15 Ways to Improve Your Gut Health
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Your overall immunity depends on having a healthy gut, which has a complex system called the microbiome that houses 300 to 500 different types of bacteria within your intestinal tract.
Although some species are harmful, others are extremely beneficial. These bacteria not only effectively digest your food, but they also support your cardiovascular and neurological health. Your gut's microbiome can also prevent some cancers and illnesses.
In this article, you'll learn several powerful tips that will keep your gut healthy and happy.
What is Gut Health?
According to U.C. Davis Health, gut health describes the function and balance of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract. When organs like the stomach, esophagus, and stomach work well together, it allows you to eat foods without issues. Unfortunately, almost 70 million Americans suffer from digestive disorders. In this article, you'll learn 16 tips that can improve your long-term gut health. But first, make sure you're insured, especially if you have any existing gut-health issues.
Why is Gut Health Important?
A healthy digestive tract delivers foods and nutrients throughout our bodies to the bloodstream. It contains healthy bacteria and immune cells that fight off harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Your gut also communicates with your brain through hormones and nerves that help to maintain your health. A large part of your immune system is also within the gastrointestinal tract.
Signs of Gut Health Issues
Most people experience digestive issues at some point. If you experience chronic problems, they could be signs of a medical condition.
Symptoms may include constipation, bloating, loose stools, abdominal pain, nausea, heartburn, or vomiting. Additional issues are severe stomach aches, problems swallowing and throat pain.
You should see your doctor immediately if you have jaundice, bloody or black stools or black stool (a sign of blood).
15 Powerful Tips to Improve Your Gut Health
Are you suffering from chronic digestive issues and need a way to improve gut health? In the next section, we'll talk about 15 tips that may reduce your symptoms and improve your health.
1. Consume Probiotics Foods and Fermented Vegetables
Living microorganisms found in probiotics and fermented foods can improve your body's microbiome. This bacterial environment supports your immune system. Microbiologists call these beneficial bacteria "probiotics." It is a term that means "for life." Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain live bacteria beneficial to our guts.
Russian scientist Elie Metchnikoff was the first person to identify the health benefits of fermented foods. In 1907, he posited these foods contributed to the longevity of Bulgarians in 1907. He believed that acid-producing organisms could stop "fouling" in the large intestine. He believed they could help people live longer.
Several studies have shown the effectiveness of probiotics. Researchers have used them to treat intestinal issues like Crohn's Disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and Ulcerative Colitis. Harvard Health says probiotics can also improve chronic digestive issues caused by antibiotics. One particular strain, Bifidobacterium infantis has been shown to improve IBS symptoms. These drugs can kill good and harmful bacteria. They cause gut dysbiosis, gas, diarrhea and cramping.
Researchers also discovered probiotics breakdown proteins and fats within the digestive tract. They help young children and patients build their health and immunity.
Today, more individuals understand the health benefits of probiotic foods and supplements. Sales of probiotics have skyrocketed, and experts expect revenues of probiotic supplements to top $17.4 billion by 2027.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not tested claims made by probiotic manufacturers. Although scientists say probiotics have significant benefits, they still need to verify these claims. The specific probiotic strain you use may not be beneficial for some health conditions. Consult with a registered dietitian who has studied probiotics before selecting one.
Where Can You Find Probiotic Nutrients?
Probiotic foods, such as yogurt, encourage good microbes to grow in your gut. Fermented foods can also provide beneficial probiotics for your intestinal tract. You can find probiotics in many cultured dairy products or fermented foods. Other sources of probiotics include:
- Soy Beverages
- Fermented Milk
- Raw Milk
- Homemade Pickles
- Fermented Vegetables
- Olive Oil
Commercial brands of jarred pickles sold by supermarkets use vinegar and not natural fermentation. It means they don't contain living organisms or probiotics.
To ensure the ferments you select have probiotics, look for the words "naturally fermented" on the label. The bottle's liquid should also have bubbles, which is a sign organisms are living within the jar. You can learn how to do your own ferments at home by visiting Wardee Harmon's Traditional Cooking School. You can also purchase Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.
