Bacteria have had such a bad rap for so long that any mention of these complex microorganisms conjures feelings of disgust and fear in us. The truth is that some types of bacteria are actually beneficial and they perform an important role in keeping our gastrointestinal system healthy. Gut health is frequently overlooked, which is unfortunate because it is actually the foundation of good overall health and well-being.
Why is Gut Health Important?
The term gut health refers to the balance of bacteria or microorganisms present in a person’s digestive tract. The gastrointestinal system is responsible for transporting food, processing it, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating unused waste. It is this process that ensures proper nourishment which equates to good health.
If the gut is unhealthy or malfunctioning, it causes a domino effect on the rest of the body, resulting in stress, chronic illnesses, diseases, and problems with immunity. When gut issues occur, it is usually the result of an imbalance in microorganisms in the digestive tract. If you can improve gut health, you can help prevent common issues with the mind and body.
How to Improve Gut Health
There are ways to effectively improve gut health in a week and achieve a healthy body. Here are the most important steps.
1. Include Prebiotics In Your Meals
Prebiotics (as opposed to probiotics, which refer to good bacteria) is a food group that is considered non-digestible. They are consumed to provide probiotics with something to feed on. With sufficient food supply the population of good bacteria increases. When the number of probiotics is more than the number of harmful bacteria, your gastrointestinal system remains healthy and stable.
Improve gut health by: Eating prebiotic sources such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. Examples: bananas, raw or cooked onions, raw garlic, whole wheat flour, and raw asparagus.
2. Manage Your Stress
Organs in the body have a direct or indirect relationship with the brain. The constant communication is necessary to ensure that the functions of the body as a whole are maximized. If a person is stressed, this issue is communicated to the organs, including the stomach and the rest of the GI tract. Stress causes certain changes in gut bacteria, which then affect one’s emotions.
Improve gut health by: Learning how to manage stress by getting enough sleep and rest, exercising regularly, and using relaxation and meditation techniques.
3. Eat Fermented Foods
Fermented food contains probiotics which play a key role in the fermentation process. Eating fermented foods helps add good bacteria to the GI tract to help with better digestion. Furthermore, fermented food is also known to boost the immune system and is a great addition to the diet.
Improve gut health by: Consuming fermented food such as kimchi, kefir, miso, kombucha, sauerkraut, and yogurt.
4. Avoid Disinfectant Products
In a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the gut flora of over 750 children aged 3 to 4 months were analyzed in relation to their exposure to household disinfectants, among other things. It was found that the BMI (body mass index) of children who were most exposed to disinfectants was higher compared to other children when they got older.
While researchers were surprised, it is no secret that disinfectants kill all kinds of bacteria, including the good ones. If you use too much of these products, the number of good bacteria that your body becomes exposed to is significantly reduced.
Improve gut health by: Maintaining good hygiene but maintaining a good balance to avoid extreme cleaning using strong disinfectants. In most cases, a good wash using plain soap and water is often enough to keep yourself clean.
5. Cut Back On Sugar & Sweeteners
Too much sugar is not only detrimental to dental health, but it also affects the health of your gut. Fructose, the form of sugar that is prevalent in the diet, can likely suppress the growth of probiotics in the gut. This is often noticeable when symptoms of too much sugar appear, such as inflammation, bloating, gas, stomachache, and skin issues. Consumption of too much refined sugar disrupts the balance of flora in the GI tract, which in turn disrupts the way the GI tract functions.
Improve gut health by: Avoiding refined sugars and consuming healthier options such as fruits. Fruits not only taste sweet but also provide a good source of fiber. Stay away from artificial sweeteners as well.
6. Fiber. Fiber. Fiber!
Dietary fiber is difficult to digest but it keeps you feeling full and helps in the regular and proper elimination of waste from your body. When gut bacteria consume the fiber, they produce substances that help keep the colon healthy. Sufficient fiber in the diet helps keep gut bacteria fed and ensures regular bowel movement.
Improve gut health by: Eating both soluble and non-soluble sources of dietary fiber. Soluble sources include fruits, barley, legumes, and oats, while insoluble fiber includes vegetables, wheat, and edible seeds.
7. Get Enough Sleep
Experts agree that people require 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night to optimize the way they function during the day. Sleep is the body’s way to replenish itself after a tiring day and is a means to relieve oneself of stress. With enough quality sleep, you can reduce your chances of developing chronic health problems such as obesity, depression, diabetes, and heart disease.
It has also been found that while lack of sleep affects the health of the GI tract, the condition of gut microflora also affects one’s quality of sleep.
Improve gut health by: Striking a balance between getting good sleep and keeping your gut healthy. To get started on the right foot, just make sure to have enough sleep each night.
8. Stay Active
Health experts agree that regular physical exercise is necessary to achieve and maintain good health. One study that was published in 2018 showed that even without changing the diet, getting enough exercise can help improve and stabilize gut health.
In this one study, 17 overweight women were enrolled in a six-week program that involved endurance training. The exercises were performed three times a week. The women were allowed to keep their usual diets. When the program ended, the researchers discovered a decrease in a type of gut bacteria that increases one’s risk of inflammation and an increase in a type of good bacteria that improves metabolism.
Improve gut health by: Starting a physical exercise routine and sticking to it for at least three times a week. Ideally, regular exercises should last for at least 20 minutes per session.
What has helped you improve your gut? Share your thoughts by commenting below!