9 Ways to Improve Your Gut Health

9 Ways to Improve Your Gut Health

The gut microbiome is made up of billions of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. A healthy gut has a varied population of these bacteria, which aid in digestion, immune system regulation, vitamin production, infection prevention, and practically every other facet of health. 

An imbalance of gut bacteria has been linked to gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), as well as other chronic illnesses.

What is Gut Health?

Gut health refers to the proper digestion, absorption, and assimilation of nutrients from the food we eat and indicates how effectively the gut microbiota is performing. Gut health is synonymous with general health. Inflammation, autoimmune illnesses, hormone imbalances, skin issues, and weight gain can all be caused by an unhealthy gut. Improving gut health aids in the appropriate fueling of the body, the strengthening of immunity, the stabilization of metabolic function, and the prevention of illness.

Dietary modifications, lifestyle behaviors, stress management, and targeted supplements are all evidence-based approaches to enhance and optimize gut health. Maintaining a healthy stomach over time necessitates a holistic strategy. 

Even minor everyday changes to your gut microbiota can help you establish a flourishing digestive system and enhance your overall health.

How to Improve Gut Health

Diet

How to Improve Gut Health

Your diet can have a significant influence on the health of your gut microbiota. A diet high in fiber and nutrient-dense whole foods feeds healthy gut microbes. 

A diet heavy in processed foods, on the other hand, might eliminate good bacteria while promoting the growth of dangerous germs. Here are some dietary suggestions for better gut health:

Eat More Fiber

Fiber acts as a prebiotic for the gut microbiota. It goes undigested through your digestive system until it reaches your colon. Gut bacteria digest cellulose into short-chain fatty acids like butyrate. 

Butyrate aids in the reduction of inflammation and the preservation of the gut lining’s integrity. Aim for 25-30 grams of fiber each day, which may be obtained from vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds.

Eat Fermented Foods

Probiotics, which are healthy microorganisms for your stomach, are abundant in fermented meals. Probiotics can be found in yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha. 

Try integrating a few fermented foods into your diet once a week. Look for those that have vibrant and active cultures.

Consume Prebiotic and Probiotic Foods

Prebiotics are nondigestible fibers that provide food for probiotics. Prebiotic foods include asparagus, garlic, onions, apples, bananas, and oats. Probiotic foods aid in the replenishment of good microorganisms. 

Probiotics can be found in kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and yogurt. Eating prebiotic and probiotic foods together helps to improve your gut microbiota.

Exercise

Exercise

Exercise regularly is essential for intestinal health. Aerobic exercise and weight training both have advantages.

Aerobic activity, such as walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling, improves blood flow and motility in the digestive system. It promotes regular bowel motions and can help with constipation. 

Aerobic exercise reduces inflammation in the body as well. Inflammation is reduced, allowing the gut microbiota to thrive.

Strength training with weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight activities is also beneficial to intestinal health. Muscle mass increases metabolic rate. A quicker metabolism boosts gut bacterial diversity. 

Strength training lowers stress chemicals such as cortisol, which can harm the gut lining. Lifting weights demands energy and burns calories. This promotes the development of good microorganisms.

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week. Strength training should also be done at least twice a week. Mix up your routines to reap the advantages of both cardiovascular and muscular growth. 

It is critical to begin a workout regimen gradually. Even minor quantities of physical exertion add up over time. Move your body regularly to improve intestinal health.

Stress Management

Stress may have a significant influence on intestinal health. When we are stressed, our bodies release cortisol and other chemicals that can cause inflammation and damage to the gut lining. This lets germs and poisons into circulation, creating more complications.

Stress has been related to a variety of gastrointestinal disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and greater susceptibility to infection, according to research. It can aggravate symptoms in those who have gastrointestinal issues.

