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Home arrow Health arrow Gut Health arrow Ace Your Gut Health: 10 Ways to Improve It

Ace Your Gut Health: 10 Ways to Improve It

Dr. Donika Vata
Written by Donika Vata, MD
HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: January 15, 2024
10 min read 586 Views 0 Comments
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Unlocking the secrets of digestive wellness

gut health

In recent years, gut health has become one of the most trending health topics, as there has been a growing recognition of the importance of gut health in maintaining overall well-being. 

From mental health to the immune system, weight control, and digestive health, gut health plays an important role.

When you have a healthy gut, the digestive tract has a healthy balance of gut bacteria and can digest and absorb nutrients properly. When your gut health is out of balance, it can cause undesirable gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, stomach pain, and mental health problems. 

While many believe in supplements’ power, you can naturally improve your gut health. It only takes a few healthy practices.

In this article, you will get all your questions about gut health answered, discover the signs of an unhealthy gut, and find 10 practical ways to improve it. 

What Is Gut Health?

Gut health refers to the general health and proper functioning of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which comprises the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine (colon).

Your gut digests the foods you eat, absorbs nutrients, and utilizes them to power and sustain your body.

Consider it a series of hollow organs connected by a tube that begins at the mouth and finishes at the anus. The esophagus transports food to the stomach after it has been swallowed. It then passes through the small and large intestines before waste is released as stool.

Solid organs such as the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder aid in the process. The average adult’s digestive tract is roughly 5m long, with the small intestine accounting for two-thirds of its length. However, this varies significantly between people.

What is the gut microbiome? 

The gut microbiome refers to all microorganisms in human digestive tracts, including bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. 

In a healthy individual, these “bugs” live peacefully, with their great numbers found in the small and large intestines and throughout the body, including the skin, throat, mouth, uterus, stomach, ovarian follicles, lungs, prostate, ears, and eyes. 

Each person’s digestive tract contains over 200 different types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

The microbiome is made up of bacteria that are both healthy and necessary for a healthy body, while others can harm our health. Most are symbiotic (beneficial to the human body and the microbiota), but a few are pathogenic (promote disease).

How Does the Gut Affect the Rest of Your Body? 

Besides breaking down food into nutrients and absorbing them into the bloodstream, gut health is associated with many other areas of overall health, including immunity, mental health, and mood.

The immune system and gut microbiome form our body’s first line of defense against intruders, preventing harmful bacteria or infections from colonizing our gut. 70% of our immune cells live in our gut and contribute to the composition of the bacteria there.

The gut bacteria communicate with immune cells, “training” them to recognize a harmful invasion, such as a virus, from a harmless component or even our cells and tissues.

This “training” also helps to moderate our immune system’s responses, preventing it from overreacting. 

Gut health impacts mental health as well. The gut and the brain communicate bidirectionally through the gut-brain axis. Gut bacteria can activate the neurological system by delivering messages to the brain via the vagus nerve. The microorganisms in the stomach also produce 90% of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. 

Serotonin releases feelings of happiness and well-being, and serotonin levels are usually low in people with depression and anxiety.

What Are the Signs of an Unhealthy Gut?

How can you tell if your gut is unhealthy? Here are some common signs that your microbiome is out of balance.

#1 Frequent stomach upset 

Consistent digestive issues such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, stomach discomfort, and indigestion might be signs of an unhealthy gut. These symptoms may occur regularly or after eating certain foods. 

Studies suggest that dysbiosis – an imbalance in gut flora may play a role in developing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in certain people.

#2 Constant fatigue and poor sleep 

Research suggests that people with chronic fatigue, low energy levels, and difficulty sleeping have abnormal levels of certain gut bacteria.

An unhealthy gut can interfere with your normal circadian cycle, disrupting sleep and leaving you tired during the day.

Poor sleep can also impact your gut health. It’s a two-way street. If one isn’t adjusted, the cycle will continue. So, eating a healthy diet can improve your digestive tract and sleep.

#3 Getting sick regularly 

Frequent infections, allergies like respiratory, food, and skin allergies, or prolonged recovery from illnesses may indicate an unhealthy gut. The gut microbiota plays a critical role in immune system development and function. 

If you catch almost every cold or sickness that comes your way and your immunity is low, it could be a sign of poor gut health. Improving your gut health can help boost your immune system and break the pattern.

#4 Sudden weight fluctuations 

Gaining or losing weight without a change in diet or workout routine could indicate a problem with your gut. An unhealthy gut can limit your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, control blood sugar, and retain fat.

