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Gut health might seem quite simple. However, a properly balanced gut is teeming with trillions of microorganisms, which are called ‘gut flora.’ While not all gut microorganisms are good, they still help you digest food and even respond to infection or sickness. Some studies even suggest that gut bacteria play a key role in determining our mood.
If you frequently have an upset stomach, suffer from constipation or bloating, autoimmune issues, or even fatigue, these could be signs of an unhealthy gut. Fortunately, restoring the balance in your gut microbiome is just a few healthy habits away.
That being said, here are nine tips on how to have a healthy gut:
1. Eat Prebiotic Fiber
Fiber is important for keeping things moving smoothly in the digestive system. Did you know that fiber-rich foods are just as good for your gut bacteria as they are for keeping things regular? The same foods that provide adequate fiber–whole grains, bran, fruits, and veggies–provide nutrients that are beneficial for the good bacteria in your gut. Thus, gut health experts, like Dr Ruscio, recommends eating a diet that’s rich in these foods to keep them well-fed and flourishing.
Fiber is divided into two kinds. The first, called soluble fiber, can be broken down by your body and helps absorb liquid in the digestive tract. The second, called insoluble fiber, or roughage, is indigestible by the human digestive system. Instead of providing nutritional value, it helps food and waste move through the gut. Consuming a good balance of the two will help fend off constipation or diarrhea.
2. Cut Down on Stress
While a bit of stress keeps you motivated and engaged, too much stress can wreak havoc on our health. It can also negatively impact your gut health. Excessive stress from work or other parts of life can change our appetite, mess with our eating schedule, and limit the proper functioning of our digestive system.
Over half of our immune system is located in our gastrointestinal tract, making gut health essential for the overall healthy operation of our bodies. By trying a couple of effective methods for stress relief, your body and gut will thank you for it.
3. Integrate Probiotics into Your Diet
It’s important to provide the right nutritional balance for your gut bacteria to thrive on. Take note that it’s possible that your gut doesn’t have the right level of beneficial bacteria, to begin with.
Many factors in our modern world contribute to bacteria-poor GI tracts. C-section births, a decline in breastfeeding, an increasingly sanitized living environment, and a lack of fermented foods in our diet all contribute to humans having a much less biodiverse GI tract than their ancestors. This contributes to food sensitivities and a whole host of inflammatory conditions.
Adding probiotics, fermented foods to your diet can help a lot. Kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir are all tasty options, but the probiotic content of these foods is relatively low. A higher dosage of probiotics is best found in supplements, which can dramatically enrich the diversity of your beneficial gut flora.
4. Eat Well, Chew Well
Apart from fiber-rich fruits and veggies, it’s important to cut down on unhealthy foods that can tax your digestive system and cause discomfort. Processed foods, sugary foods, fatty foods, and drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol are all serious offenders. Thus, choose lean meat over fatty meats, and try to steer clear of greasy, fried options.
Fats are one of the hardest compounds for your body to break down. This means that they can get stuck in your digestive system for a long time and potentially gum up the works. Your gut may even produce harmful chemicals trying to break them down.
Similarly, processed or grilled meats can contain carcinogens and other irritants, so your stomach may thank you for steering clear of them.
5. Follow An Eating Schedule
Just like a regular bedtime can help you sleep the night away, a regular mealtime can help keep you feeling energized and keep your digestive system running as it should.
Experts recommend smaller, lighter meals throughout the day. Take note that eating before exercising or sleeping can cause tummy troubles. Thus, it’s best to wait around an hour after eating before engaging in strenuous physical activity.
Exercise and a healthy diet go hand in hand for controlling your weight, managing blood sugar levels, promoting all-around well-being, and helps our gut function better.
A moderate amount of exercise, performed regularly, increases circulation and metabolism, keeping everything moving through the body.
There are very few situations when drinking a glass of water doesn’t help. Water works in tandem with soluble fiber to help keep things moving through your digestive tract. In addition, it also improves the mucosal lining of your intestine, better protecting it.
It’s recommended to drink eight glasses of water a day. If you want to switch things up, low sodium soups and herbal teas can also help you hydrate.
8. Stop Smoking
Smoking has a whole host of ill effects–from cancer to heart disease. Throw in a reduction of beneficial flora in your gut and an increase in risk for irritable bowel syndrome, you know you should steer clear of it.
If you’ve tried quitting before and were unsuccessful, talk to your doctor for advice.
9. Avoid Antibiotics and Harsh Cleaning Products
In the COVD-19 era, we’ve become extra careful about sanitizing our immediate environment. Unfortunately, harsh cleaning products can kill off good bacteria as well as bad bacteria, which impacts the balance of microorganisms in your body.
Similarly, avoid taking harsh antibiotics as these will also severely impact the biodiversity of your GI tract.
Keep Your Gut Happy
Just as eating well and exercising will help you feel better, it’ll also help the beneficial bacteria in your GI tract do what they do best. A flourishing microbiome will help cut inflammation, fend off infection, and increase your nutrient intake.
With a few simple steps, you can go from tummy troubles to a happy, healthy gut in no time!