Your gut bacterium is extremely crucial for many aspects of health. It is important to have optimal gut health as it allows for effective absorption and digestion of food, adequate immune status, stable intestinal microbiota and an optimal state of well-being. A disrupted microbiota can lead to numerous chronic diseases. The best way to maintain a healthy microbiota is to eat a range of fresh, whole foods, mainly from plant sources like fruits, veggies, legumes, beans and whole grains.
6 ways to boost your gut health:
- Change your diet
- Eat prebiotics
- Eat probiotics
- Lower your stress levels
- Stay hydrated
- Eat s-l-o-w-l-y
One’s gut is incredibly complex and has been closely linked to whole-body health. Gut health is strongly correlated with the immune system and function, heart and brain health, mental health, mood, sleep, and optimal digestion. More recently, scientists have acknowledged that a healthy gut may help to prevent certain autoimmune diseases, skin conditions, endocrine disorders, and types of cancer. For all of these reasons, optimal gut health is so important!
The gut is often referred to as our “second brain”. It is able to regulate itself without brain interaction. About 70% of our immune system is located within the gut – thus, optimal gut health is of particular importance for those with autoimmune diseases or weakened immune systems. There are as many as 40 trillion bacteria found in one’s body, most of these bacteria are located in the intestines. Together, this bacterium makes up one’s gut microbiome – the diverse community of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract of individuals.
The human body has 100 times more DNA in the gut microbiome than cells in our entire body. Your gut microbiota is composed of about 1.5 to 2.5kg of bacteria. One’s gut microbiota can change as individual’s age, as their diet changes, or as one’s overall health changes. Not only is one’s gut bacteria linked to whole-body health, this bacterium can also aid in the development of vitamins, and metabolizing bile acids and sterols.
One’s gut is composed of both “good” and “bad” bacteria. The good bacterium in your gut competes with the bad bacterium. Bad gut bacteria causes inflammation, viruses, and infections, while good bacterium aids in the development of varying species of beneficial bacteria and secretes a substances that kill bad bacteria. Ones diet greatly affects the amount of both good and bad bacteria in the gut.
Now that you know the importance of optimal gut health…how can you improve it?
6 Ways to improve your gut health
1. Change your diet – eat a diverse range of foods
The foods you eat greatly affect the type of bacteria that reside inside you. A healthy, balanced diet, rich in fibre and whole foods is beneficial for your gut as it aids in the development and maintenance of a healthy gut microbiome. Reducing your intake of high- sugar, high- fat, processed, and deep fried foods as well as artificial sweeteners, can be of tremendous benefit to not only your overall health, but also, your gut health. These foods can not only disrupt the ratio of good to bad bacteria within the gut, but can also kill your good gut bacteria. Incorporating sources of lean protein and plant-based foods into your diet can also be of benefit to your gut health. The vast range of species of bacterium within your gut microbiome require varying nutrients for growth. Thus, it is important to eat a variety of foods to fuel these bacteria, leading to the development of a healthy and diverse microbiota.
2. Eat prebiotics
Both prebiotics and probiotics are known to support the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics work to fuel the good bacteria in one’s gut, regulate one’s microbiome, repair any offsets of altered gut flora, and serve as fuel for probiotics. Prebiotics are present in fibre-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Prebiotics are important for gut health, as the fibre contained within them can stimulate the growth of healthy gut bacteria, promoting a diverse microbiome. Some examples of prebiotics include: onions, garlic, bananas, legumes, and asparagus. Prebiotics have also been found to reduce the risk of various types of diseases associated with obesity. Certain prebiotics can reduce insulin, and triglyceride and cholesterol levels in those who are overweight.
3. Eat probiotics (fermented foods!!)
Along with prebiotics, your body also needs an adequate dose of probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms that are proposed to provide numerous health benefits when ingested, typically by either improving or resorting one’s gut flora. Probiotics work to change the composition of one’s microbiota and to alter and restore the gut microbiota to a healthy state after any sort of alteration. This allows your gut microbiome to remain strong. Some examples of probiotics include fermented foods such as include: Kombucha (the best drink of all time), yogurt, kimchi, kefir, tempeh, and sauerkraut. The action of fermenting foods involves bacteria converting the sugars found in food to organic acids or alcohol. Fermented foods work to enhance the function of your microbiota and reduce the amount of disease causing bacteria present in the gut and intestines. This is extremely beneficial for your gut microbiome, as these foods have live cultures that allow your gut to break down foods and boost your immune system function. Additionally, often fermented foods are rich in lactobacilli, this is a type of bacteria that is beneficial for your health. If you find you don’t like the taste of fermented foods, try taking a probiotic supplement. Lactobacillus is the most common supplement, best taken with food.
4. Lower your stress levels
Chronic elevated levels of stress are very hard on your whole body, particularly your gut. Being in a state of stress while eating is known to slow digestion and may hinder the balance between “good” and “bad” gut bacteria. Some ways to reduce stress include: exercise, meditation, getting outside, socializing, or yoga.
5. Stay hydrated
Drinking adequate amounts of water has beneficial effects on one’s mucosal lining of the intestines, and enables the growth and maintenance of good bacteria within one’s gut. A quick way to estimate the amount of water you should be drinking is to divide your body weight (in lbs) in half, and convert this number to ounces. For example, if you weight 160 lbs, drink 80 ounces of water, equivalent to about 2.3 liters. Staying hydrated is an easy way to help in the development of a healthy gut!!
6. Eat s-l-o-w-l-y
Eating slowly comes with numerous benefits, especially to your gut health. Not only does eating slowly aid in full digestion, it also maximizes nutrient absorption and reduces digestive bloating and discomfort – both of which help to maintain optimal gut health.
A healthy gut is crucial to many aspects of your health. Use these tips to boost your gut health and help you to reach an optimal state of well-being.
Have a good week!