Before you learn how to improve gut health, you must first understand the gut microbiome. Studies continue to prove the importance of having a healthy gut, particularly for better immune responses.
The gut microbiome is comprised of all of the microorganisms that live in your intestines. In fact, your digestive system may contain between 300 and 500 various bacteria species. Some of the microorganisms are dangerous, while others benefit your overall health.
If you want to know how to get a healthy gut, you must first understand the signs that something is wrong. The most common are stomach disturbances, such as bloating, diarrhea, gas, heartburn and constipation. If you have healthy gut flora, you have less trouble processing food and eliminating waste.
You also need to know how to restore healthy gut flora if you start gaining or losing weight unintentionally. You may also have trouble sleeping — or require too much sleep — which should prompt you to figure out how to improve digestive health to battle chronic fatigue.
If you are suffering from eczema or other skin conditions, you may have a damaged gut. When the gut is inflamed because of allergies or poor diet, there is a chance of leakage. Protein makes its way into the body, which irritates the skin. Damaged guts can also lead to autoimmune conditions.
Research also indicates that some food allergies may be a result of poor gut bacteria. If the body attempts to digest foods it’s allergic to, it becomes increasingly difficult. That damage may lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas, bloating and nausea.
How to Improve Gut Health Naturally
Once you’ve nailed down whether or not you have a healthy gut, you can move on to learning how to get rid of bad bacteria in the gut. There actually aren’t any prescription medications that will enhance healthy intestinal flora. In fact, many medications, such as antibiotics, birth control, NSAIDs, steroids and acid-reducing drugs, can actually negatively impact your intestinal health.
If you want to know how to restore healthy gut flora, the answer lies in natural solutions. Your well-being hinges on some simple steps, such as changing your diet and consuming less sugar. It’s also beneficial to limit your alcohol consumption and quit smoking, which provides an overall boost to your health anyway. You also want to get enough sleep every night and exercise regularly.
Of course, there might be times when you need to take prescription medications that hurt your gut flora. In these situations, it’s important to take other steps that help you balance good bacteria with the bad.
While learning how to restore gut health is mostly about simple lifestyle changes, you might find you need more support. In these cases, it may be necessary to use supplements to improve your gut health.
Eat Foods That Promote Healthy Gut Flora
The biggest change you can make when you start learning how to improve gut health is your diet. Do you know what to eat for healthy gut flora? Begin by avoiding processed foods, as well as foods that are high in sugar and fat, as these will destroy your healthy gut bacteria.
You also likely want to add some foods to your diet as you learn how to improve your gut health. Start with high-fiber foods, such as beans, peas, legumes, oats, berries, bananas, leeks and asparagus, as studies show fiber to be beneficial to gut health. Both garlic and onion are also shown to be effective.
Research also shows the importance of fermented foods and gut health. Adding foods such as miso, kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh and kefir, provide the probiotics your gut needs.
Other studies indicate that collagen-rich foods boost gut health. You may want to consider adding bone broth, salmon, mushrooms, healthy dairy and more meats to your diet.
You should also consider consuming more whole grains. These foods are high in fiber and beta-glucan, which is a non-digestible carb. When carbs aren’t absorbed by the small intestine, it makes its way into the large intestine, where it gets broken down by microbiota and promotes the growth of healthy bacteria. Not only do studies show that whole grains promote the growth of lactobacilli, Bacteroidetes and Bifidobacteria, but these foods also increase fullness and reduce inflammation.
Consume Less Sugar
As you start learning how to restore gut health, you quickly realize how bad sugar is for your digestive system. Healthy bacteria thrive on fibers and prebiotics as food sources. However, dangerous bacteria rely on sugar and refined carbohydrates to multiply.
If you eat a diet high in sugar, you can throw off the balance of your gut, allowing changes to happen fast. Studies show that an increase in pathogenic bacteria leads to a condition called dysbiosis.
The pathogenic bacteria overgrowth starts to crowd out any beneficial bacteria. It also causes changes in the mucosal barrier of your intestine. With fewer good bacteria protecting the barrier, permeability begins to change. Eventually, unwanted substances will be able to pass through freely.
You may know the condition as Leaky Gut Syndrome, which allows the body to launch into an inflammatory immune response as it attempts to kill substances leaking through your intestinal wall.
As you learn how to improve your digestive system and start avoiding sugar, you may switch to artificial sweeteners. However, these substances pose their own threat to your gut health.
One study showed that aspartame may reduce weight gain but could also impair insulin responses and increase blood sugar levels. Additionally, the research indicated that rats fed aspartame had higher levels of Enterobacteriaceae and Clostridium in the intestine, which is associated with various diseases.
Limit Alcohol Consumption and Avoid Smoking
There are some lifestyle changes that will not only improve your gut health but will improve your health in general. One of those changes is to limit your alcohol consumption. Studies show that heavy alcohol consumption encourages the overgrowth of dangerous bacteria. It also reduces the population of helpful bacteria, which leads to inflammation and makes it easier for toxins to enter your bloodstream.
