UPDATED, August 20, 2022
Gut health is an essential part of having an overall healthy body and mind. Although it was once thought to be of somewhat limited importance, the potential implications of gut health issues can actually be quite severe, and the complexity of the gut microbiome—and its importance in cognition, the immune system, and other bodily systems—is increasingly understood (1).
Basically, the gut is responsible for keeping our body in good working order as it breaks down the food we eat, absorbs the nutrients, and distributes that into energy for the rest of our body to use, then secretes the waste. This process helps the body’s normal function of balancing hormones, maintaining skin health, as well as mental health just to name a few (2, 3). In fact, almost 70 percent of our immune system is housed in our gut, so it is ever so important to give our guts the attention it deserves (4).
Now, there are a number of actions that can make a major difference in improving gut health and making a world of difference in the way you feel and function. Let’s begin with 7 things you can do to help improve your gut health.
7 Things You Can Do To Help Improve Your Gut Health
1. Decrease Stress
The impact of environmental, psychological, and physical stress affects a person’s gut microbiota function and overall health (5). But on the positive side, decreasing stress can lead to notable improvements in the gut microbiota.
One study exposed military personnel to a variety of stressors that challenged their physical function, cognition, and overall health (5). Though they reported better physical health overall when compared to their civilian counterparts, they had higher rates of cancer, mental health disorders, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity. And all these conditions have been associated with the gut microbiota.
- Follow a healthy diet
- Practice self-care
Regular exercise can also have notable impacts on your gut microbiota. One study found a positive correlation between gut microbiota diversity and exercise when examining professional athletes from an international rugby union team (12). Additionally, researchers found the diet to have an impact on their gut microbiota.
Another study observed obese, non-obese, and hypertensive rats as gut microbiota are linked to obesity development and shown to influence the metabolism (13). Their findings proved that exercise notably influenced the diversity and composition of gut bacteria in the rats.
To get you started with exercise––check out our article, Top Exercises To Help Weight Loss, and start incorporating activity into your daily routine. We provide different types of exercise for you to try, including workout examples so you don’t have to come up with your own workouts at home.
3. Take A Probiotic/Prebiotic
Gut health supplements, aka prebiotics and probiotics, can be helpful in restoring gut health. Prebiotics’ job is to feed to the good bacteria in your gut while probiotics are live good bacteria. In fact, taking a probiotic supplement is linked to increased microbiota diversity (15). There’s been increasing evidence proving that gut microbiota can greatly influence the interaction between the brain and the gut. The modulation of the gut-brain by probiotics shows to be a therapeutic solution for depression and anxiety as well.
Before you choose to take a prebiotic or probiotic, be sure to consult your physician so you better understand your current gut health status, then they can help you make adjustments (if needed) from there.
Also, choosing a particular prebiotic supplement, or probiotic supplement should undergo thorough research before you purchase. That way, you know you’re getting your supplement from a reputable and organic brand. Because not all supplements are created equal.
Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Probiotics are a fan favorite because it contains diverse blends of probiotic strains, it’s easy to digest, and has no side effects. With special attention to clinically-studied ingredients that are customized to gender, age, and condition, Garden of Life provides its customers with specialized probiotic formulas of the highest quality.
4. Stay Hydrated
Drinking enough water is also essential for gut health as it balances the good bacteria in the gut, as well as having a beneficial effect on the mucosal lining of the intestines (16). Even mild dehydration can lead to poor bodily regulation, fatigue, brain function, stress, and other ill effects (17). Consistently staying well-hydrated can help to keep your mind, body, and gut healthy.
5. Practice Mindful Eating
As it’s been said before, the food you consume is vitally important, and mindful eating is an essential part of keeping a healthy gut. Broadly speaking, mindful eating refers to being conscientious about the foods you eat, as well as how you eat (eating deliberately, fully engaging your senses, and noting the physical and emotional effects different foods have on you). It can be a helpful way to identify food intolerances, and to learn how to identify what foods are helpful (or not) for your digestive system and body overall.
Practice mindful eating by:
- Chew food thoroughly
- Eating slowly
- Avoid distractions as you eat like watching tv or looking at your phone
- Pay attention to how the food you’re eating is making you feel
- Stop eating when you feel comfortable
- Don’t force yourself to eat; eat when hungry
6. Eat Slowly
As we mentioned above about mindful eating, eating slowly can be beneficial in helping your gut. This should be an intentional act. As you allow yourself to take your time eating, you’re able to hear for the fullness signal rather than eating so quickly, not realizing how full you are until you’re past your comfort level. This happens with binge eating as well.
