The fact that our gut microbes are quite easy to influence is actually a very good thing, because we can change for the better those factors that we ourselves can influence. Physical activity is one of the independent factors that can affect gut microbes and gut function – for better or for worse. The trillions of microbes living in your gut can be influenced by a variety of external factors. There is a constant interaction between the gut and the brain, and stress is just one example of how our mental state can affect the gut and the microbes that live in it. All of these factors affect the fragile gut microbes, but how exactly they are affected depends on many different factors. Breastfed babies have a different composition of gut microbes than those who are not breastfed, due to the prebiotic properties of breast milk. How you were born – vaginally or by C-section – affects your microbiota. Your genes may predispose you to a certain composition of gut microbes, which can negatively affect your gut health. In early childhood, your gut microbiota is relatively stable, but the microbial community can change as you get older. The good news is that there are many things you can do to improve your microbiota. Where you live, your environment and travel experiences have a direct impact on the types of bacteria that live in your gut. Exercise increases microbial diversity and has been shown to increase short-chain fatty acids (read more here). However, some infant formula now includes prebiotics to help baby’s gut in the same way breast milk does. Read our tips for making positive changes to your diet here. Not for distribution or commercial use – please contact us if you would like to discuss our affiliate program.