Weight loss might be because of malabsorption caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Whereas weight gain may be due to insulin resistance or increased inflammation.

#5 Skin irritation 

Your gut communicates directly with your skin through the gut-skin axis. The skin has its microbiome, and the gut bacteria influence the balance of bacteria on your skin.

An imbalance in the gut may cause an imbalance in your skin, leading to several skin health issues, including psoriasis, acne, and eczema.

Beneficial gut bacteria can help decrease acne, improve eczema, eliminate rosacea, and improve other skin issues.

#6 Food intolerances 

Developing new or worsening food intolerances can result from your gut’s inability to digest certain foods. Low gut bacteria quality may cause food intolerances, such as lactose or gluten intolerance. 

These intolerances can cause gastrointestinal discomfort or symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, gas, nausea, or abdominal pain after consuming specific foods.

How to Improve Gut Health Naturally: 10 Methods to Fix It 

If you’ve noticed any of the above signs and think you have an unhealthy gut, here are 10 science-backed ways to fix your gut bacteria.

#1 Eat fermented foods 

Fermented foods undergo a process in which yeast and bacteria break down sugars. The bacteria in some fermented foods have gut-boosting properties due to the presence of probiotics

These fermented foods add healthy bacteria to your gut microbiota and can reduce the pH of your intestine. This reduces the likelihood of harmful bacteria surviving.

The beneficial bacteria in your gut microbiome also release vitamins B12 and K.

Some examples of fermented foods include yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and tempeh.

Yogurt, like Greek yogurt, in particular, may aid in the relief of gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, and constipation.

#2 Add more fiber to your diet 

A fiber-rich diet can also contribute to a healthy gut microbiome. Fiber is a plant-based nutrient that lowers the risk of metabolic illnesses by encouraging the growth and diversity of beneficial bacteria in the gut. 

Fiber not only helps keep your bowel movements regular, but it also lowers cholesterol and prevents blood sugar spikes. 

Besides benefiting the gut, fiber provides other health benefits, such as lowering the likelihood of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Gut-enhancing fiber foods include whole-wheat pasta, chickpeas, lentils, blueberries, sweet potatoes, spinach, beets, carrots, and fennel. 

If you don’t eat many high-fiber foods, you may consider taking a fiber supplement, such as psyllium husk, which may help you experience the same health benefits.

#3 Take a supplement 

Including prebiotics or probiotic supplements in your diet may help enhance your gut health. Prebiotics come from carbs (mainly fiber) that humans cannot digest, but your healthy gut flora can. Probiotics are live, good bacteria that can help you achieve or maintain a healthy, balanced gut microbiome and boost your metabolism. 

Taking probiotics for bloating can also help increase the function of specific gut bacteria and the compounds they generate.

You may also consider consuming probiotics for leaky gut if you experience symptoms associated with leaky gut syndrome, such as bloating, stomach pain, fatigue, stool changes, and brain fog.

Before taking a probiotic supplement, it’s important to consult your doctor first, especially if you are on other medications or have any underlying health conditions.

#4 Avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners 

Consuming artificial sweeteners or sugar may cause gut dysbiosis. High consumption of added sugars has been linked to poor gut health.

A high-sugar diet may also increase the risk of metabolic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and obesity by decreasing the amount of “good” bacteria and increasing the number of “bad” bacteria.

Aim to minimize your consumption of processed foods and opt for whole, unprocessed alternatives.

#5 Quit smoking 

Smoking can affect your digestive system in various ways. Smokers are more likely to suffer from heartburn and peptic ulcers. Smoking makes these illnesses more challenging to treat. 

Smoking also raises the risk of Crohn’s disease and gallstones. It may increase the chance of further liver damage, and it’s associated with less diverse gut flora, similar to people with inflammatory bowel disease and obesity.

#6 Reduce alcohol consumption 

Too much alcohol may harm your microbiome. It affects the gut barrier and the rate at which food flows toward the exit. Besides constipation, diarrhea, and bloating, alcohol can increase the growth of harmful bacteria.

Too much alcohol consumption is also associated with gastritis, a condition in which the gut becomes irritated. This can cause heartburn, prolonged discomfort, ulcers, and bacterial infections.

While alcohol is considered unhealthy, Red wine in moderation can be beneficial. It has polyphenols and antioxidants that protect against inflammation and diseases while also increasing the number of good bacteria.