It is critical to identify healthy strategies to control stress levels by using relaxation techniques such as:

  • Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nerve system, which helps to relax the body and mind. Breathe through your nose for a count of four, hold for four, and exhale for four.
  • Meditation decreases anxiety and systemic inflammation by quieting the mind. Begin with 5-10 minutes every day. Apps like Calm offer excellent guided meditations.
  • Yoga – By combining breath and movement, yoga is an efficient stress reliever. Certain positions can also help with digestion. Try following along with yoga videos on YouTube.
  • Exercise – Working out relieves stress while producing endorphins that improve mood. Strive for 30 minutes of moderate activity every day.
  • Time spent in nature – Spending time outside has a relaxing impact. Take a trip in the woods or relax on your lawn and listen to the birds.
  • Get a massage – The healing power of touch relieves muscular tightness caused by chronic stress. Make time for therapeutic massages regularly.

Stress management via relaxation and self-care activities can have a significant impact on gastrointestinal and overall health. Slowing down to develop inner peace should be a daily practice.

Enough Sleep

Getting adequate quality sleep is essential for intestinal health

Getting adequate quality sleep is essential for intestinal health. Here’s why sleep is important:

  • During sleep, your gut microbiota changes its makeup and performs vital services such as mending cell damage and restoring balance. Sleep deprivation can affect the microbiota.
  • During deep sleep, growth hormone is secreted. This aids in the healing and repair of the gut lining. Inadequate sleep lowers growth hormone release.
  • Sleep deprivation reduces intestinal motility, which slows digestion. It can also promote permeability and inflammation in the intestine.
  • During sleep, melatonin, an essential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory hormone, is released. Melatonin aids in the protection of the gut lining. Melatonin levels are reduced by a lack of sleep.

Sleep Hygiene Tips

To increase your sleep quality and gut health, try the following:

  • Maintain a regular sleep pattern, even on weekends. Every day, go to bed and wake up at the same hour.
  • Make certain that your bedroom is entirely dark. Use blackout curtains or a sleep mask if necessary.
  • Maintain a pleasant temperature in your bedroom of 60-67°F.
  • Avoid using devices before going to bed. Melatonin secretion can be suppressed by blue light.
  • Create a calming pre-bedtime ritual, such as having a warm bath, reading, or doing mild stretches.
  • Eat a light supper before going to bed. Allow 2-3 hours before resting down for digestion.
  • Caffeine use should be limited, especially in the late afternoon and evening.
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption. While it may aid in sleep induction, alcohol reduces sleep quality later in the night.
  • Before going to bed, consider taking magnesium, glycine, or melatonin. However, see your doctor first.
  • Keep a sleep journal if you suffer from insomnia. Take note of the habits that affect your sleep. Please share it with your doctor.
  • Getting 7-9 hours of great sleep each night improves your overall health, including your digestive system. Make proper sleep hygiene a priority.

Hydration

Keeping hydrated

Keeping hydrated is essential for intestinal health. Water aids in the digestion of food, the absorption of nutrients, and the elimination of toxins from the body. Constipation caused by dehydration permits toxins to build in the digestive system.

Women should consume 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total beverages per day, while men should take 3.7 liters (125 ounces) per day, according to the Institute of Medicine. These suggestions include fluids such as water, other drinks, and food.

Drinking enough water lubricates the digestive system and assists in stool movement. This aids in the prevention of constipation and the maintenance of regularity. Water also softens stool by providing fluid to the colon, allowing for simpler bowel motions.

Furthermore, water is necessary for the health of the mucosal lining of the digestive system. Staying hydrated allows the mucosal cells in the gut to operate correctly and release protective mucus. The mucus layer acts as an excellent barrier against bacteria, viruses, and other poisons when it is properly hydrated.

Water consumption with meals might also aid digestion. It improves digestion by allowing digestive enzymes to reach nutrients. Water transfers bile, which emulsifies lipids and allows for more effective breakdown.

Overall, staying hydrated is essential for intestinal health. It promotes normal digestion, nutritional absorption, bowel regularity, and a robust mucosal barrier.

Avoid Unnecessary Antibiotics

When used properly, antibiotics are a strong treatment for treating bacterial infections and preventing sickness. Antibiotic misuse, on the other hand, can alter the normal balance of bacteria in the gut. When antibiotics are not essential, they can cause more damage than benefit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 30% of antibiotic prescriptions administered in outpatient settings are unnecessary. Many viral infections, such as colds, flu, and acute bronchitis, may not respond to medications. However, antibiotics are frequently misprescribed.

