The gut is one of the most underappreciated and misunderstood systems in our body. Many do not realize the importance of the role it plays, not only in digesting food but in mental health, obesity and a variety of other aspects around our bodies.
How can you improve your gut health? You should minimize stress, avoid taking antibiotics, eat less sugar and sweeteners, eat fermented foods and more fruit and vegetables, eat slower, exercise more, stay hydrated, take probiotics and prebiotics, improve sleep and don’t smoke.
The ‘microbiome’ which is often referenced when talking about gut health is labeled as such as there are between 300-500 different species of bacteria (microorganisms) in the digestive tract. Some are harmful but many are beneficial and even necessary for our body to stay healthy.
Read on to discover just how these things can help improve your gut health.
Why improve your gut health?
Still not convinced as to your guts importance in your body? Well, this section will show you just how important your gut is and the range of bodily functions and issues that it affects.
Recurring constipation, diarrhea, heartburn and bloating are all signs of an unhealthy gut. A healthy gut does not struggle to digest, process and then pass on food and waste.
An unhealthy gut will struggle to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar and store fat as well as a healthy gut can. This can lead to losing or gaining weight without changing your diet or exercise routine.
Poor sleep and constant fatigue
The relation between sleep and your gut is unknown to many. In fact, the majority of the body’s serotonin (the hormone which affects both mood and sleep) is made in the gut. Therefore, poor gut health can lead to mood disorders and sleep issues.
Inflammation in your gut which can be caused by a poor diet leads to an increase in leaking of certain proteins out of the body, this can irritate skin and lead to conditions such as eczema.
Autoimmune conditions are ailments that involve the body attacking itself rather than harmful intruders. An unhealthy gut has been linked to an increase in systemic inflammation which can alter the function of our immune system.
Intolerances come from your gut struggling to digest certain foods. It is said that intolerances could be caused by poor quality and balance of bacteria in your gut. This can lead to bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and gas.
How you can improve your gut health
Probiotics and prebiotics
The most common way that people try in order to improve their gut health, probiotics and prebiotics can be consumed through supplements or naturally through certain foods.
We’ve also got a whole article on the difference between prebiotics and probiotics and separate articles on prebiotics and probiotics too.
Probiotics are what are often referred to as ‘good’ bacteria.
Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that probiotics actually feed off of – they act as a fertilizer for probiotics.
For probiotics, look to include the following foods in your diet:
- Some types of cheese
For prebiotics, include more of the following in your diet:
- The skin of apples
- Jerusalem artichokes
Avoid taking antibiotics when not necessary
There is currently a public health crisis in the number of unnecessary antibiotics which are prescribed and taken.
Taking antibiotics leads to resistance and the potential to create illnesses and viruses which are also resistant.
Furthermore, antibiotics have been found to damage the gut microbiome with research showing that even 6 months after using antibiotics the gut still does not contain specific species of beneficial bacteria.
Stress can negatively affect many aspects of our body, including the gut microbiome. Studies have found that stress – even if short term – can disrupt the microorganisms in your gut and intestine.
Meditation, regular exercise, sleeping well and having a healthy diet are some ways to reduce stress.
Consume less sugar and sweeteners
Research has shown that eating a lot of sugar or sweeteners can cause an imbalance in the gut microbiome. Which as aforementioned can lead to poor sleep, mood issues, etc.
A 2015 study found that high sugar and fat diets in animals negatively affected the gut microbiome.
Get better and enough sleep
Studies have shown that irregular and poor sleep habits can lead to negative effects on the gut microbiome.
Healthy habits can be established by going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday. 7 hours is the minimum amount of sleep a person should get.
For a full guide to biohacking sleep, this article is what you need.
A 2018 review performed over a 16 year period found that smoking decreased the number of healthy bacteria in your gut whilst also increasing the number of unhealthy bacteria, majorly disrupting the balance of the gut microbiome.
Your gut is more important to your health than you think. It’s important to keep a healthy balance of good and bacteria in your microbiome in order to allow your gut to perform to its best.
An unhealthy gut can lead to mood issues, fatigue, skin irritation, and autoimmune conditions. To improve your gut health you can take probiotics or prebiotics, reduce the amount of sugar and sweeteners you consume, get better sleep and stop smoking.