The top ten probiotic strains include:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus casei
- Lactobacillus gasseri
- Lactobacillus Plantarum
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Enterococcus faecium
- Saccharomyces boulardii
Bifidus regularis is the name of a probiotic strain created by Dannon for marketing purposes. Its scientific name is Bifidobacterium animalis DN-173 010. The company exclusively uses this strain in its heavily promoted Activia products.
2. Avoid Ultra-Processed Foods
Your risk for disease increases when you eat ultra-processed foods. They contain chemical additives that affect the immune system and intestinal tract. Highly processed foods contain ingredients that can kill good bacteria and increase harmful ones.
Ultra-processed products also have starches, preservatives, flavor enhancers, and sugar additives. Manufacturers also add hydrogenated fats and artificial colors to make their snacks look good. Although these ingredients make these foods taste better, they damage your guts. Examples of processed foods include:
- Canned fruit
- Sugar-coated dried fruit
- Salted meat
- Sugary or savory packaged snacks
- Packaged bread, buns, and pastries
- Fish or chicken nuggets
- Instant noodle soups
Researchers recommend you consider changing your diet before you use probiotics and prebiotics. Additionally, they suggest eating whole foods. Avoid processed and ultra-processed snacks that can cause inflammation and disease.
3. Diversify your Diet
People who are sick or have gut-related disease and conditions have some things in common. Their gut usually lacks a variety of microbial populations. To build a healthy gut filled with a population of diverse bacteria, eat a variety of healthy foods.
4. Reduce Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
Another issue that can cause gut dysbiosis, or the disruption of microbes within your intestinal tract, is excessive consumption of sugar and sweeteners. In 2015, a research study discovered that the Standard American Diet increases harmful bacteria within the intestinal tract. This diet is high in fat and sugar.
Artificial sweeteners can also negatively impact blood glucose levels because of their effects on gut flora. So they may increase blood sugar, even though they aren't sugar.
5. Add Prebiotic Foods to Your Diet
Prebiotics are nutrients that fertilize our existing gut bacteria. They also help the intestinal tract to grow a diverse microbiome. They are indigestible carbohydrates that probiotic bacteria eat. It encourages these beneficial bacteria to multiply.
A 2017 study shows prebiotic foods become tolerant to certain environmental conditions. These include such as temperature and pH changes. To enhance your gut health, you may eat one of the prebiotic-rich foods to help your gut bacteria.
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Whole grains
6. Don't Take Antibiotics if You Don't Need Them
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says 30 percent of Americans take antibiotics when they don't need to. Antibiotics can help people recover from infections, but their overuse can destroy good bacteria. These effects can persist six months or more after you use them.
Instead of skipping your antibiotics, counteract the effects on your gut by temporarily taking a probiotic.
7. Manage Stress
Another thing you can do to improve your gut health is to manage your stress. Several animal studies show that short-term stress can affect intestinal microbiota. In human beings, a variety of stressors can affect your gut health. They include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Environmental stress (extreme heat, cold, noise)
- Psychological stress
- Disruption of the sleep cycle (circadian rhythm)
You can use stress management techniques to relax. Use deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation to calm down. You should also incorporate good sleep hygiene, regular exercise and a healthy diet to reduce your stress levels.
8. Get Enough Sleep
A 2014 animal study showed that disrupted sleep and irregular sleep patterns negatively affect your gut's flora. It can also increase your chances of developing an inflammatory condition. You should get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. To improve your sleep hygiene, visit this page for tips.
9. Take Care of Your Dental Health
Your dental health has a great impact on the condition of your gut. Two studies, conducted by the University of Gothenburg-Sweden and Cornell University, discovered oral bacteria in the gut. They even found these same organisms in human blood. Good dental care can eliminate dangerous microbes. It can prevent them from getting into your intestines and balance intestinal bacteria. You can learn how to take better care of your dental health from the American Dental Association.
10. Use Anti-Inflammatory Spices
You can use spices like garlic, turmeric, and ginger in your dishes. These ingredients not only add flavor to your meals; they can also decrease the number of harmful bacteria in your gut. They contain powerful antibacterial chemicals that don't harm your good bacteria but eliminate the harmful ones.
