The bacteria in your gut play a role in every aspect of your health from digestive function to supporting brain health and helping the immune system work.
But when your gut microbiome is off balance, you can feel miserable. Luckily, there are some simple ways to improve your gut health.
Avoiding Processed Foods
One of the best ways to improve gut health is to avoid processed foods. These foods have a lot of added sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats.
They also have a long shelf life and are often stripped of nutrients. This makes them less nutritious than unprocessed versions of the same food.
If you want to maintain a healthy gut, it is important to eat a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. These foods are high in fibre and help to reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.
In addition, avoiding fatty meats and cheeses can be beneficial for your gut health. This is because animal products can promote the growth of unwanted bacteria in the gut and cause inflammation, which is detrimental to your health.
The good news is that you can eat a well-balanced diet and still enjoy all of the delicious, satisfying foods that you love! You just have to be a little bit careful about what you’re eating.
A nutrient-dense diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and other plant foods, will support your gut health. It also helps to ensure you’re getting enough protein.
Fruits and veggies are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support your immune system, heart, brain and kidney function, among other things. They also contain probiotics, which are live bacteria that can aid in digestion and help to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut.
But, if you eat a lot of processed foods or junk food, you might have trouble keeping your gut bacteria in check. This is because a lot of these foods contain chemicals and preservatives that can suppress or promote the growth of bad bacteria.
Another way to help keep your gut healthy is to drink plenty of water and limit the amount of alcohol you consume. This will help to eliminate stress and improve your overall health.
Processed foods are a major source of bad bacteria in the gut. In our PREDICT study, we found that a diet that was low in processed foods (mostly plant-based) was linked to having more “good” gut microbes linked to better heart and metabolic health. On the other hand, a diet that was highly processed, which was usually higher in meat and dairy products, was associated with having more “bad” gut microbes linked to poorer health.
Getting Enough Sleep
Getting the right amount of sleep is essential to a healthy body and mind. It helps the body perform a variety of repairing and maintenance processes. And getting enough sleep can also help manage stress.
The human body needs between seven and nine hours of sleep to feel its best. But how much you need depends on factors such as age, lifestyle and health conditions. Some people, however, are genetically predisposed to needing less sleep than others.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep, it can negatively impact your gut microbiome. The bacteria living in your gut play a crucial role in your immune system, and they also help to regulate your weight and metabolism. A healthy microbiome is associated with disease prevention and inflammation regulation, which can lead to improved mood, brain health and energy levels.
You can improve your gut health by incorporating foods that support healthy bacteria growth and diversity. One way to do this is by consuming a diversified diet rich in plant-based foods, which will provide plenty of different nutrients for your gut microbiome to thrive on.
Another way to promote a healthier microbiome is by avoiding processed foods that contain artificial ingredients. This includes avoiding sugar, white flour and refined carbohydrates. Instead, opt for foods like whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits.
It is also important to choose food items that are high in fibre. This will keep your gut feeling full longer and allow it to regulate blood sugar.
Adding protein to your diet is also an excellent way to help your gut. Research shows that eating dairy, particularly yogurt, can strengthen your microbiome. It is also a good idea to consume kefir, which is a fermented milk drink that contains beneficial bacteria.
Finally, be sure to get some exercise. Regular cardiovascular exercises can boost the number of beneficial bacteria in your gut and improve your bowel movements.
In addition, it’s vital to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. This can help you develop a routine and establish a positive sleep-wake cycle.
Stress is a normal response to a stressful situation, but chronic stress can lead to health problems. A healthy body and mind are dependent on good stress management skills.
When we feel stressed, our bodies respond with the ‘fight or flight’ response to prepare us for danger. Our heart rate increases, our blood pressure rises and our stomach muscles tighten, which can cause gas, bloating and abdominal pain.
If you’re experiencing chronic stress, it may be time to seek help from a professional. Talking to a trusted friend, family member or healthcare provider can help you refocus your thoughts and emotions and find ways to reduce your stress level.
You may also be able to manage your stress with some of the same techniques you use to manage other mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. For example, a meditation practice such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation can be used to decrease muscle tension and calm the nervous system.
In addition to the physical symptoms, stress can lead to an increase in gastrointestinal (GI) disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), dyspepsia and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). These GI diseases have been linked to stress, which makes it even more important to find ways to manage your stress in order to keep your gut healthy.
The microbiome, the collection of bacteria in the digestive tract that helps maintain a healthy immune system and produces mood-regulating chemicals, can also be altered by stress. Different people have different types of bacteria, and some strains are more helpful than others.
A healthy digestive system requires a variety of bacteria, including both probiotics and prebiotics. Consuming a diet rich in these foods can improve your gut health and make you more resilient to stress.
Exercise is also an excellent way to lower your stress levels, as it helps you regulate your hormones and stimulates the release of endorphins. Regular exercise can also help prevent and manage gastrointestinal symptoms, such as constipation and diarrhoea.
Breathing exercises can also be effective in lowering your stress level. Try breathing slowly and deeply, which can slow the body’s response to stress and help you feel more relaxed.
Exercise can improve your overall gut health, and can even reduce your risk of developing conditions like heart disease and diabetes. It also can boost your energy and improve your mood.
There are many types of exercise that can benefit your gut health, from walking and swimming to strength training and HIIT. However, you need to make sure that the type of exercise you’re doing is safe and effective for your body.
Studies have shown that a low-impact workout is best for improving your digestive health. This can include anything from yoga and tai chi to squatting and lunges. You should avoid high-impact exercises, such as running and cycling, as they may actually slow down your digestion. Instead, try a combination of low-impact and high-intensity exercise.
In addition to working out, it is important to maintain a healthy diet and adequate sleep. This will ensure that your body has the energy it needs to digest food properly and help prevent conditions like acid reflux, diarrhoea, and constipation.
Several studies have shown that a combination of moderate-to-vigorous exercise and a healthy diet can significantly improve your gut health. In one study, people who did three 30-to-60-minute activity sessions per week experienced a decrease in gut bacteria associated with obesity and an increase in a healthy fatty acid called butyrate. This fatty acid can be helpful in reducing inflammation and regulating blood sugar levels, and it also reduces the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Another study found that a six-week exercise program increased the amount of gut microbes that produce short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are essential for reducing inflammation and regulating blood sugar levels, which are common causes of a variety of health problems.
These findings indicate that the microbiota may respond to physical activity, but more research is needed to determine exactly how. The mechanisms that are responsible for this may involve changes in blood flow, circulating hormones, or intestinal motility.
Some researchers suggest that exercise might alter the amount of bile acids secreted from the liver, which are known to be important in the regulation of gut microbiota composition and function. The bile acids produced by gut bacteria help to breakdown dietary fibres and release short-chain fatty acids that reduce the risk of inflammation and other diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.