needed, but they can kill good bacteria along with the bad. If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, don’t be afraid to ask if it is really needed, what the shortest treatment course is or if there are alternatives.
  • Consider probiotics — with some caveats. Many people say that they feel better once they start taking probiotic supplements. But there’s no conclusive evidence that they are helpful. The good news is probiotics are generally not harmful if you are healthy. However, people with a suppressed immune system should not take them. And because gut bacteria varies from person to person, a supplement that helps one person may be useless to another. Check with your doctor to see if probiotics are right for you.