11. Eat Dark Chocolate
If you have a gut condition, you don't have to skip dark chocolate. It contains fiber and polyphenols, a plant-based molecule that is difficult for your intestines to digest. These ingredients travel deep into your gut, where they ferment. Microbes metabolize them and turn them into salutary anti-inflammatory chemicals.
12. Enjoy Foods with Nutrient-Rich Polyphenols
Food Research International published a study that found that black tea and red wine could improve the gut's bacterial composition. Why? Wine, chocolate, and teas contain polyphenols that feed microbes.
Polyphenol-enriched foods include:
- Cocoa Powder and Dark Chocolate
- Black Currants
- Sweet Cherries
- Red Onion
- Black and green tea
- Red wine
For a full-list of the benefits of Polyphenols, read this Healthline blog.
13. Use Different Cleaning Products
Antibiotics aren't the only things that can disrupt your microbiota. Disinfectants can also affect your gut bacteria, according to a 2018 study. Researchers looked at the bacteria of more than 700 infants, ages 3 to 4 months. They found that children who lived in homes that used disinfectants had higher levels of Lachnospiraceae. Researchers believe this gut microbe is associated with type 2 diabetes and obesity. When they turned three, they had a higher body mass index (BMI) than toddlers that weren't exposed to these cleaners.
14. Consider Alternative Diets to Improve your Gut Health
There are several different dietary approaches you can follow to improve your gut health. They include the following:
This diet helps people with sensitive guts and conditions like IBS. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.
It is a group of short-chain sugars the intestines don't digest completely. When they reach the small intestine, they slowly drift and attract water. After they move into the large intestine, the gut bacteria ferment FODMAP and produce gas. It causes intestinal walls to expand and cause pain and discomfort.
This nutrition plan is a way of eating based on cultures bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It is a plant-based diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
These are ingredients that can diversify your gut flora. You can also eat moderate amounts of dairy, poultry, and eggs. For details, visit this page.
Studies have shown there are significant differences between people who eat plant-based diets and those that eat meat. Vegetarian diets provide large amounts of prebiotic fiber to your gut. A research study followed obese individuals following a strict vegetarian diet.
The researchers eliminated all animal products, dairy, meat, and eggs from their diet for a month. When the study was completed, the participants had lower levels of gut inflammation and different gut microbes. The study's members also lost weight.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Although other grains such as corn, rice and quinoa also contain gluten, they don't seem to cause the same issues as other wheat, barley, rye and triticale. A gluten-free diet is essential to manage the symptoms of the following health issues:
- Celiac disease
- Non-celiac gluten sensitivity
- Gluten ataxia
- Wheat allergy
You can eat naturally gluten-free foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and seeds. Others are legumes, nuts, eggs, meat, fish, and low-fat dairy products.
15. Get Regular Exercise
Regular exercise helps you to stay healthy, control obesity, and maintain your weight. Exercise also helps to improve your gut health. You should get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise along with two days of muscle-strengthening activities per week.
Takeaway Diet Tips to Improve Your Gut Health.
Eat whole, plant-based foods, and avoid processed products. They are high in additives and preservatives that disrupt the gut's healthy microbiome.
Skip vegetable and fruit juices that may have higher levels of sugar. Instead, eat more fruits and veggies. If you can't find the fresh produce, the frozen variety without sugar and additives are also a superb choice.
Consume probiotic-rich foods, like plain yogurt without sugar.
Eat foods with polyphenols like dark chocolate, nuts, green teas, beans and vegetables.
Increase your fiber intake. You can include whole grains and legumes if your gut isn't sensitive to these foods. Other choices include high-fiber choices, fruits, and vegetables.
Reduce your sugar intake throughout the day. At breakfast, add cinnamon to oatmeal, chia pudding, or plain yogurt with berries.
Eat a balanced variety of seafood and lean poultry in your diet. Consume minimal amounts of red meat that can harm your gut.
Consume a range of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet, and eat organic produce.
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