Antibiotics should be administered carefully and sparingly. When validated by lab testing, they are useful for treating bacterial illnesses such as strep throat, urinary tract infections, Lyme disease, and pneumonia. It is critical to take antibiotics as directed to completely remove an infection. 

However, using antibiotics when there is no bacterial infection, taking them for longer than prescribed or utilizing medicines from a previous sickness can all disturb the microbiome.

It is advised not to urge your doctor for medication if they do not believe the ailment is bacterial. Inquire about additional possibilities for symptom alleviation. Only use antibiotics for the specific ailment and period advised. 

Try to prevent repeated usage in a short period. Antibiotics can be a successful treatment when used under the supervision of a doctor.

Limit Processed Foods

Limit Processed Foods

Eating processed meals can harm gut health in a variety of ways. Processed foods are heavy in sugar, harmful fats, and chemical additives while being poor in fiber.

Problems with Processed Foods

Fiber deficiency – Fiber feeds the beneficial microorganisms in your intestines. Fiber is frequently lacking in processed meals. This can allow harmful microorganisms to proliferate.

Added sugars – Added sugars are commonly found in processed meals, where they can promote blood sugar increases and contribute to inflammation. Over time, chronic inflammation deteriorates intestinal health.

Processed meals are frequently cooked in harmful vegetable oils such as soybean, maize, cottonseed, or canola oils. When ingested in excess, these oils contain significant quantities of omega-6 fatty acids, which can induce inflammation.

Emulsifiers and thickeners – To enhance texture, many processed foods contain emulsifiers such as lecithin or carrageenan, as well as thickeners such as xanthan gum or cornstarch. However, these chemicals can potentially change gut microbes and cause intestinal inflammation.

Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, are widely added to processed meals. However, artificial sweeteners may alter gut bacteria ratios in unfavorable ways.

Quit Smoking

Smoking has several harmful effects on the gut flora. Toxins and chemicals in cigarette smoke harm the gut lining and disrupt the microbiome equilibrium. This can allow infections to proliferate while decreasing helpful microorganisms.

Smoking quitting aids in the restoration of intestinal health. When you quit smoking, your gut microbiota begins to mend and return to a healthier state. 

Here are some suggestions for quitting smoking and improving your microbiome:

  • Obtain assistance. Smoking cessation can be aided by counseling, nicotine replacement treatment, prescription drugs, support groups, and apps. Having someone to lean on makes quitting easier.
  • Determine your triggers. What are your smoking routines and habits? When quitting, knowing your triggers might help you avoid or manage them.
  • Alter your routine. Alter your everyday behaviors and activities, particularly those related to smoking. This aids in the removal of triggers.
  • Control your tension. Stress and smoking are frequently linked. Exercise, meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and chatting with a friend are all stress-relieving activities.
  • Stay away from other smokers. Limiting interaction with other smokers might help minimize cravings while quitting for the first time.
  • Improve your eating habits. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, healthy grains, and anti-inflammatory meals. A nutritious diet promotes intestinal and overall health.
  • Get moving. Exercise regularly helps to control cravings and withdrawal symptoms while also improving the microbiota.
  • Please be patient. After quitting smoking, the gut microbiota takes time to recover. However, it will gradually improve, leading to improved digestive and immunological health.

Take Probiotic Supplements

Probiotic pills can aid in the restoration of your gut’s natural bacterial equilibrium. Studies have shown probiotics to help with digestive disorders such as bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. They may also enhance immunological function and reduce inflammation.

However, not all probiotics are the same. Certain strains have stronger evidence for health advantages than others. The number of probiotic bacteria that survive in your intestines also influences its efficacy.

Look for a probiotic that has particular strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis, or Lactobacillus plantarum. Check the expiration date as well as the storage directions. The more colony-forming units (CFUs) there are, the more bacteria will enter your stomach.

Probiotics are typically harmless, however they may produce modest side effects such as gas and bloating at first. Begin with a modest dosage and gradually increase it. If you have any underlying health concerns or are using immunosuppressive medicines, see your doctor first.

Taking a high-quality probiotic supplement can aid in the colonization of your stomach with helpful bacteria. However, to promote a healthy microbiome, consume probiotic foods such as yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables.

