You may have heard that you can improve your gut health with food — and this is true. However, it’s not the whole picture. While the right diet is essential for gut health, there are some other major factors.
How do you reverse poor gut health? You reverse poor gut health by improving the types of bacteria in your gut. This means making a few lifestyle changes like diet, supplementation and getting good sleep. Read on for more info.
So, what do we mean by “Gut Health?”
In order to improve gut health we have to know what we’re talking about, right? 99% of the time we are talking about the health of the good bacteria and other microorganisms that make up the human gut microbiome.
Our bodies are home to trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi. In fact, there are more cells in our body that aren’t human than there are human cells! This is called our microbiome: it’s made up of all of the microbes in and on our body. The microbes that live in our intestines make up our gut microbiome.
Symptoms of an Unhealthy Gut
How well your gut microbiome is functioning is a sign of overall health. When it’s working properly, your body can digest food easily and absorb nutrients from it. When your gut microbiome isn’t functioning well, food can move through too quickly or too slowly, which can cause digestive problems.
What are the symptoms of an unhealthy gut? The symptoms of an unhealthy gut can vary widely, but may include:
- Intense food cravings
- Food intolerances
- Trouble sleeping
- Irritated skin
- Unintentional weight loss or weight gain
- Mood swings
When you make the gut microbiota angry, a whole host of ailments can pop up. That’s because the gut has an outsized effect on your overall health and immune system.
Other common gut complaints like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are also quite common. Imabalanced gut bacteria can exacerbate symptoms of IBS and IBDs like Crohn’s disease or colitis.
1. Improve Your Diet
A healthy gastrointestinal tract begins with a healthy diet.
So, what foods support gut health? Foods that support gut health and a healthy gut microbiome include fermented foods with naturally occurring probiotics. Foods like:
Other foods that can help your gut include:
- Leafy greens
- Fatty fish
- Whole grains
- Green tea
- Dark chocolate
Avoid heavily processed foods and artificial sweeteners as they can contribute to type 2 diabetes, blood sugar issues, and obesity.
2. Start Supplements for Gut Health
Live microorganisms known as probiotics can do wonders for your gut and overall health. Taking a probiotic supplement is a great way to help keep your gut healthy, especially if you’re prone to digestive issues.
How do you choose probiotics for gut health? To choose probiotics for gut health, you’ll want to look at 3 things: storage temperature, number of colony forming units (CFUs), and included bacterial strains. There are many options on the market, so it can be confusing sifting through the options. If you need guidance, talk to a nutritionist or functional medicine provider.
Your doctor may mention starting a round of polyphenols which are naturally occurring compounds in plants that can improve intestinal health.
You can also take prebiotic supplements that work by feeding the good bacteria, which then provide nutrients to your intestinal cells.
Other supplements for gut health include:
- B vitamins
- Collagen protein
3. Stop Smoking
At this point, we all know smoking is bad for us. What you may not know is the havoc smoking wreaks on digestion. While the habit damages your entire body, its toll on your digestive system may be particularly unpleasant.
If you’ve ever experienced a bout of indigestion, nausea or heartburn after smoking, there’s a good reason.
Smoking affects the whole digestive process, from the mouth to the bowels. By decreasing saliva production, it leaves food sitting in the mouth for extended periods, causing bad breath and tooth decay.
Smoking also slows gastric emptying and can cause acid reflux and heartburn. Because it interferes with protective mucous membranes that line the stomach, smoking also increases chances of developing ulcers and stomach cancer.
Perhaps most alarmingly, one study found that smokers are twice as likely to develop Crohn’s disease than non-smokers; this corresponds to another study showing that adolescent smokers are more likely to develop Ulcerative Colitis (UC).
4. Brush Your Teeth
Can oral hygiene affect your gut? We’ve been told to brush and floss for years in order to prevent cavities and gum disease, but the benefits of this advice have always been framed in terms of oral health.
