The idea of gut health refers to the delicate balance of microorganisms inhabiting your digestive tract. Taking care of your gut health and having a healthy balance of gut microorganisms is a crucial part of mental and physical health, immunity response, and more.
The microorganisms in the gut include bacteria, viruses, and yeast, are also known as “gut flora,” and many of them are beneficial to your health. Some of them could even be considered essential. There are also some gut flora that is harmful to your health, especially if they are left unchecked. Here are seven tips to support your gut health.
- Eat Fermented Foods and Take Probiotic Supplements
The term “probiotics” refers to the “good” bacteria and other healthy gut flora. Some people take probiotic supplements to boost their levels of these good bacteria and boost the benefits of them. Probiotic supplements are available from health stores, drug stores, and can be found online.
Some research supports the idea that taking probiotics supports a healthy gut. Probiotics can prevent intestinal issues such as inflammation.
Fermented foods are another great source of natural probiotics. Fermented foods such as kimchi, miso, kombucha, tempeh, and fermented vegetables are a great addition to any diet.
- Get More Probiotic Fiber
Like any living organism, probiotics need food to survive. Probiotics need non-digestible carbohydrates known as prebiotics for food. Having enough food means that the good bacteria in your gut can multiply and thrive, leading to a healthier gut environment.
Research from 2017 suggests prebiotics can help probiotics better tolerate their environment, including changes to temperature and pH levels. People who wish to improve their gut health should consider eating foods rich in prebiotics, such as whole grains, garlic, onions, asparagus, and bananas.
- Cut Back on Sugar
Eating too much sugar or artificial sweeteners can cause gut dysbiosis, which is when there is an imbalance of gut microbes. A study from 2015 suggests that the standard western diet, which has a lot of fats and sugars, has a negative impact on gut health. This negative impact on the gut can lead to a negative effect on brain health and behavior.
Another animal study showed that the artificial sweetener aspartame increased the number of bacterial strains connected to metabolic disease. Metabolic disease can increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Research suggests that the human use of artificial sweeteners can have a negative impact on blood glucose levels because of how sweeteners interact with gut flora. Artificial sweeteners could potentially increase blood sugar levels despite technically not being “real” sugar.
- Reduce Stress
Keeping a handle on your stress levels is a great way to boost gut health. Sleep deprivation and stress have a negative impact on all aspects of health, and that includes gut health. Animal studies suggest stress can disrupt intestine microorganisms, even if the stress disappears quickly.
Many stressors negatively impact gut health in humans, including psychological stress, sleep deprivation, environmental stress, and a disrupted circadian rhythm.
Techniques for managing stress include deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation. Getting regular exercise, eating right, and getting enough sleep also help manage stress and gut health.
- Only Take Antibiotics When you Need Them
While most people will have to take antibiotics at some point, overusing them is a public health concern. Overuse of antibiotics leads to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics can also damage gut health and immunity because they destroy bacteria indiscriminately. Research suggests that the gut can still be lacking important bacteria up to six months after using antibiotics.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that up to 30% of the antibiotics prescribed in the United States are unnecessary. Talk to your doctor about whether or not you really need antibiotics and if there are any alternative treatments available.
- Get Regular Exercise
There are plenty of benefits to regular exercise, including better heart health and weight loss and maintenance. Another potential effect is that it can improve gut health, which also helps contribute to obesity control.
Exercising can also improve the diversity of gut bacteria. A study from 2014 showed that athletes had a wider variety of gut bacteria compared to non-athletes. However, athletes also eat a different diet, and this could contribute to the differences.
It’s recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, as well as strength exercises on at least two days a week.
- Get Enough Sleep
Sleeping properly is related to all kinds of health benefits. Having a healthy sleep schedule boosts cognition, mood, and overall gut health. Irregular sleep can disturb gut flora levels and activity, increasing the risk of inflammation and related conditions. Adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep per day to stay healthy.
Gut health is vital to overall mental and physical health and wellbeing. These tips can help to maintain a healthy environment for the good bacteria in your gut to flourish.