Your gut is known as your second brain: If your gut is happy, it will help you feel happy and nourished as well. However, not everyone has impeccable gut health. Whether that is due to lifestyle, food intolerances, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other factors, our digestive system can’t always be happy.
There are many ways we can maintain good gut health such as eating a balanced diet, limiting artificial sweeteners or getting more sleep. Here are eight simple and effective ways to improve your gut health and foods you can introduce to your diet to keep your microbiome healthy.
What is gut health?
Gut health refers to the balance of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. Each person’s “gut microbiome” has about 300 to 500 different species of bacteria in their gut. There are trillions of bacteria, yeasts, and viruses that make up the term “gut microbiome” or “gut flora.”
While some microorganisms can be harmful to our health, many are extremely beneficial and even essential to our bodies. Looking after your gut health and maintaining the correct balance of these microorganisms plays an essential part in our physical and mental health.
According to Dr. E. M. Quigley in his study on gut bacteria in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, having a wide variety of these good bacteria in your gut can enhance your immune system function, improve symptoms of depression, help combat obesity, and provide numerous other benefits.
1. Lower Your Stress Levels
Stress undeniably does not do any good for your body. High levels of stress are hard on your whole body, including your gut. If you feel like the stress is getting to you, try some ways to lower your stress levels such as meditation, walking, massages, quality time with friends or family, essential oils, decreasing caffeine intake, yoga, or having a pet.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is detrimental to our overall health and not getting enough or sufficient quality of sleep can have serious impacts on your gut health. Try to ensure you are getting at least seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
3. Eat Slowly
By chewing your food thoroughly and eating food more slowly you can promote better digestion and absorption of nutrients. This may help you reduce digestive discomfort, trapped wind, bloating and maintain a healthy gut.
4. Stay Hydrated
You can never drink too much water. By drinking plenty of water it will help the mucosal lining of the intestines, which promotes better digestion. It will also help the balance of good bacteria in the gut.
5. Take a Prebiotic or Probiotic
If you want to rebuild your gut health, then adding a prebiotic or probiotic supplement to your diet may be a great way to improve your gut and help combat any digestion issues. Prebiotics provide “food” that help the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Probiotics are essentially live good bacteria.
People with bacterial overgrowths, such as SIBO, should not take probiotics. Not all probiotic supplements are high quality or will provide benefit, it is best to consult a doctor or do some research to ensure that the probiotic will be beneficial.
6. Check For Food Intolerances
If you suffer from bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, rashes, nausea, fatigue, acid reflux, flatulence, constipation, or very frequent visits to the bathroom, then you may have symptoms that mean you have a food intolerance or several.
The best way to see whether you have a food intolerance is to eliminate a potential trigger food. Common foods such as gluten, dairy, eggs, and soy could be the culprit to your digestive issues. Keep a journal to note how you are feeling whilst eliminating a food group. It is not recommended that you eliminate several food groups at once as that will not give you clear results.
If you do not find foods that trigger your digestive problems, then you can visit your GP or naturopath for a food intolerance test. Do not order a test online as they are not accurate.
It is important to note that food intolerance tests are not 100 per cent accurate and you should listen to how your body reacts as the first sign of evidence. If you have several food intolerances, it is not recommended to eliminate the foods all at once, remove one to three foods at a time so you will not be lacking in vital nutrients and vitamins.
If you can identify food or foods that are contributing to your symptoms, you will likely see a positive change in your digestive health by changing your eating habits.
7. Change Your Diet
Reducing the amount of processed, high-sugar, and high-fat foods in your meals will help contribute to better gut health. Substitute, these types of food with plenty of plant-based foods and lean proteins such as turkey and chicken. A diet high in fiber has been shown to contribute enormously to a healthy gut microbiome.
8. Eat Foods Rich in Polyphenols
To promote good gut health, eat foods that are rich in polyphenols. They are plant compounds that have many health benefits, including reductions in blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol levels and oxidative stress.
Polyphenols can’t always be digested by human cells so most are absorbed by the colon, where they can be digested by gut bacteria.
Good sources of polyphenols include cocoa and dark chocolate, red wine, grape skins, green tea, almonds, onions, blueberries, and broccoli.
What foods improve gut health?
Diet and gut health are very closely linked. Avoiding processed foods, high-fat foods, and foods high in refined sugars is extremely important to maintaining a healthy microbiome, as these foods destroy good bacteria and promote the growth of bad bacteria. There are also several foods you can eat that actively promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and improve gut health, these foods include:
1. High-fiber foods: Foods such as legumes, beans, peas, oats, bananas, berries, asparagus, and leeks have shown a positive impact on gut health in numerous studies.
2. Garlic and onion: Some people who have food sensitives and digestive problems may steer away from garlic and onion, especially on a low FODMAP diet. However, these two foods have some anti-cancer and immune system-enhancing properties which are closely connected to some of the primary functions of the gut.
3. Fermented foods: The most well-known and proven gut healing foods are fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yoghurt, tempeh, miso, and kefir. They provide a great source of probiotics and have many benefits on the gut microbiome.
4. Collagen-boosting foods: If you have ever inquired about gut health before you will have heard that bone broth works wonders. Collagen-rich foods such as bone broth and salmon are beneficial to overall health and gut health specifically.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First For Women.