Benefits of eating slowly include improved digestion, better nutrient absorption, and stress reduction (18).
7. Avoid Smoking
Smoking is widely identified as being harmful to the gut microbiome. The interaction between smoking and the digestive tract shows the increased potential for the development of intestinal and systemic diseases, particularly inflammatory bowel diseases (19).
Best Foods For Gut Health
Finding the right diet for gut health is one of the most essential and proactive actions you can take to improve your overall health and wellness. There are many possibilities for how to improve gut health naturally. Let’s go over a list of some of the best gut health foods:
Mushrooms have been used for medicinal purposes and regular consumption for thousands of years; not to mention mushrooms having been used in healthcare for treating certain diseases like skin diseases, as well as pandemic diseases like AIDS (20). Mushroom acts as a prebiotic to activate the growth of gut microbiota and has proven to increase its structure and diversity, which affects energy metabolism as one of its many benefits.
As many types of mushrooms are beneficial to gut health, lion’s mane mushrooms and chaga mushrooms have grown major popularity in recent years, getting well-deserved recognition for their amazing health-promoting properties. Studies have shown that lion’s mane mushrooms naturally have an active component that protects against gastric ulcers, whereas chaga mushrooms have been proven to treat a range of conditions, including bacterial infections, viral infections, and certain cancers (23, 20).
You can start incorporating mushrooms into your diet with our Lion’s Mane Mushroom Recipes That’ll Make You Fall In Love.
Foods With Collagen
When people talk about collagen, some may automatically refer to the idea of collagen’s skin benefits due to current trends. However, the benefits of collagen far exceed the promotion of healthy hair, skin, and nails. Collagen helps to maintain healthy tissue in the digestive tract, thus significantly improving gut health because of its large amounts of glutamine, amino acids glycine, and proline (25).
Eating collagen-rich foods can be an easy way to get more collagen into your diet, like:
- Bone broth
- Egg whites
If you have certain health conditions or dietary restrictions that prevent you from eating these items, then consider taking a collagen supplement. Most brands break down collagen into supplement form so they digest and absorb better.
Add Garlic And Onions To Meals
Aside from adding delicious flavors and smells to dinners, alliums like garlic and onions are widely understood to be good for gut health (26, 27). Onions in particular are a rich source of prebiotics and can help to benefit gut health. These bulbs may also help control blood sugar, increase bone density, and contain antioxidants—among numerous other benefits (28, 29).
Fermented foods for gut health are one of the most widely used digestive aids. Fermentation is a process where sugars in food are broken down by yeast or bacteria. They contain a compound called lactobacilli which is health-benefiting bacteria.
In fact, one study found that people who had more lactobacilli in their intestines (from eating yogurt daily) happened to have less Enterobacteriaceae, which is a bacteria that causes inflammation and other chronic conditions (30).
Foods like kefir, tempeh, yogurt, and kombucha are all extremely beneficial ways to boost digestion (31). Many of these foods can be easily incorporated into a wide variety of meals, making them easy to add to your regular diet.
Worst Foods For Gut Health
Naturally, there are some foods that will largely be harmful to gut health and should be limited as much as possible. Here is a non-comprehensive list of some of the worst foods for digestion:
- Highly processed foods with corn syrup
- Antibiotics and foods with antibiotics
- Fried food
- Artificially sweetened foods
Symptoms Of An Unhealthy Gut
Many people may simply not realize that they have gut health issues. However, there are a number of signs of an unhealthy gut that you should be on the lookout for:
A high-sugar diet can be harmful to a healthy gut and may lead to inflammation. It can also be linked to cardiovascular and cholesterol risk (32).
Naturally, stomach issues—chronic stomach pain, irregular, or unhealthy bowel movements, or associated problems—can be a sign of deeper gut microbiota issues.
Regularly impaired sleep can be a sign of gut issues. In fact, the link between the gut, mood, and cognition (and related functions associated with sleep) has become increasingly clear (33).
Weight Loss Or Weight Gain
Rapid, unexpected, or consistently fluctuating weight—either weight loss or weight gain—can be associated with a deeper gut issue. This can also be associated with related hormonal problems (34).
Chronic fatigue is another common sign of imbalances in gut bacteria, and it is increasingly clear that gut issues cause fatigue. In fact, chronic fatigue syndrome has been directly linked to gut microbiota problems (35).
In short, gut health is extremely important, and not solely for the digestive tract. Gut health connects to cognition, energy, mood, and essentially every other aspect of daily experience. While it is important to be on the lookout for signs of poor gut health, it is even more useful to strive to maintain a healthy gut through good food, exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices.
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This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. HealthVIPClub.com assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.
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