When to See a Doctor

While we may actively manage our gut health via lifestyle modifications, there are instances when expert assistance is required. Consult your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Consistent digestive problems, such as severe bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
  • Weight loss or increase that is unexplained
  • You have blood in your stool.
  • Chills and fever
  • Extreme discomfort

These symptoms might point to an underlying medical disease that needs to be diagnosed and treated.

Conclusion

Our gut health is intrinsically linked to our entire health, and caring for it is an investment in our current and future health. You may build a happy and flourishing gut microbiome by adopting the strategies described above into your everyday life, paving the way for a healthier, happier, and more resilient you. 

Remember that your gut is a valuable partner in your quest for maximum health; listen to it, nurture it, and gain the benefits of a flourishing inner ecosystem.

References:

https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/ss/slideshow-how-gut-health-affects-whole-body

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9787832/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3539293/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6463098/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5357536/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10054511/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22314561/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6779243/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34642755/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7284805/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8962244/

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Dr. Kimberly Langdon

Kimberly Langdon

Dr. Kimberly Langdon has been an MD for 31 years, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine, earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place accolades for her Senior Research Project and Score of 98th percentile on a National Proficiency Test.

During her clinical career, she delivered over 2000 babies and specialized in minimally invasive procedures, menopause, endometriosis, menstrual disorders, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. After retiring from clinical practice, she founded a medical device company to commercialize her two patented and four patent-pending medical devices for both life-threatening and non-life-threatening infections.

Kimberly Langdon M.D.

Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Coologics, 2010-present
https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimberly-langdon-m-d-41847610/
The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Doctor of Medicine 1987-1991
The Ohio State University Hospital Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency Program 1991-1995
Private practice 1995-2010

Po-Chang Hsu

Po-Chang Hsu

Po-Chang Hsu, M.D., received his medical doctorate from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. During his medical school training, Dr. Hsu worked with various patients, including adult and pediatric patients with acute and chronic conditions. Dr. Hsu’s interests include neurology, psychiatry, pediatrics, and sleep medicine.

Before medical school, Dr. Hsu finished a master’s degree at Harvard University and wrote a thesis on neuroimaging in schizophrenia patients at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School-affiliated hospital. Dr. Hsu was also a part of the 2008 NASA Phoenix Lander Mission team, which sent a robotic spacecraft to the North polar region of Mars. Dr. Hsu also had research experience on neuroimaging in neonates at Boston Children’s Hospital, another Harvard Medical School-affiliated Hospital.

Since graduating from medical school, Dr. Hsu has worked as a full-time medical writer and consultant. In addition, he has experience writing and ghostwriting books and articles for physicians and health technology start-up companies. Dr. Hsu believes good communication between healthcare providers and patients creates the best results.

Publications

-Peer Reviewed Journal Article:
Kounaves, S.P., Hecht, M.H., West, S.J., Morookian, J.-M., Young, S.M.M., Quinn, R., Grunthaner, P., Wen, X., Weilert, M., Cable, C.A., Fisher, A., Gospodinova, K., Kapit, J., Stroble, S., Hsu, P.-C., Clark, B.C., Ming, D.W. and Smith, P.H. The MECA wet chemistry laboratory on the 2007 phoenix mars scout Lander. Journal of Geophysical Research. 2009, Mar; 114(E3): 10.1029/2008je003084.

-Poster Presentation:
2011 Harvard Psychiatry Mysell Poster Session; Boston, MA
Hsu, P.C., Rathi, Y., Eckbo, R., Nestor, P., Niznikiewicz, M., Thompson, E., Kubicki, M., Shenton, M.E. (March, 2011). Two-Tensor Diffusion Tensor Imaging of Acoustic Radiations in Schizophrenia

Dr. Nicolette Natale

Nicolette Natale

Dr. Nicolette Natale is a physician, with a background in Psychology, General Medicine, and English Literature, combining her expertise to provide readers with the most accurate, easy-to-understand, and comprehensive information regarding healthcare. She received her Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine from Nova Southeastern University, and her bachelor’s in English Literature and Psychology from the University of Miami. Dr. Natale seeks to empower individuals with knowledge, fostering a greater understanding of holistic health and encouraging a proactive approach to well-being