Easy Tips to Keep Your Gut Healthy

A lady holding her tummy.
A lady holding her tummy.

Increasing evidence suggests that a healthy gut microbiome is important for mental wellness as well as a stable immune system.

But what does it really mean to have a healthy gut? “A healthy gut means you have a stronger immune system, a better mood, effective digestion that’s free of discomfort and a healthy brain and heart,” says Sabine Hazan, M.D., a gastroenterologist, founder of Ventura Clinical Trials in Ventura, California. 

An unhealthy gut has been linked to the following:

- Diabetes

- Poor sleep

- Poor mood

- Skin issues

- Weight gain

- Inflammation

- Poor mental health

- Weakened immunity

- Autoimmune disease

A collection of cereals rich in fibre
A collection of cereals rich in fibre

Having a healthy lifestyle and eating certain foods will help you improve or restore your gut health naturally. Below are different ways of maintaining a healthy gut.

1. Eat Fiber-Rich and Probiotic-Packed Foods

Fiber is a plant-based nutrient that reduces the risk of metabolic diseases by stimulating the growth and diversity of good bacteria in the gut, research suggests.

Sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots are full of naturally gut-enhancing fiber. Besides fruits and vegetables, whole grains (barley, brown rice, millet, oatmeal, popcorn, whole-wheat bread, pasta or crackers) are a rich source of fiber, too.

Fermented foods like yogurt may help calm gastrointestinal conditions such as diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease and constipation.

According to research, people who eat yogurt regularly have more lactobacilli, a gut-benefitting bacteria, in their intestines, as well as fewer enterobacterium, a type of bacteria linked with inflammation.

2. Exercise Regularly

Movement is medicine for so many parts of the human body, including the microbiome. In both animal and human studies, researchers have found that exercise promotes an increase in diversity of healthy bacteria in the gut.

A University of Illinois study showed exercise has positive impact on gut microbes involved in short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) production. SCFAs reduce risk of inflammatory disease, obesity, and type II diabetes. 

Longer workouts and high-intensity aerobic training, in particular, contributed most to gut bacteria diversity and function in relation to overall wellness. They also observed that lean people are more likely to benefit from exercise than individuals who are obese.

3. Limit alcohol and seed oils.

These have both been shown to inflame the gut and increase intestinal permeability. Seed oils are found in almost any food that comes in a box.

Some of the most common seed oils that can be readily consumed include soybean, corn, canola, cottonseed, rapeseed, grapeseed and sunflower. If your gut health is bad enough it might be necessary to eliminate all these.

4. Get quality sleep.

Poor sleep hurts all aspects of your health including your gut. One study showed that only 2 nights of poor sleep was enough to lower good gut bacteria. Aim to get 7-8 hours of quality sleep to optimize your gut health.

5. Get sunlight.

All of your cells rely on sunlight for proper function. UV rays from the sun have been proven to increase microbiome diversity. Sunlight is also important for cellular energy which is a key to improving gut health.

Sun shines over a lake
Sun shines over a lake.

Why your gut health matters

Your gut digests the foods you eat, absorbs nutrients from it and uses those nutrients to fuel and maintain your body.

“The gut plays a huge role in the health and well-being of our bodies,” says Alicia Romano, a specialized clinical dietitian at Tufts Medical Center in Boston and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 

In addition to digesting food and absorbing nutrients, “the gut is in tight communication with the brain, playing a constant game of telephone and influencing a number of factors, including immune activity, over 70% of your immune cells reside in the gut.”

Remember, what works for someone else is probably an enemy of your body. Figure out what works best for you.  

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