Most people have a good understanding of how dangerous it is to smoke. Smoking causes issues with your heart, lungs and overall health. However, a lot of people don’t understand how dangerous it is to gut health. If you want to learn how to get your gut healthy, you must quit smoking.
A recent study shows how the cessation of smoking positively affects the metabolism, inflammation levels, oxidant stress and gut bacteria. In fact, the simple act of quitting smoking might make all the difference for patients experiencing digestive issues.
Stay Away from Fad Diets
In the process of figuring out how to keep your gut healthy, you may turn to fad diets, thinking you are boosting your health. However, many fad diets do more harm than good, especially to your gut bacteria.
Atkins, paleo and keto diets take away foods that your gut needs to maintain a healthy balance.
Carbohydrates can be good or bad. Refined carbohydrates basically just add sugar and starch to your body. However, there are many non-digestible carbohydrates that your body uses as fiber.
We’ve touched on the value of limiting simple carbs in your diet, but you don’t want to get rid of the non-digestible carbohydrates. Studies show that low-fiber diets can lead to reduced gut microbiota diversity and stomach ailments, such as constipation.
Ketogenic diets simply aren’t the ideal solution for someone looking for a healthy gut. This high-fat and low-carb diet negatively affects gut microbiota. Studies show keto diets can increase Akkermansia and Parabacteroides, which may be beneficial bacteria species for healthy people.
Instead of looking into fad diets when researching how to make your gut healthy, it’s better to learn how to create a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
If you want to know how to achieve optimal gut health, the answer may be as simple as getting more exercise. Studies show that exercise may modify the bacteria living in your gut.
One study shows exercise promotes bacteria growth, which produces butyrate, a fatty acid. Butyrate promotes gut lining repair and can help reduce inflammation. Exercise can also shift the gut microbiota to guard against obesity while improving overall metabolic function.
You don’t need to participate in heavy exercise to notice changes, either. Another study shows that even moderate exercise can make a big difference. Women who exercised lightly — walking or swimming — three hours a week, show increased levels of Akkermansia muciniphila, Roseburia hominis and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii compared with other sedentary participants.
These bacteria can help create a lean body mass index, improve metabolic health and reduce inflammation, further proving that these microbiome changes provide big health benefits.
Make Sure You Get Enough High-quality Sleep
Additionally, if you want to learn how to promote gut health, you must examine the quality and quantity of your sleep. Microbiomes and sleep have a symbiotic relationship: microbiota affects the quality of your sleep and the quality of your sleep affects your overall gut health.
This dynamic relationship is still being studied, but research continues to show that not getting enough sleep can negatively impact microbiome health. As sleep decreases, beneficial bacteria levels also seem to decline. Plus, as changes to the gut microorganisms occur, there is a higher likelihood of type 2 diabetes and obesity. Participants also found a decrease in insulin sensitivity as a result.
The sleep and gut health connection works the other way too. Levels of healthy bacteria in your gut can influence how well you sleep, according to some studies. Plus, the microbiome has an intense impact on your cognitive and mental health, proving that depression and anxiety are often higher when the balance is off. What’s worse is that medications to treat these mental health problems often throw the microbial life into a further imbalance, making it more difficult to get the sleep you need.
This dangerous cycle can be broken by paying attention to how much sleep you get. Go to bed at the same time every night and try to get up at the same time to create a healthy schedule. You also want to avoid caffeine and alcohol later in the day and exercise regularly, but not too late at night.
Don’t Take NSAIDs Too Often
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are some of the most prescribed in America. They are used for conditions such as arthritis and do have some benefits in certain situations. You might be most familiar with over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen sodium.
These drugs have benefits, but if they’re taken too frequently, they’ll block COX enzymes and reduce prostaglandins (fatty acids) in your body. This causes your body to experience less fever, pain and inflammation, but prostaglandins are needed to protect the stomach lining cells and promote clotting. This throws your entire digestive system off balance, and may even cause ulcers and bleeding.
Even studies show that NSAIDs are dangerous to your healthy gut bacteria. That’s why regulating your NSAID intake is an important part of learning how to boost gut health.
Using Supplements to Improve Gut Health
As you now understand, learning how to improve gut health requires several lifestyle changes, but they can easily be made immediately. We recommend giving these a try to see if your symptoms improve. If you don’t see a significant change, you may want to consider adding a supplement as well.
Understanding how to improve your intestinal health can also lead you to discover which supplements can help. We recommend a variety of minerals and vitamins that are beneficial to gut health.
For example, zinc has been shown in studies to strengthen the gut lining. Research indicates that L-glutamine can also improve the growth of healthy intestinal cells. Collagen peptides are also shown in studies to prevent further intestinal lining breakdown. You might also be familiar with probiotics. One 14-week trial shows that multi-strain probiotics can reduce zonulin, which is a marker of gut leakage.
If you want to promote healthy gut bacteria, it’s essential that you change your eating habits, exercise more and start using a supplement if you need additional support. And if you have any concerns, it’s always best to speak with a healthcare professional before beginning any new supplement regimen.