But one thing is for certain: We are learning more about the connection every day. And it’s not just that poor oral hygiene can lead to bad breath and embarrassing encounters with friends and family. It could also have some serious effects on your overall physical health — including your gut health.
Think of it this way: your mouth is the threshold to your stomach. Everything in your mouth will eventually make it to your gut. (Except your teeth; those are probably safe.) Keeping your oral microbiome healthy will help to keep your gut microbes happy.
Regular brushing helps remove films of bad bacteria from teeth before they reach harmful stages and spread to other body systems.
5. Get Moving
Exercise helps normalize bowel movements and reduce constipation. Physical activity stimulates the intestines by encouraging movement of the digestive tract. When we sit or lay down for long periods of time, our bowels tend to become sluggish, resulting in constipation.
Exercise burns calories and helps shed excess weight. Being overweight can promote the overgrowth of bad bacteria and raise bad forms of cholesterol.
Weekly exercise has been shown to reduce weight and associated health problems significantly.
Exercise reduces heartburn symptoms by reducing acid reflux. When you exercise for 20-30 minutes, you can stimulate the production of saliva which helps neutralize gastric acid in your stomach, thereby reducing risk of acid reflux and heartburn symptoms.
6. Address Chronic Stress
If you’ve ever experienced tummy trouble before an important event, this one should come as no surprise. Chronic stress affects your brain, your heart, your digestive system, and nearly everything else in your body.
The hormones released when you’re under stress can alter the composition of your gut’s good bacteria. For those with high-stress lifestyles, this could mean:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Food cravings
- Binge eating
- Mood swings
The cool thing is, your gut can help alter your mood as much as your mood can alter your gut.
Thanks to the gut-brain axis – your gut’s direct line to your brain – you can ease anxiety by making small changes in your daily habits. Eating yogurt (which helps maintain healthy levels of microbes) or taking probiotics have both been shown to reduce anxiety.
7. Use Milder Disinfectant Products
Most people don’t realize that even the chemicals we use to keep our homes and offices clean can actually be hurting our gut flora. Research shows that young children exposed to relatively mild household cleaners have increased odds of developing digestive problems down the road.
It’s important to keep your home and office as clean as possible to avoid getting sick. However, choosing your cleaning products wisely is just as important.
There are many “green” options available that avoid harsh chemicals, as well as essential oils that offer antibacterial properties of their own. White vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are effective disinfectants that are gentler on our bodies.
8. Get Rid of Mold
Another fast way to improve gut health is to make sure the air you’re breathing and the food you’re eating are mycotoxin and mold-free.
Mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxins produced by certain mold. Both mycotoxins and mold are commonly found in coffee, tea, grains, peanuts, dried fruit and a variety of other foods. Mycotoxins can damage the intestinal lining and suppress gut immunity. They can further disrupt the balance of the microbiome of the gut by reducing the amount of beneficial bacteria which leads to an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria.
Left unchecked, this overabundance of mycotoxins can cause:
If left unchecked for a long time, overgrowth of mold in the intestines can even lead to some forms of cancer.
9. Get Good Sleep
Good sleep is essential for gut health. That’s because poor sleep can lead to increased inflammation in the gut, which can then develop into a leaky gut. But how much sleep do we really need?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult requires between 7 – 9 hours to maintain a healthy sleep rhythm.
Finding Your Balance
Improving the quality of your gut bacteria isn’t a one off solution. It’s a collection of small changes that add up to a lifestyle that is more than the sum of its parts. By making these minor tweaks and increasing the quality diet, improve your stress levels, and gain quality sleep.
What are some natural remedies for gut health? To improve gut health naturally, eat a balanced diet of whole foods, get good sleep, reduce stress, and try probiotic supplements. Talk to your healthcare provider about any major lifestyle changes for further guidance.
Need some guidance? Contact Sano Health Club to schedule a consultation. We’d love to help! Subscribe for more information on gut health.
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