#7 Try to lower your stress levels 

Stress is a normal part of life, but too much stress, especially when uncontrolled, can harm your health in various ways, including your gut health. It’s unclear why stress strongly affects the gut, but researchers know that the intestinal nervous system supplies nerves to the gut.

Stress can cause stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and various other symptoms.

It can be challenging to avoid stress all at once, but you should make time in your day to do something that relaxes you and reduces stress, even if it’s only for a few minutes. You can take your dog for a walk, read a book, watch a comic movie, or attend a yoga session.

#8 Exercise regularly 

All body parts, including the gut, require exercise. Regular cardiovascular activity can help maintain your gut microbiome’s health and improve irregular bowel movements. 

Aim to move several times a week and work up a sweat. Use the stairs in your apartment, or try cycling around your neighborhood. Try walking or jogging. Dance to your favorite beats for 20 minutes, or swim to get your heart rate up.

#9 Prioritize sleep 

Sleep deprivation can have major consequences for your mood, cognition, and gut health, which can cause further sleep problems.

Studies suggest that irregular sleep habits and disturbed sleep harm gut flora, increasing the risk of inflammatory illnesses.

Establish good sleeping patterns by going to bed and waking up simultaneously every day. Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep each night.

#10 Stay hydrated 

Drinking water benefits everything from daily cognitive function to energy levels and metabolism. It is also important for gut health because hydration is essential to maintaining regularity. 

If you are dehydrated, your body will slow down elimination to collect more fluid from the stool, resulting in constipation. Plus, if you consume more fiber, you’ll need to drink more water because fiber requires water to function effectively. 

Water consumption varies by person, but as a general rule, 8-ounce glasses of water per day are recommended. 

FAQs 

What are the 3 signs of a healthy gut?

A healthy gut works properly when you have 1–2 well-formed and easy-to-pass bowel movements daily. These everyday bowel movements should not have symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, or loose stools.

Other signs of a healthy gut include mental clarity and the absence of rectal symptoms such as hemorrhoids and abdominal symptoms such as gas, bloating, and stomach discomfort.

Should you take probiotics or prebiotics to improve gut health?

Probiotics and prebiotics are essential for maintaining a healthy balance in your gut. They contribute to the ideal balance of good and bad gut bacteria. Consult your doctor to ensure you’re taking the proper supplements for your gut.

What are the 3 superfoods for your gut?

Three superfoods for your gut are fermented foods, fiber-rich foods, and fruits and vegetables. These foods are packed with probiotics, which help promote a healthy microbiota in your gut.

Fruits and vegetables like spinach and blueberries are fiber-rich, which supports proper digestion and feeds the good bacteria in your gut. They also contain antioxidants that help reduce inflammation.

A Word From an MD

The gastrointestinal tract requires a healthy balance of good and bad gut flora for optimal bowel function. These important microbes assist our bodies in regulating metabolism, eliminating toxins, and improving our resistance to illnesses and infections.

Probiotics can offer several health benefits for your gut, but before reaching out for them, start by incorporating prebiotic and probiotic foods into your diet to help improve your gut health.

Prebiotic and probiotic foods support healthy bowel and gut flora, ensuring your digestive system functions properly.

Natural prebiotics can be found in fresh vegetables such as leafy greens and fruits like pineapple, oranges, kiwi, papaya, and passion fruit. Dandelions, oats, asparagus, and legumes are also rich in prebiotics.

Foods such as kefir from fermented milk, kimchi, miso, kombucha, tempeh, and sauerkraut are great examples of probiotic foods.

Conclusion

Maintaining a healthy gut is beneficial to overall health and immunological function.

You can improve your gut’s diversity and amount of bacteria by making proper lifestyle and dietary changes.

Taking probiotic supplements, eating a balanced diet rich in fiber, fruits, and vegetables, consuming probiotic-rich foods, and regulating your stress levels are all positive changes you can make to help improve your gut health.

Other basic lifestyle modifications include getting enough sleep, quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and reducing alcohol intake.

Additionally, if you have been experiencing gut-related issues, we recommend consulting with a healthcare professional. Prolonged complications may be an indication of a medical condition.

Written by Donika Vata, MD
Dr. Donika Vata is a highly accomplished MD whose extensive experience in the healthcare industry spans over 5 years, making her a distinguished Medical Writer and Researcher for the esteemed Health Reporter. Notably, she also holds the role of a General Practice Doctor and has rendered her exceptional patient care services in various clinics worldwide.
The article was fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
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Dr. Donika Vata
Written by Donika Vata, MD
HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: January 15, 2024
10 min read 586 Views 0 Comments
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