Six Proven Tips for Improving Gut Health
The trillions of bacteria living in your intestines, often referred to as gut microbiota, play a vital role in health and wellbeing. As well as helping to maintain the digestive system, gut bacteria have an impact on physical health throughout the body. Two large European studies published in Science magazine in 2019 suggest they also have an important role to play in mental health.
A wide range of illnesses are linked to poor gut health. Digestive problems such as bloating and diarrhea can result from an imbalance of microbiota in the intestines. More severe illnesses, including cardiovascular diseases and autoimmune conditions, are also attributed to the absence of a healthy bacterial colony.
The following tips will help to keep your gut healthy.
1) Eat whole grains.
Adding whole grains to your diet has many benefits. The increased feelings of fulness mean that whole grain foods are great for controlling appetite. Whole oats, buckwheat, spelt and other un-processed cereals are also linked to lower risks of heart disease and type two diabetes. The fiber and non-digestible carbs in whole grains aren’t absorbed in the small intestine and instead travel to the large intestine.
2) Eat vegetables, fruit, legumes and beans.
Diversity is key when it comes to cultivating bacteria in your intestines. Western diets are typically rich in fat and sugar and consist of food from limited plant and animal species. Diverse diets lead to diverse microbiota, and the more species you have the greater the health benefits they deliver.
Foods rich in fiber, such as vegetables, fruits and legumes are the richest sources of healthy gut bacteria. Broccoli, chickpeas, green peas and artichokes are particularly good. Apples, blueberries and almonds are all proven to increase levels of Bifidobacteria, often referred to as ‘good bacteria’ for their health benefits.
3) Take probiotic supplements.
Probiotics supplements containing live bacteria and yeasts can help to maintain the natural balance in your digestive system. Eating yogurt containing probiotics is a good alternative. There is evidence that probiotics release protective substances which can activate the immune system and prevent harmful pathogens from taking hold. Look for products that state a use-by date, as the natural bacteria they contain don’t stay alive and active forever.
4) Drink water throughout the day.
Staying hydrated by drinking water has a wide range of benefits, including reducing the risk of kidney and bladder infections, reducing sugar cravings and maintaining healthy skin. It also has a beneficial effect on the lining of the intestines and the balance of bacteria in the gut. A common rule is to drink eight glasses of eight ounces per day, but the amount each person needs varies depending on their lifestyle, size and genetics.
5) Get enough sleep.
The importance of sleep for general health and wellbeing is well documented, and recent studies suggest it can play an important role in gut microbiome diversity. Research by Nova Southeastern University suggests that the brain and gut communicate with each other during the deepest stages of sleep. Lack of quality sleep at night can negatively impact genetic material found in the intestines leading to short and long-term health issues.
6) Manage the impact of stress.
People often associate feelings of stress and anxiety with the stomach, and this confirms the link between the brain and the gastrointestinal system. Stress is inevitable in everyday life, but if experienced for long periods it can affect digestion and the ability of the intestines to absorb nutrients. Regular stress can also weaken the intestinal barrier and allow new bacteria and other potentially harmful materials to develop in the body. Exercise, meditation and taking time out for self-care are simple ways to relax and manage mental health.
Feeding and caring for the ecosystem within your digestive system is an effective way to manage health and wellbeing. By following the advice in this article you can develop a healthier microbiome and feel a range of benefits.